LAMPASAS — The score was 7-7 at Badger Stadium on Friday night with 7:55 left in the first half. Facing second-and-26 on its own 31-yard line, Fredericksburg’s all-state and ultra-fleet senior quarterback, Kyle Grona, took the snap, dropped back into the pocket and looked downfield.
Seconds later, Grona was flat on his back, clutching the football. Lampasas senior nose guard Jullian Brown had made the solo sack.
“I was so hyped on that play because I knew I had him for that sack,” said the 6-foot-2, 299-pound Brown. “So I just threw him down.”
Then Brown did a little celebrating.
“I decided that ‘The Superman celebration,’ was the best way to celebrate that one,” Brown said. “That’s where you ‘rip your shirt apart’ and growl. And that’s what I did.”
With the score still tied at 7 and 3:34 left in the half, Fredericksburg faced first-and-20 on its own 17. Grona went back to pass and Brown blasted past the Billies’ O-linemen, ready to inflict more pain on Grona.
Brown grabbed Grona and the ball squirted loose. To some in the crowd, it looked like a fumble.
“I saw one of my teammates picked it up and ran into the end zone,” Brown said. “But they had blown the whistle and called it incomplete.”
Whether it was a fumble, intentional grounding or, if the refs had it right, an incomplete pass, Brown clearly had made a terrific defensive play.
On the very next snap, Brown, a first-year starter, lined up directly over the Fredericksburg center, helmet to helmet.
“I was on that center,” Brown said. “Instead of hiking, he was nervous about me hitting him. So that’s why I lined up right over him. I guess he panicked and hiked it way too high.”
The ball indeed sailed past Grona and went all the way into the end zone.
“We all were chasing that quarterback and he just picked it up and threw it out of the end zone,” Brown said.
Safety, two points for Lampasas.
With 8:38 left in the third quarter, Grona attempted a run on first-and-10 at the Billies’ 14-yard line. The 6-foot, 185-pound Grona saw some open space.
Or at least he thought it was open.
But Brown did some sprinting of his own, caught Grona, and smashed him into the turf, limiting Fredericksburg to a meager 3-yard gain.
“I would say, about that play, that hard work pays off,” Brown said. “Back in May, I was running a 5.08 and I was trying to get to 4.9. Our last workout, May 8, I got that 4.9. Now, I’m down to a 4.8. I got faster by running sprints and footwork drills every day.”
Despite facing a double-team the entire second half, Brown ended the contest with nine tackles.
“Jullian Brown had a great game tonight,” said Lampasas head coach Brian Emerson. “His performance tonight is a perfect example of how hard work pays off. He worked out so hard in the offseason and we saw the results of all that hard work tonight. We know that we’ll be counting on him a lot this year — without a doubt.”
Fredericksburg ultimately prevailed over Lampasas, 22-15. Fredericksburg scored on a kickoff return and benefited from three Badgers’ second-half turnovers.
“But defensively,” Brown said, “we got after it.”
Fredericksburg was held to a mere five first downs and 131 yards of total offense.
In 2013, Lampasas was 3-7 while Fredericksburg went three-deep into the postseason. Also last season, Fredericksburg defeated Lampasas 24-6.
The Badgers did not look like a 3-7 team on Friday against Fredericksburg. Lampasas had control in the trenches against the perennial-powerhouse.
And the catalyst for the Badgers was Brown.
“Jullian has become a real team leader,” Emerson said.
“Jullian is the one who gets us fired up,” said Lampasas senior halfback Cale Walker, who rushed for 105 yards on Friday. “We count on Jullian to make sure we’re fired up before the games.”
Brown embraces that role.
“Yes, I’m the hype-man of the football team,” Brown said. “In the locker room, my teammates all say, ‘Jullian, hype us up, hype us up.’ So I just yell things and I get them fired up. I tell them to repeat everything after me.”
“Well, before this game against Fredericksburg, I yelled, ‘They ain’t ready for this, they ain’t ready, they ain’t ready for this, they aint ready, can I get a hooooooooo?’ And then my teammates chanted it all back and went crazy.”
Is it scripted?
“No. It’s whatever comes into my head. One time I yelled, ‘It’s about to be a show, so get your nachos and cheese ready!’ Things like that. But I always come up with a new chant each week. I need to refresh the motor every week.”
Emerson is quite impressed with Brown.
“Jullian has done such a great job, but I’m not just talking about football,” Emerson said. “He’s grown up spiritually, emotionally, and with everything else. He’s a fantastic young man. I’m thrilled he played so well tonight but I’m even more proud of him for the person he’s become.”
Brown returned the compliment.
“Coach Emerson is a huge role model for me,” he said. “He’s encouraged me to be a better person in life. He treats you to treat people with respect. His speeches always fire me up. He’ll often say, ‘Fight like a Badger and always be strong.’ He means be strong as a player and be strong as a man.”
Be a super player. And be a super man.
Contact Allan Mandell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7566 and read his column at KDHPressbox.com