For the second consecutive week, the Clarendon Broncos upset a higher seeded team, taking advantage of turnovers to beat the Iraan Braves, 28-14 Friday afternoon at Post High School in the Area round to the UIL 2A Division 2 Region 1 playoffs.
Clarendon gets a rematch next week against District 3 rival Gruver, which beat Wink, 37-27, Friday afternoon. McCamey, the lone remaining team from District 1 plays tonight.
It is the second consecutive year the Braves have exited in the Area round.
A slashing Bronco running game and turnovers hurt the Braves (10-2) all night.
Trailing 12-7 late in the first half, Braves quarterback Brodey Myers pitched the ball to Kyler Miller, who ran left, stopped, and attempted a pass to his right. But the pass did floundered and was caught by Broncos linebacker Issac Dunham, who returned the ball 35 yards for a touchdown.
The two-point conversion sent the Broncos into the half with a 20-7 lead.
The Broncos took the second-half kickoff and mounted a 58-yard scoring drive that was capped by Preston Elam's 45-yard run. The two-point conversion extended the lead to 28-7.
Iraan, which scored 20 points in the fourth quarter in last week's win over Bovina, had its chances in the second half.
They answered Clarendon's touchdown with a 13-play 55-yard drive topped by Mario De Luna's 2-yard run. De Luna, a mainstay of the Braves' running attack early in the season before he was hurt, played in his first game in more than month.
The defense forced the Broncos to punt after three plays, and even saw the the defense partially block Jamal Butler's punt to set up the offense at the Broncos' 24.
But Dylan Kent fumbled a pitch from Brodey two plays later, which was recovered by the Broncos.
The Broncos turned the ball over on downs at the Iraan 46.
But Myers first pass of the next series was intercepted by Bernal and returned to the Braves nine with 9:07 left in the game.
The defense took advantage of a penalty to push the Broncos back to the 22, where they turned the ball over on downs.
But another costly turnover – Myers' fumble – ended the drive with with less than 5 minutes left in the game.
The Broncos ran out most the clock. With a fourth-and goal from the Braves' 10 and 34 second remaining, the Broncos opted to try to score instead of taking a knee, but were stopped at the two.
Iraan ran one play before the game ended.
I: Brodey Myres pass 7 yards to Joe Kennedy Touch Down. Brodey Myres PAT good. 7-0
C: Caton Grahn 30 yard run Touch Down. Iraan blocks PAT kicked by Nathan Lee. 7-6
C: Noab Elam 12 yard pass to Zane Sneathen in end zone, Touch down. Ryan McCleskey two point conversion no good. 12-7
C: Iraan Kyler Miller Fumbles ball, Clarendon's Isaac Dunham recovers ball and runs 55 yards to make Touch Down. Two point conversion good, made by Nathan Lee. 20-7 :54
C: Zane Sneathen runs 45 yards to make a touch down with 8:45 left. Ryan McCleskey makes the two point conversion making the score 28 to 7.
I: Mario De Luna makes a 2 yard run Touch down, Brodey Myers makes the PAT with 2:14 left.
Usually when a fourth-place team beats a district champion in the first round of the playoffs, it is considered an upset.
Unless, of course, you are the Clarendon Broncos. The team’s 38-13 win last week over 2A-2 District 2 champion Ralls gave District 3 a perfect 4-0 start to the playoffs.
“That tells you something – when they are all alive after the first round,” said Corby Maurer, the head coach of the Iraan Braves, which face Clarendon (8-3) 4 p.m. Friday at Post High School in the second round of the playoffs.
Iraan (10-1) defeated Bovina 32-22 in the Bi-District round.
“They are a No. 4 seed that is far better than a No. 4 seed,” Maurer said. “You have to understand the competition in that district. Clarendon played some tough non-distirct games and then played in a gantlet of a district themselves. I’m not sure seeding matters after the first round. Good teams have earned that.
“We’re up against a group that is battle tested.”
Not that Iraan had a cakewalk. District 2 went 3-1 in the opening playoff round. Its lone loss came in overtime to district champ McCamey. In addition, Iraan has played in four games decided by six or fewer points.
“We’ve been behind or tied at the half in six out of 11 games,” Maurer said. We’ve been behind in seven games. I would like to think that created toughness.
“The kids know not to panic. We look at what’s happening, what’s going on and say ‘Let’s fix it. We keep at it until it goes the way we like it to go.
“To their credit, that is the Mo of this team. They know things aren’t always going to go right. We’re not going to put 50 points up on someone, and we aren’t going to give up 50 points. Nobody is going to panic. We just keep a level head and keep our composure.”
Like Iraan, Clarendon looks to establish the running game. The Broncos ran for 301 yards against Ralls last week, while throwing for only seven yards.
Ralls actually ran more plays (57-36) and held the ball longer (29:14 to 18:46), but was done in by a kickoff return for a touchdown and punt returns that set the Broncos up with a short field.
Maurer says the team runs out of an “I” formation with a slot back. Running back Ryan McCleskey is the featured back. Preston Elam is the fullback and Noab Elam is under center. Against Ralls, McCleskey had 300 yards rushing and five touchdowns. It was a bit of a outlier as McCleskey general has half of the team’s yards and carries, with Elams making up the bulk of the other half.
The Broncos have outscored their opponents by a 278 to 157 margin.
Maurer said Clarendon has an exceptional defense, especially across the line.
“We need to see if we can control line of scrimmage,” Maurer said. “We’re not going to win all the plays, but we need to move the chains.”