KATY – It wasn’t easy for Blake Sitka and the rest of his Hallettsville teammates to watch an unforgettable season come to a close Friday night at Legacy Stadium.

But Sitka quickly sported a smile when he reflected on what the Brahmas were able to accomplish throughout the course of the year.

Whether it was overcoming injuries, playing with limited players or making a playoff push despite being picked to finish fifth in district, the senior offensive lineman couldn’t have been more proud.

“Coming off of last year and finishing 3-7, we put it in our minds that we were going to be a team that was going to go far in the playoffs,” Sitka said. “We put the heart and hard work into this season, and we told ourselves we were going to get it done for Hallettsville.”

The Brahmas were playing in the Class 3A, Division I quarterfinals for the first time since 2016, but their hopes of advancing came to a halt after a valiant effort by Columbus running back Tyree Simcik.

Simcik finished with a game-high 288 yards on 32 carriers and scored five touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 48-25 win.

With the win, Columbus (12-2) advanced to the semifinals to play defending state champion Grandview, a 34-13 winner over Troy.

“They’re a good football team,” said Hallettsville coach Tommy Psencik. “It was a smash-mouth type of game, and they’re bigger and stronger than we are up front. Their offensive line made the biggest difference.”

The Brahmas (10-3) kept things close until the second quarter, when Simcik began to take over.

Jonathon Brooks scored the Brahmas’ first touchdown on an 11-yard run, but Simcik scored on a 63-yard run with 24 seconds left to give Columbus a 27-7 halftime lead.

“It was a great season,” said Hallettsville junior Ty Gerke. “I think we came out pretty strong, but Columbus was able to come out on top tonight. Their line got better, and they dominated the game. They were able to open up holes for Tyree.”

Hallettsville added two more touchdowns in the second half behind a 30-yard pass from quarterback Lane Linhart to Travis Matula.

Linhart, a senior, passed for 188 yards and a touchdown in his final game.

Matula finished with five catches for 73 yard and Gerke caught five passes for 47 yards.

“I couldn’t be more proud of my teammates,” Linhart said. “Nobody thought we’d make it, and we proved everybody wrong. These memories that I’ve made the last four years will stick with me the rest of my life.”

Brooks, who rushed for 106 yards, added his second score on a 3-yard run, but the Cardinals matched the Brahmas’ effort on a 51-yard touchdown pass from Brock Schobel to Kaycon Wilson and a 36-yard score by Simcik, his fifth and final touchdown of the night.

“We’ve said it all year: They’re a special bunch,” Psencik said. “They did a tremendous job of surprising people from week to week, and I was proud of how they fought all year. We got beat by a good football team, and we wish them the best.”

Columbus and Hallettsville each scored in the fourth quarter behind another touchdown reception by Wilson and Brooks’ third score of the night – a 20-yard run.

The junior running back finished the playoffs with 14 touchdowns and 840 yards rushing.

“We made a lot of progress this year,” Brooks said. “We made plays and did what we had to do. I didn’t give up, and I tried my hardest. I want to come back next year and fight harder.”

The Brahmas will graduate 10 seniors in the offseason.

Psencik reflected on what they meant to the program.

“The seniors went through so much adversity the last two years,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot of numbers, and they went through that. They’ve done a tremendous job, and they were a pleasure to coach. Our coaching staff will never forget them.”

Sitka hopes the players returning will continue to play their hardest.

“Keep it going,” Sitka said. “They can keep what we have in this program alive by staying together and fighting together. That’s the true message.”

Rey Castillo is the assistant sports editor for the Victoria Advocate. He may be reached at rcastillo@vicad.com, 361-574-1240 or on Twitter @reycastillo361.

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