AUSTIN — Salado coach Alan Haire said at the start of the year he wasn’t even sure his Eagles were going to win a game.
So even though the Eagles lost to Bellville 34-14 in a Class 4A Division II area-round playoff game Friday at the Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, Haire was proud of what his Eagles accomplished in 2016, finishing the season at 7-4.
“It’s been a fun ride from where we started,” Haire said. “I thought after the second game we may not win a game. Those seniors were 1-20 over the last two seasons and only won three games the last three years, so to win seven games and get to the second round of the playoffs is a credit to them and their commitment to get better.”
But too much went wrong for the Eagles early for them to make it to the third round.
Already trailing 7-0 thanks to a 25-yard scramble by quarterback Colin McIntyre on the opening possession, the Eagles found trouble when a fake punt on their own 26-yard line resulted in a 2-yard loss and a short field for the Brahmas (10-2).
The Brahmas needed just four plays to make it a two-score game as Mac Briscoe scored from a yard out, capping a 24-yard drive and added a 28-yard touchdown by Tylin Bryant right before the half for a 21-0 lead with Leo Guerrero’s third extra point of the night.
“We didn’t come out of the chutes like we needed to,” Haire said. “That’s a credit to their football team and their defense.”
But it was about what was expected from the Brahmas under coach Grady Rowe, who left Troy after to 2010 season to take the job in Bellville and has an established Slot-T offense with the Brahmas. Haire is in his first year as Salado’s head coach, and he and Rowe remain friends.
“We run a similar offense, and we faced it a couple of times already this year,” Rowe said. “Haire and I still talk and bounce ideas off each other and I think that helped both defenses.”
Salado’s defense was focused on stopping Briscoe, who had over 2,000 yards rushing.
Salado held him to 82 yards.
“We knew we had to take away way the fullback,” Haire said. “But we gave up a long one to the tailback and one to the tight end. They are balanced, but anytime you can take a 2,000-yard rusher and hold him to under 100 yards, you have to be proud. I thought our defense did well.”
But the Brahmas had too many other weapons. And Salado’s weapons weren’t making much noise until the second half, when the Brahmas already led 28-0.
Salado senior running back Jake Harvey ended with 131 yards and scored both of the Eagles touchdowns — an 8-yard run and a 41-yard run.
“It felt good,” Harvey said of scoring twice. “I’m just glad we didn’t get blown out, and it proves we can compete at this level of the playoffs.
“They run the same offense so we know what they are going to run, they know what we are going to run and it’s just a matter of if we can outdo them or not.”
Junior running back Trey Shepperd added 125 yards for the Eagles and junior Aaron Torczynski added 69.
“We were able to make some adjustments and move the ball well the second half,” Haire said. “If we had done that the first half, it might have been a different ball game. But I was proud of the kids, the way they played and moved the ball the second half.”