WEATHERFORD — By the time Vernon managed to get something going offensively in its Class 3A Division II area playoff game Friday afternoon, the Lions were looking up at a 17-0 deficit.
And, once the Lion offense did start scoring, the defense was unable to stop Gatesville's potent offensive attack.
The two teams combined to put 51 points on the Kangaroo Stadium scoreboard in the second half, but it was the Hornets who came away with the 40-28 victory.
Gatesville (12-0) will face the Shallowater-Monahans winner in the regional round of the playoffs.
Vernon (9-3) closes out a successful season that saw the Lions return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and win a playoff game for the first time since 2007.
"It's been a great, fun year," coach Mark Bateman said of his first season at the helm of the Lions. "These kids worked their tails off. I never had a problem in practice. They always came ready to work, and they fought to bring this program back after the last couple of years that we've had. I can't say enough about the seniors and how they led this team.
"We also have a lot to build on," he continued. "We have a good nucleus of young kids, and hopefully they learned from our seniors this year."
Vernon was trailing 17-0 at the start of the second half, and by the time the offense got its hands on the ball for the first time in the third quarter, that deficit had grown to 20-0.
The Lions opened up in the spread and moved 66 yards in six plays for their first score of the night. The key play of the drive was a 34-yard hook up from quarterback Brandon Urquizo to Danny Valverde, who made a great catch along the sideline. Three plays later, Urquizo kept it himself and pulled three Hornet defenders into the end zone on his 14-yard touchdown run with 3:35 left in the third quarter.
"We were able to move the ball in the second half after we made some adjustments," Bateman said. "We were just in too big of a hole. We knew their defense was good, but that is the best defense we've faced all year. They were really, really good and did a great job on us."
Vernon trailed 26-7 before Urquizo, who was 7 of 19 for 160 yards, found Jacobi White for a 28-yard scoring strike which capped off a 75-yard, seven-play drive.
Within two scores at 26-14, Vernon went for the onside kick but was unable to recover it, which gave the Hornets excellent field position at the Lion 40-yard line. Four plays later Gatesville scored again for a 33-14 advantage with 6:22 left in the game.
The Lions marched right back down the field and scored on a 2-yard burst by Orlando Haymon.
This time, Vernon's Chris Jones recovered the onside kick, but three plays later Gatesville intercepted a pass to pretty much secure the game.
Vernon's best offensive possession of the first half was its first, when the Lions picked up three first downs en route to moving from their own 20 yard line to the Gatesville 38-yard line. It would turn out to be the Lions' lone venture into Hornet territory in the first half.
On the 11th play of the drive, Urquizo was sacked for an 8-yard loss, and Vernon was forced to punt.
The Lions' defense held the high-powered Hornets offense to a field goal on Gatesville's first possession of the game, but the Hornets went 54 yards on five plays the second time they had the football.
Quarterback Cole Edmiston kept the ball and went over the right side for a 4-yard score. The big play of the drive was 32-yard sprint by Jake Kee.
Edmiston and Kee combined for 281 yards rushing, and Edmiston also completed 10 of 21 passes for 144 yards.
"We knew going in that No. 9 (Edmiston) was the guy to stop, but he's an outstanding football player," Bateman said. "We had some missed tackles, but he's good. And he did a good job running their offense."
One of the biggest plays in the first half came with about 5 minutes left when the Lions went with a fake punt from midfield.
Trailing 10-0 and facing fourth-and-eight, Vernon lined up in its punt formation, but Urquizo was back as the punter. He took the snap and rolled to his right looking to pass. He hit Robert Thomas right in the hands, but the senior fullback was unable to make the catch, which would have been good enough for a first down.
Four plays later, the Hornets had their second touchdown of the game and a 17-0 lead.
While the loss was disappointing, Vernon junior Ben Owen, one of the defensive leaders of the team, said the Lions just had to keep going next year.
"This year was a huge difference from last year," he said with tears shimmering in his eyes. "This year is definitely something for us to build on. We just have to start next year where we left off this year. We just have to keep working hard."
Gatesville 40, Vernon 28
Gatesville 3 14 3 20—40
Vernon 0 0 7 21—28
G — Sebastian Corrales 29 FG, 2:02
G — Cole Edmiston 4 run (Sebastian Corrales kick), 9:42
G — Tyler Jaynes 9 pass from Cole Edmiston (Sebastian Corrales kick), 3:06
G — Sebastian Corrales 27 FG, 5:44
V — Brandon Urquizo 14 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick), 3:35
G — Cole Edmiston 4 run (pass failed) 10:51
V — Jacobi White 28 pass from Brandon Urquizo (Alfredo Gonzales kick), 8:09
G — Danny Byrd 7 pass from Cole Edmiston (Sebastian Corrales kick), 6:22
V — Orlando Hayman 2 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick), 4:47
G — Cole Edmiston 65 run (Sebastian Corrales kick), 2:19
V — Orlando Hayman 2 run (Alfredo Gonzales kick), 0:13
First downs 19 16
Rushes-yards 33-285 40-163
Passing 144 160
Comp-Att-Int 10-21-0 7-19-1
Punts-Avg. 2-28 4-26.2
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-Yds. 8-83 7-50
RUSHING — Gatesville, Cole Edmiston 15-169, Jake Kee 17-112, Brandon Berry 1-4. Vernon, Brandon Urquizo 11-72, Robert Thomas 10-40, Orlando Hayman 11-33, Danny Valverde 5-12, Zach Perez 2-6.
PASSING — Gatesville, Cole Edmiston 10-21-144-0. Vernon, Brandon Urquizo 7-19-160-1.
RECEIVING — Gatesville, Danny Byrd 4-78, Colton Williams 1-24, J.D. Nolte 2-21, Tyler Jaynes 1-9, Deion Montana-Graham 1-9, Jake Kee 1-3. Vernon, Danny Valverde 4-104, Jacobi White 2-47, Robert Thomas 1-9.
RECORDS — Gatesville 12-0, Vernon 9-3.