For the third consecutive season, the Brookfield football team's postseason concluded on the same evening that it began.
The Bulldogs fell on the road to Lawson in the opening round of district play on Friday night, 35-21, in a game where Brookfield did an admirable job to stay within reach.
"To start the game, they were just winning the line of scrimmage, and in the second quarter, we had to make some adjustments," Brookfield coach Scott Stevens said. "The first and third quarters are what lost us that football game."
The Cardinals came in 8-1 with the second seed in the district, and for the first two possessions of the game, they looked unstoppable. Brookfield received the opening kickoff and was forced to punt, and with a good return, the Cardinals started in positive territory at the Brookfield 41.
On the back of quarterback Andrew Stephens, including his breaking off a 20-yard run to get the ball down to the Bulldogs' 9, Lawson took a 6-0 lead early.
Lawson's second possession began at the Brookfield 27 yard line when the Bulldogs faked a punt and overthrew a wide open receiver down the south sideline. Had the pass been a touch gentler, Brookfield likely would have tied the game.
After a few Cardinal miscues gave them 2nd and goal from the 30 yard line, they still managed to score two plays later.
Brookfield went three-and-out on each of its first three drives before the Bulldogs finally turned the tide.
Four minutes into the second quarter, Castor Dodd came off the edge to block a sort of quick-kick punt and grant Brookfield the football at its opponent's 38. The following play, the Bulldogs dug into the playbook to whip out a halfback pass to find sophomore quarterback Derek Liebhart down the sideline for 16 yards. The next play, running back Tim Izard scooted the football 18 yards down to the four, and on the following play he punched it in.
After gaining just 15 yards of offense to that juncture, the Bulldogs scored on three plays in just 40 seconds of clock time.
From that point until halftime, Liebhart threw a pair of interceptions to end Brookfield drives early and the Bulldogs had Lawson's number defensively.
The beginning of the second half mirrored the first. On the Cardinals' first two possessions of the third quarter, they scored routinely. Stephens' 29-yard touchdown rush with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter gave Lawson a cozy 26-6 lead.
Another Brookfield three-and-out on the following drive set up a Lawson field goal to give the Cardinals a 29-6 lead, and the Bulldogs lost a fumbled snap on just the second play of the following possession.
"We knew they were big and physical, but we did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage," Lawson coach Todd Dunn said. "When we got a little bit out of sorts, we had some kids step up and make plays, and we got some good leverage. Our guys did a good job in the secondary."
Brookfield lost the turnover battle yet again, giving the ball away three times. Lawson's only turnover was an interception to Liebhart late in the second quarter, though he threw it right back to the Cardinals two plays later.
Brookfield drew back within two scores with 5:50 remaining in the game after Liebhart shifted his way 32 yards down to the 1-yard line and pounded it across the line on the following play. Lawson scored on the following drive, and Bulldogs made the scoreboard look a little more appealing with 18 seconds left when Liebhart scampered from 13 yards out on a broken play.
"Offensively, we got a little momentum and we saw some things on offense that we really liked," Stevens said. "Obviously, 1-9 wasn't our goal, but every single week these guys fought hard. We were in a lot of ball games, but we just couldn't get it done. Our kids never quit. Scoring twice down the stretch was pretty big for us."