Considering how badly Alamo Heights had beaten Brackenridge in three previous bidistrict meetings, the Eagles' stirring 25-24 victory over the Mules in the first round of the playoffs Saturday was a shocker.
But don't tell longtime Brack coach Willie Hall that.
"I'm not going to use the word 'unbelievable' because we thought it could happen," Hall said Monday. "I thought we matched up well with them. The pieces fit like a puzzle and it all came together. Beating a program like Alamo Heights, which I have so much respect for, you know you've done something.
"What makes this so much sweeter was that they had beaten us several times in the playoffs. My phone has been ringing and ringing with calls from former players and people who are just happy for us. This is great for our team, community and the SAISD as a whole."
Senior Bry Rideb kicked a 20-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to send the Eagles to their first playoff victory since 1997, when they beat Holmes 24-21 in Hall's third season as head coach.
"He's out there on the grass every day, kicking hundreds of balls," Hall said of Rideb. "It didn't faze him one bit when he went out there at the end. As we were driving, I turned around to tell him to get that leg loose, but he was already warming up. He was ready. He went out there with confidence."
Brackenridge (7-4) plays Leander Rouse (7-4) in the second round of Class 4A Division I playoffs at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos.
Mules had dominated Eagles in first-round playoff games
The Eagles' dramatic win Saturday came 50 years after Brack's march to the 4A state championship in 1962.
"I've got that state-championship trophy in my office," Hall said. "Our kids know it's happened here before. They're aware of what those guys did in 1962. Now we've got to get back to work, because it will only get tougher as we go.
"Our goal is to extend the season as long as we can. We feel that this week's game is winnable, but we know we'll have to play at a high level for 48 minutes. That's the challenge."
Brack had lost six consecutive first-round games since beating Holmes, including three to Alamo Heights from 2007-09, when the Mules outscored the Eagles by a combined 130-34. Alamo Heights beat Brack 35-0 in 2009 after rolling to 51-21 and 44-13 victories in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
But none of that mattered Saturday when junior quarterback Ramon Richards directed the Eagles on the winning drive, which started at the Brack 20 with 2:15 left. As he did throughout the game, Richards made big plays on the ground and through the air to move the Eagles down the field.
Richards finished the game with 385 yards of total offense, running for 218 yards and one touchdown and passing for 167 yards and another TD. He also made an interception while seeing spot duty at safety.
"The key to the game was our defense," Hall said. "We kept them under 100 yards rushing. But they couldn't slow down our offense. Ramon did a great job. Once he got to running, he was a hard man to tackle.
"Our offensive line was able to protect him. Those guys are a tight-knit group. They set out to break all our offseason records in the weight room. All those guys can run and they're some mean rascals."
Brack offense piled up 300 yards on the ground
The starters on the offensive line, all seniors, are center Montana Mannheimer, guards Raymond Rose and Ernest Covarrubias and tackles Carlos Manderos and Richard Ramirez.
The Eagles outgained the Mules 467-318 in total offense, and finished with a decisive 300-97 advantage on the ground.
Still, Alamo Heights (8-3) looked poise to eliminate Brack from the playoffs again after Brian Proctor scored a 4-yard TD and Matt Kelley kicked the extra point to give the Mules a 24-16 lead with 8:48 left.
But the Eagles refused to fold. Richards completed a 32-yard pass to Trey Mathis on a fourth-down that put Brack at the 1, then scored on a sneak to trim the deficit to 24-22 with 4:40 remaining.
Alamo Heights turned back the two-point conversion, but the Eagles forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession to set up the drive Brack fans will talk about for years.
"I told our players at halftime, 'I don't want to hear at the end of the game that Brack was close,'" Hall said. "I told them Heights would come back and that we would have to answer back. I told them we have the team to do it.
"I told them, 'Stay positive, stay together. If they score, we can score.' And that's what we did. It was just great to see our kids respond the way the did."
Eagles made playoffs after 0-2 start in district play
Brack led 14-10 at the half, but the Mules went back on top on a 1-yard TD by quarterback Kalen Brockwell with 8:25 left in the third quarter.
The Eagles' defense, led by tackle Charon Matthews, middle linebacker Devonte Lewis, cornerback Troy Mathis and safety James Harris, cut Alamo Heights' lead to 17-16 by dropping Brockwell in the end zone for a safety with 2:39 to go in the third period.
Hall, 56, is in his 30th season at Brack and 18th as the Eagles' head coach. He is 103-90 overall and 2-9 in the playoffs. Brack has advanced to the postseason 10 times under Hall, a native of Roswell, N.M.
"This one has to rank pretty high up there," Hall said, responding to a question about whether the win over Alamo Heights' is the most gratifying of his career. "I don't know if it's the highest, but when you consider who we beat and that they'd ended our season three straight seasons, it's pretty big."
The Eagles were expected to contend for the 28-4A title this season, but losses to Jefferson (30-20) and Brennan (42-21) in their first two league games put their playoff hopes in jeopardy.
Brack regained its footing just in time, winning its last four games to advance to the postseason for the sixth year in a row.
"We were running out of district games," Hall said. "We knew we couldn't lose another one."