Brown’s record-setting dominance lifts Paetow to state semis
HOUSTON—Paetow senior running back Jacob Brown gashed district rival Hightower’s defense for program records of 346 rushing yards and five touchdowns in the Panthers’ 35-12 Region III-5A Division I final win on Friday at Rice Stadium.
And the unreal part is Brown isn’t all the way right. The 6-foot, 190-pounder is still working his way back to full health after a knee injury forced him to miss six games earlier this season.
“I don’t feel as fast as I was,” Brown said. “My reads aren’t as crisp as they were. There’s a lot of progress to be made. But I feel like I’m getting there slowly.”
Hightower might find that hard to believe, and it’s not great news for Flour Bluff. The Hornets are Paetow’s opponent for next week’s state semifinal set for 7 p.m. Friday at Heroes Stadium in San Antonio.
Brown has been a monster during the postseason with 756 yards and 12 touchdowns in four games, averaging 12 yards per carry. His 30 carries against Hightower were easily his season best. His previous high was 18 on Sept. 10.
“It feels amazing,” said Brown, who has 24 touchdowns in eight games this season. “To be able to do what I did tonight, for my brothers and this family around me … this is for everybody that sacrificed all season and supported me when I was hurt. This is amazing.”
.@PaetowFootball on the board first. @jacobbr06590584 75-yard TD run. His eighth TD of the playoffs. 7-0 Panthers, 2:52, 1Q. #txhsfb @KatyISDAthletic @PaetowAthletics @PaetowHS_ABCpic.twitter.com/eh8NlGVOT0— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1638581322
Following a playoff-opening win over Galveston Ball in which Brown scored two touchdowns, Paetow athletic trainer Laura Willcox wrote in a Nov. 12 tweet: “Soft tissue injuries could’ve left him w/o a senior szn…But we weren’t going to let that happen!”
Willcox went on to write that moments like Brown’s “remind me of my “WHY” for being an #AthleticTrainer!”
“I’m so proud of him, proud of his effort,” Paetow coach B.J. Gotte said. “I’m proud of his ability to come back. At the point when he got injured and got the news, there was a potential he may not play again. It was a pretty bad deal. For him to put his head down, go to work, rehab, and really commit to being his best self, and then to see him have this success, it’s really cool.”
.@jacobbr06590584 again. This time, a 73-yard burst. He\u2019s got 190 yards and two TDs on 9 carries. @PaetowFootball up 14-0, 8:64, 2Q. #txhsfb @KatyISDAthletic @PaetowHS_ABC @PaetowAthleticspic.twitter.com/yZEkZRoKMV— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1638582396
Brown had 231 yards and three touchdowns by halftime as Paetow held a 21-0 lead. But just as impressive as Brown’s running was the Panthers’ defense, which held the Hurricanes to minus-11 yards on 14 carries in the first half and 15 yards on 25 carries in all.
“They started running different formations, but we did what we do,” said sophomore defensive lineman Loghan Thomas, who had one of Paetow’s three sacks. “We fit and stopped the run. We got pressure on the QB and got on top of the routes. This defense is vibing right now. It’s a family bond.”
Senior defensive back K.J. Truehill had both of Paetow’s takeaways with an interception in the first half that abruptly halted brief momentum for Hightower in Paetow territory. He also had a forced fumble and a recovery of it in the second half.
“Caleb Douglas, he’s a heck of an athlete and their best receiver,” Truehill said. “The quarterback stared him down all the way. I knew a fade was coming. I saw the ball come; I made a play on it. It was containment.
“Our D-line was getting after it, our ’backers were getting after it. On the back end, we were getting after it. We knew they’d try different stuff, so it was just adjusting to all of that, while still playing fast and physical like we know how to do.”
Entering the game, Hightower (11-3) drummed up inspiration on social media, calling the game “The Big Payback.” Revenge was the only thing on the Hurricanes’ minds after the Panthers routed them by 48 points in their district meeting on Oct. 21.
“We knew for them this was the game of the year,” senior quarterback C.J. Dumas Jr. said. “They came into that first matchup pretty confident, and it didn’t go the way they wanted to. For them, this was way big. For us, it was just another football game. We played our game, regardless of the hype or the stadium we’re in. It’s what we do.”
Indeed, there was no payback to be had at Rice Stadium; in fact, Paetow simply kept charging. The Panthers outgained the Hurricanes, 399-244, in total yards.
The teams exchanged touchdowns in the second half, but Hightower failed to convert two-point attempts after its two scores. Brown kept Hightower from truly threatening with second-half touchdowns of nine and 27 yards, respectively.
After a Hightower three-and-out, @jacobbr06590584 makes it 5 touchdowns. This one from 27 yards out. He\u2019s got 312 yards on 21 carries. Goodness gracious. @PaetowFootball up 35-12, 3:32, 3Q. #txhsfb @PaetowHS_ABC @KatyISDAthletic @PaetowAthleticspic.twitter.com/gxIHGMgVPV— Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II) 1638586553
“It’s great to have a running back that can run through guys like that,” Dumas said. “It’s inspiring to see how motivated he stayed throughout the rehab process. He was at every practice, every film session, even though he wasn’t going through reps. He’s just a great teammate and a great leader. His hard work is truly paying off now.”
And so is Paetow’s.
At 13-1, the Panthers find themselves one win away from a state title game in just their fourth year of varsity play. They have outscored playoff opponents 212-48, a point-differential of 41 points per game.
It’s a long way from those early dog days in 2017 when they had to hold summer strength and conditioning camps next to a dumpster in the parking lot of a nearby junior high because their facilities weren’t ready for use yet.
“When you start something new, you hear a lot of naysayers talking about why anyone would want to go to this school and how we weren’t going to win for a long time,” Gotte said. “Our kids didn’t listen to any of that. They put their head down and went to work. Because of their belief and their buy-in, they’re successful.”
Paetow celebrates after winning the Region III-5A Division I title with a 35-12 win over Hightower on Friday at Rice Stadium.Courtesy of Katy ISD Athletics