December 1, 2018
San Antonio Brandeis 33, Brownsville Hanna 32
Before every game, I make every effort to go down on the field and chat with both head coaches before the game, it gives me any last second insight into the matchup and often can tell me a lot of about how things may play out based on the demeanor of the coach. For those of you uninitiated, the third round of the playoffs in Region IV is known around San Antonio as “Valley Week,” and generally it means the end of the season for typically overmatched opponents from the Rio Grande Valley as they take on teams from San Antonio and/or Austin.
The attitude from San Antonio Brandeis was anything but that of a team heavily favored to win as the Broncos knew they were facing a legit opponent that owned an impressive win over eventual state semi-finalist Amarillo Tascosa. “We have to play well to win this game, they are a REALLY good team,” Brandeis head coach David Branscom told me pregame and I could tell based on his tone and body language he wasn’t giving me lip service, this Brownsville Hanna team was very good and more than capable of pulling off what most statewide pundits would consider a major upset on the Alamo City’s biggest stage, the Alamodome.
For the first 27 minutes of the game, Hanna appeared more than up for the task as the Eagles got their crowd from Brownsville into a frenzy racing out to a 26-7 lead early in the third quarter. Hanna dominated the first half of the game, taking a 20-7 lead behind a pair of touchdown runs from Cesar Mancias and a seven yard touchdown pass from Victor Campos to Ernest Mendoza with fourteen seconds left in the first half. Brownsville Hanna only failed to score on their second series of the game when the Eagles fumbled on the Brandeis four yard line, that missed opportunity would loom large later in the game.
The second half started much like the first half went for Brownsville Hanna as the Eagles took the opening second half kickoff and marched right down the field extending the lead to 26-7 with 8:59 left in the third quarter as Aaron Frausto (199 yards from scrimmage) scored on a 15-yard run. Brandeis would emerge from their slumber just in time on the ensuing drive as sophomore quarterback Jordan Battles led the Broncos on four straight scoring drives.
Battles, who finished the game with 333 yards of total offense had a hand in all five Broncos touchdowns and his two third quarter scoring runs from 35 and 5 yards out cut the Hanna lead to 26-20 at the end of the third quarter. Brandeis’ defense stepped up as well in the third quarter forcing a Hanna three and out between the two scores to swing momentum to the orange and navy home crowd.
Brownsville Hanna proved they had plenty of championship mettle as quarterback Victor Campos scored on a 16-yard touchdown run less than a minute into the final quarter to give Hanna a 32-20 lead. Brandeis would answer with Jordan Battles throwing a pair of touchdown passes to Josh Suarez and Brandon Pake from nine yards out to give BHS their first lead of the game at 33-32 with 3:52 remaining, while Brandeis’ defense forced another Hanna punt allowing the Broncos to get their eventual game winning drive.
Hanna had a final drive where they moved all the way to the Brandeis 28-yard line with under a minute remaining and with one of the Valley’s best kickers on the sidelines, the Eagles had every right to feel confident about a possible game winning field goal. However, a sack and a holding penalty pushed Hanna out of field goal range and forced the Eagles to have to go for it on fourth and long from the BHS 44 yard line and Victor Campos’ pass fell incomplete and Brandeis was able to escape and advance to the fourth round of the playoffs for the third time in school history.
Brownsville Hanna’s loss was heartbreaking as Mark Guess turned around a struggling program into one of the Valley’s best teams in short order, Hanna surprised folks in 2017 going 7-4 and nearly knocking off Edinburg Vela and then finished 2018 with a strong 10-2 mark. However, the Eagles lose a fantastic senior class and it could be tough to repeat the success with a much younger squad in 2019. The arrow appears to be pointed up for Brandeis, as the Broncos had one of San Antonio’s youngest teams in 2018. Despite the disappointing loss to Austin Westlake in the regional finals, there’s plenty of optimism with QB Jordan Battles back for his junior year and RB J’Nova Rangel will be a senior among others.