BRENHAM — Survive and advance. That’s the best way to describe what Brenham did to escape the bi-district round of the playoffs with a

35-28 victory over Medina Valley on Friday night at Cub Stadium.

The Panthers (5-6) made it a one-score game with just under a minute to go and recovered the ensuing onside kick to give themselves a shot at tying it, but the Cubs (9-2) got big defensive plays when they needed them the most to advance.

A sack on second down by Lonnie Brown backed Medina Valley up as the clock ticked under 30 seconds before Kaden Watts picked off a desperate fourth-down heave by Charlie Marsh with 10 seconds remaining to seal the win.

“We thought it was going to be an evenly matched game coming in,” Brenham coach Eliot Allen said. “They’re physical, they run the ball well, they shorten the game. They took advantage of our defense a little bit tonight. Our offense played well and helped us pull out a win.”

It was the culmination of a gritty back-and-forth contest that saw District 13-5A-II champion Brenham struggle to build breathing room against the upstart Panthers, the fourth seed from District 14-5A-II.

After coming up with a big fourth-down stop with 6:47 remaining in the game, the Cubs finally got some needed insurance and a 35-21 lead when quarterback Garrison Weiss tucked the ball on a pass play, danced out of three tackles, and dove into the end zone for a 27-yard score with 2:04 to go.

“They’re a hard-fought team and they game-planned us well,” Weiss said. “It was a physical game and it was what we expected as a playoff game.”

The sighs of relief didn’t last long.

Marsh, who had attempted just five passes up to that point, came alive and connected with Braden Haney on passes of 16 and 44 yards to quickly get Medina Valley down to the Brenham 7.

Two plays later, Marsh was being dragged down for a potential sack when he lobbed a jump ball into the end zone. It was tipped, but the Panthers’ Mason Vogel somehow came down with it and Medina Valley cut the Cubs’ lead to 35-28 with 53 seconds left.

Vogel them came up big again when kicker Pablo Sandoval’s onside kick took a perfect hop and he snagged it just beyond the required 10-yard distance.

But that’s as close as the Panthers got as Brenham locked down.

“Luckily they were running low on time, didn’t have any timeouts left, and we could pin our ears back a little bit,” Allen said. “You hate to be in that situation. We should have had the sack, and gave up the big touchdown, then gave up an onside kick. You just can’t do that and expect to win.”

Medina Valley seemed to have an answer for every Cubs score throughout the contest while it’s defense forced Weiss to be frequently on the move.

After Daylon McCowan capped Brenham’s first offensive drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:49 remaining in the first quarter, the Panthers ran the ball 10 straight times and finished with a 3-yard score by James Gipson to tie it with 17 seconds left.

The Cubs regained the lead with 5:03 left in the half when a Medina Valley blitz send Weiss scrambling out of the pocket and connected with Yann Toussum for a 10-yard score.

Weiss finished with 100 rushing yards with many coming after pass plays broke down against the Panthers’ pressure.

“They were definitely mixing things up, different blitzes, flipping linemen, and doing different stuff to try to get us confused,” Weiss said. “The offensive line handled it well.”

Again Medina Valley answered on the next possession as a 23-yard pass from Marsh to Grant Snider set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Snider to even it at 14 with 1:41 to go.

However, Brenham caught a big break when the Panthers were called for targeting on the first play of the ensuing drive. Three plays later, Weiss found Carson Draehn for a 32-yard score with 55 seconds left in the half, and the 21-14 margin held going into the locker room.

But again the lead didn’t last.

After Medina Valley halted the Cubs’ first drive of the second half at the Panther 9, it drove nearly the full length of the field and tied it on Wesley Pardo’s 47-yard breakaway run up the middle with 4:29 left in the third.

Brenham bounced back and found some extra fire when Eric Hemphill’s 93-yard kick return on the resulting kick was called back on holding.

The Cubs pieced together a 10-play, 73-yard drive and capped it with McCowan’s second touchdown run to take a 28-21 lead with 35 seconds left in the third.

McCowan finished with a team-high 109 rushing yards.

That led to Brenham’s final score — its first on back-to-back possessions without giving up a touchdown — and Medina Valley’s stunted rally.

The Cubs advanced to the area round to face Alice, which beat Mercedes 21-17 in its bi-district game, at a time and place to be determined.

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