'LIVING THE DREAM' -- Cubs advance to state championship game for second time in school history
GEORGETOWN, Texas - With less than six minutes remaining and the score tied, Brenham High School quarterback Ty Schlottmann pulled sophomore running back Troy Green close and told him to expect the ball with Brenham's state championship dreams on the line.
Just a few seconds later, on an option play to the left, Schlottmann fulfilled his own prophecy, pitching to Green even as the defensive end slammed into him, driving the junior signal-caller into the turf. But even from his vantage point on the ground, Schlottmann was able to watch Green shake off a defender and then win the 35-yard foot race to the end zone, scoring what would prove to be the game-winning touchdown that sent the Brenham Cubs to the Class 4A Division II championship at Georgetown ISD Stadium here Saturday.
Brenham's 31-21 victory over the Kerrville Tivy Antlers sends Brenham to the state finals for just the second time in program history. The Cubs will now meet Aledo at 1 p.m. Saturday at Royal Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
"It's unbelievable. It's everybody's dream as a little kid and right now we're living the dream," said Schlottmann, who piled up 253 total yards while throwing three touchdown passes. "We're just doing everything that we can to keep believing. There's nothing that we can't do if we just keep believing and now we're there."
Brenham certainly has plenty of reason to believe after Saturday's performance, which saw Green run for 116 yards and catch an 11-yard touchdown pass while junior wide receiver Derek Edwards led the receiving corps with nine receptions for 111 yards and two touchdown grabs.
Brenham's defense did its part as well, holding Tivy quarterback Johnny Manziel to 152 passing yards on 10-of-27 passing and intercepting three passes on the day. Senior safety Jeremy Hall, a Southern Methodist commit, picked off his seventh pass of the season and third of the playoffs, while linebacker Jesse Baker and defensive back Rodney Hubert also intercepted passes.
After the two teams were tied 21-21 coming out of halftime, Brenham's offense took firm control of the game, running 38 offensive plays compared to just 19 for Tivy. While Brenham's two third-quarter possessions were each stopped short, the Cubs dominated the time of possession, allowing Manziel and the Antler offense to run just seven plays in the period.
But in the fourth quarter Brenham took advantage of a battle-worn Tivy defense, marching 80 yards on eight plays. The drive was capped on the option pitch to Green, a play in which Schlottmann was reading the defensive end's reactions.
"I knew Troy probably had a better chance of getting around him (the defensive end)," Schlottman said. "He tried to take me so I just pitched it off to Troy and he did his thing."
Green then shook off a defender before racing down the sideline to the end zone.
"I decided I wanted that touchdown," Green said. "I was halfway there so I had to get it."
Tivy would only have the ball for two plays before giving it back as Hall stripped wide receiver Mikhail Ironside and Brandon Fielder leapt on the fumble. From there, Brenham would burn three and a half minutes off the clock before Tanner Schmidt booted a 37-yard field goal with less than two minutes remaining. On Tivy's final possession, Hall came down with his third fourth-quarter interception of these playoffs.
The game started on a negative note for the Cubs, as Tivy scored on its first play from scrimmage. With Ironside lining up at quarterback and Manziel at wide receiver, the Cubs were caught off guard. Ironside connected with Manziel on a 79-yard touchdown pass that was made easy after a Brenham defensive back lost his footing and fell to the turf.
But Brenham would answer less than four minutes later as Schlottmann found Edwards for a 29-yard touchdown.
After the two teams mostly traded punts in the first quarter, the scoring came fast and furious in the second. Schlottmann found Green on a swing pass for an 11-yard touchdown strike, the first receiving touchdown of Green's career, but Tivy answered right back with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Chad Ham.
On Brenham's next possession, the Cubs tried to set up a screen pass, but senior defensive end Spencer Thomas read the play and picked off the pass to set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Manziel that gave Tivy a 21-14 lead.
After trailing 21-0 in their regional semifinal victory over Angleton and 17-0 in their regional championship win over Dayton, the Cubs weren't worried.
"We knew we had the whole game left," Schlottmann said. "That meant nothing to us. We kept playing our game knowing that we could come back."
The interception certainly didn't frighten Brenham into abandoning the passing game. On their next possession, the Cubs called for passes on seven of eight plays as Brenham marched 74 yards, eventually scoring on a 27-yard pass to Edwards with 27 seconds left in the half. Edwards, a 6-foot-2 junior, outleapt the corner for the ball.
"Personally, I didn't even know I was that close to the end zone," Edwards said. "I just caught it, saw something orange in the corner of my eye and I kind of tripped over it. Then I saw the referee with his hands up so I just got happy."
Brenham (13-2) coach Glen West said there was never any doubt that Brenham would continue to rely heavily on the pass.
"We're gunslingers," he said. "We're going to just go for it. We're going to see what we can do and have fun with it. We started that last year and Ty Schlottmann thrives on that. If you restricted him, you'd be cutting off the hand that feeds you. You can't do that. You've got to let him do what he does."
Said Schlottmann, "The most important thing we've learned this year is our coaches have told us, 'The next play is the most important play,' so I knew I had to get that out of my head because there was a lot of game left and I couldn't let that affect the team. I just got that out of my head and kept playing football."
Brenham would finish with one of its best offensive outputs of the season, totalling 402 yards, including 210 rushing yards on 44 carries.
Schlottmann completed passes to six receivers.
"Between me, Terrell (Reese) and Emon (Smith) I don't think anyone can really hold us," Edwards said. "As we ran our short routes we had great blocks so we could get into the end zone and when the time came to throw it deep we did and we made the most of those opportunities."
Said Schlottmann, "Every single one of our receivers is great and today Derek really stood out. He just made the plays he needed to make and came down with a lot of jump balls. He took some big hits and still came down with the ball so I'm real proud of him."
Tivy (9-5) finished with 327 yards of offense, most of which came on big plays. Three of them - Manziel's 79-yard reception, Ham's 50-yard reception and a 63-yard run by Manziel - accounted for 59 percent of Tivy's offense.
"We felt like we had to get after Manziel but not pressure him too hard - pick our times - and cover the receivers hard, keep him contained and don't let him create," West said. "I thought we did a good job of not letting him create."
The game marked Brenham's fifth state semifinal appearance in program history. Brenham's only other state championship appearance came in 2002, when a senior class that included current Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Limas Sweed led the Cubs into a title tilt with Denton Ryan.
While this Cub team includes Hall, University of Utah commit Reese and Michael Walker, who has received at least one Division I offer, it has relied on something far less tangible in its playoff run.
"You don't have to have (a star). It's great if you have that, but you don't have to have that," West said. "What you have to have is a team that's willing to fight and stay together and work together. I know it's a clich/ and all that, but these guys truly, truly love each other and I'm going to say a bigger driving force than going to state is they get to be with each other another week."
Just a few minutes earlier, Edwards had voiced the same sentiment while trying to describe what it felt like to advance to the state championship game.
"I'm speechless," he said. "I'm just ready to go, ready to do it. Another week of practice, oh yeah."
RICHARD BRAY, Sports Editor, Brenham Banner