BRYAN — Ace Whitehead scored on a 73-yard run and added a pair of touchdown passes as the Lampasas Badgers won a playoff game for the first time in seven years, holding off Freeport Brazosport 42-35 on Friday.
Playoff nerves may have gotten the best of Badgers’ sophomore quarterback Whitehead at the start of the game, but he quickly shook them off.
Lampasas (7-4) advanced to the area round of Class 4A, Division I playoffs behind three turnovers, including interceptions by Koby Allen and Clayton Bever.
Allen's pick late in the first half allowed the Badgers to take their first lead, 21-14, against the Exporters.
Brazosport quarterback Brandan Brimage scrambled to make a play before time ran out for halftime and lateraled to running back Daraell Preston.
Preston then threw a pass intended for running back Nyquon Watkins but Allen was there instead and gave possession back to the Badgers at the Exporters’ 42.
Whitehead moved Lampasas to the 21-yard line before handing the ball off to Jaylon Porter for a touchdown that gave the Badgers the lead with just over two minutes left in the first half.
The Badgers won the coin toss and chose to receive on the kickoff, but failed to make anything happen before the Exporters (5-6) scored on their first play of the game.
Watkins ran 67 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown and Brazosport led 7-0 just 36 seconds in.
The Exporters held the lead into the second quarter before Whitehead took matters into his own hands. Unable to find any open receivers, the sophomore ran 73 yards up the middle to tie the game 7-7.
Brimage quickly pushed the Exporters ahead once more on the next drive with a deep pass to wide receiver Kevin Davis for a 58-yard score.
The Badgers kept Brazosport off the board long enough to give Whitehead another chance to move Lampasas up the field.
Lampasas started at their own 2 when Whitehead launched a long pass to a wide-open Cameron Everts for a 46-yard gain.
Everts ran another 9 yards to put the Badgers on the Exporters 21. A penalty moved Lampasas back to the 23, but Jack Jerome ran in a touchdown to tie the game 14-14 late in the first half.
Lampasas fumbled a snap on its first possession of the second half and Brazosport recovered at their own 8.
The Exporters wasted no time tying the game 21-21 in the middle of the third quarter.
Starting at the Badgers’ 25, Whitehead launched another long pass to Everts to put Lampasas on the Brazosport 37.
With Lampasas in sight of the end zone, Whitehead threw the ball over the middle toward Everts, but the ball bounced off the junior wide receiver's helmet and into the hands of Michael Murray at the 3.
Whitehead then found Murray open in the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Badgers a 28-21 lead late in the third quarter.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Brazosport fumbled and the Badgers recovered at the Exporters 3.
Penalties pushed Lampasas back, but Whitehead found Everts again for a 20-yard gaine to the 2.
Whitehead handed off to senior running back Landon Irvin for a 3-yard rush up the middle to put the Badgers ahead 35-21 with seven minutes, 34 seconds left in the game.
The Exporters responded with Michael Champ running the kickoff back for a touchdown and pulling Brazosport within seven points.
Irvin added another touchdown for the Badgers late in the fourth quarter, but the Exporters quickly scored again with just over two minutes left to play.
Irvin broke away on the Badgers' next possession, rushing 64 yards to the Brazosport 3 to seal the victory.
Lampasas will face the winner of tonight’s La Vernia-Rio Grande City Grulla game next week.