Four first-half takeaways helped the Vernon Lions jump out to a 21-0 lead Friday night at Memorial Stadium in their Class 3A, Division II bi-district playoff game against Springtown.
And although the Porcupines battled back to within two touchdowns at halftime, the Lions pulled away in the second half for a 55-28 victory.
The Lions (9-2) will advance to the area round of the playoffs where they will face Gatesville, a 48-28 winner over Alvarado in its bi-district game. That area battle has tentatively been set for Friday in Weatherford. The start time had not been set at press time.
Vernon recovered a fumble on Springtown's fourth offensive play of the game, with David Garza scooping up the ball and returning it 25 yards to the Porcupine 5-yard line. One play later, Robert Thomas went in virtually untouched to give the Lions the early 7-0 lead after Alfredo Gonzales' PAT.
The Lions went to the air on their next drive, with QB Brandon Urquizo hooking up with Jacobi White for a 36-yard completion before finding Thomas for a 20-yard gain to move into Porcupine territory at the 35-yard line. From there, Orlando Haymon hit a trap play off the right side and rumbled in for the touchdown and a 14-0 with 8:04 still left in the first quarter.
"You couldn't ask for a better start to a game than what we had right there," Lions coach Mark Bateman said immediately after the game. "Our defense really stepped up tonight. We played extremely well and getting those turnovers was great."
On the first play of the second quarter Springtown quarterback Landry Turner threw his second interception of the night, this one taken by Vernon's Tyrone McFarland.
The Lions went on a seven-play, 79-yard drive that ended with Urquizo keeping the ball on a sweep around the left side for a 21-0 advantage.
Springtown found the end zone on its next drive, as Colby Moore broke free on a quarterback draw on fourth down from the Vernon 23-yard line.
A great kickoff return by Danny Valverde gave the Lions excellent field position at the Porcupine 36. Five plays later, Urquizo found Valverde wide open down the middle of the field for a 27-yard touchdown. For the game, the Urquizo completed 7 of 8 passes for 182 yards and 3 touchdowns. A senior who was on varsity the last two seasons when the Lions went a combined 1-19, Urquizo said this win was huge.
"You have no idea what this win means," he said with a smile. "We've all been working so hard to turn this thing around. Winning use to be a tradition in Vernon football and we want to bring that winning tradition back."
The two teams exchanged touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half, with Springtown's score coming on the last play of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter opened with Vernon up 41-28 and the Lions went 72 yards in 13 plays and took 7:22 off the clock as Haymon finished the drive with a 6-yard run. For the game, Haymon carried 19 times for 174 yards and 3 TDs. The junior fullback missed several games and had been used sparingly since returning from a concussion he suffered against Holliday.
"I'm just glad I had my legs back under me and could come and play some smash-mouth football," he said with blood coming from a cut lip. "I have to give the O-line the credit. They took care of their big men up front and got the job done."
Bateman, who is in his first season at the helm of the Lions, also praised the offensive linemen for their work in the trenches.
"Springtown has some good defensive line. Kennedale runs the Wing-t and Springtown gave them heck. But, our offensive played extremely well. Putting that many points on the scoreboard against a good defense says something about your offense.
"My assistant coaches did a good job of having us well prepared on both sides of the football," he continued. "They've done a great job all year long, just like the kids have."
Springtown 0 14 14 0—28
Vernon 14 14 13 14—55
V — Robert Thomas 5 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
V — Orlando Hayman 35 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
V — Brandon Urquizo 5 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
S — Colby Moore 23 run (Javier Reynoso kick)
V — Danny Valverde 27 pass from Brandon Urquizo (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
S — Tyler Roberstson 22 run (Javier Reynoso kick)
V — Orlando Hayman 2 run (kick failed)
S — Tyler Roberstson 4 run (Javier Reynoso kick)
V — Zack Perez 41 pass from Brandon Urquizo (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
S — Caleb Whiteman 15 pass from Colby Moore (Javier Reynoso kick)
V — Orlando Hayman 6 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
V — Danny Valverde 30 pass from Brandon Urquizo (Alfredo Gonzales kick)
First downs 26 20
Rushes-yards 40-206 50-284
Passing 236 182
Comp-Att-Int 19-32-4 7-8-0
Punts-Avg. 1-25 2-34.5
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-0
Penalties-Yds. 3-30 8-50
RUSHING — Springtown, Tyler Roberstson 27-125, Colby Moore 10-57, Landry Turner 2-16, Bryson Burtnett 1-8. Vernon, Orlando Hayman 19-174, Robert Thomas 13-88, Danny Valverde 6-10, Brandon Urquizo 8-9, Colton Baker 3-3, Zack Perez 1-2.
PASSING — Springtown, Colby Moore 14-24-175-2, Landry Turner 5-8-61-2. Vernon, Brandon Urquizo 7-8-182-0.
RECEIVING — Springtown, Ryan Hester 8-116, Caleb Whiteman 5-76, Tyler Roberstson 5-42, Javier Reynoso 1-6. Vernon, Danny Valverde 2-57, Jacobi White 2-46, Zack Perez 1-41, Robert Thomas 1-20, Orlando Hayman 1-18.
RECORDS — Springtown 6-5, Vernon 9-2.