BUDA — All things considered, Brazosport Exporter senior quarterback Alex Villareal felt both grateful and blessed Friday as he and his teammates exited Bob Shelton Stadium.
On the one hand was the bittersweet 42-14 season-ending bidistrict playoff loss at the hands of a state-ranked Lampasas Badgers squad. But on the other was knowing just how many hurdles the Exporters surmounted to reach the postseason under first-year head coach Mark Kanipes.
For Villarreal, it was all part of the Exporters’ desire to prove themselves, especially their senior class.
“We had to believe in each other and we did, and I’m glad we got this far,” Villarreal said. “I’m proud of all my teammates.”
For Kanipes, continuing the tradition and maintaining the expectation of reaching the playoffs was an equally satisfying venture. Kanipes lauded the 13 seniors who helped to lead the program forward.
“The kids played hard every game. Some games didn’t go our way, but the guys never gave up,” Kanipes said. “That’s what it’s all about. I told the seniors, everything they learn on this field, they need to take with them to be successful in life.”
Ultimately, Brazosport struggled Friday to corral Lampasas quarterback Ace Whitehead, who tallied five total touchdowns and amassed 294 of the Badgers’ 521 total yards of offense. Brazosport also couldn’t contain Badger running back Jack Jerome, who rushed for 171 yards on 18 carries.
Defense ruled the field early on as both teams were scoreless through the first six-plus minutes.
Lampasas broke the stalemate by tallying 21 unanswered points to take a 21-0 lead with less than five minutes left before intermission. Highlighting that salvo was a 54-yard touchdown pass from Whitehead to Badger wide receiver Cameron Everts.
Even when the Exporters dialed up the right defense to stop Whitehead, Kanipes said they often times couldn’t limit his explosive capabilities.
“When we had good coverage, he got out,” the coach said. “The kid (Whitehead) is a good athlete. He runs well. We kept overrunning and he got out. Hats off to them; they do a good job and have good athletes.
Brazosport battled back before intermission with a critical nine-play, 72-yard response. An 18-yard throwback touchdown pass from Villareal to running back Paul Woodard cut the Badger lead to 21-7 at halftime.
The Exporters came out swinging to start the third frame as Villarreal tossed a pass to wide receiver Ray Bell, who then sped past the Lampasas defense for a 63-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Badger lead to 21-14.
“It wasn’t supposed to be a touchdown. It was only supposed to be a short gain,” Villarreal said. “It got us up and built momentum.”
But Brazosport drew no closer as Lampasas shifted into gear and closed the contest with another 21-point barrage. Brazosport’s offense struggled to generate momentum down the stretch. The Exporters were limited to 106 total yards in the final two quarters.
Woodard rushed for 81 yards on nine carries, while also catching two passes for 21 yards and a touchdown. Villarreal credited Lampasas’ defense, which he said was “solid.”
“We had a lot of good plays we could have made, but it didn’t go our way,” Villarreal said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a lot of times.”
As players and fans hugged each other to celebrate another successful season, Kanipes said he was proud of a senior class that persevered.
“That’s a great senior class,” Kanipes said. “They’re going to get out of high school and grow up and be great young men.”