SAN ANTONIO — Against the odds and history, the Cougars battled for their playoff lives in the rare air of the third round. But after a few costly second-period mistakes at exactly the worst possible time, it was over, with the only second-half entertainment coming from a series of “silly face” appearances on the JumboTron by the North fan base.

Despite the fact that the final score was ugly (51-14) against San Antonio Brandeis, North ended the season with a good effort, at least half of one anyway. The Coogs (9-4) matched the high-powered Broncos (12-1) score for score in the first 12 minutes, until the latter surged ahead with an offensive barrage to the break tape.

The Coogs gained 283 yards on offense in that first half but allowed 303, as it became apparent that Matt Munoz and Co. would have to keep it going all day long. They did not, failing to scratch after a 14-14 tie at the end of one quarter, and when they could not convert on two drives into Bronco territory in the next stanza, the rout was on.

Brandeis threw a Hail Mary for a long TD with no time on the clock to run to the lockers of the AlamoDome with a 34-14 advantage, never looking back from there en route to a Class 5A Division II region final against New Braunfels this weekend in San Marcos.

Still, the Coogs finally got the fast start that had eluded them for most of the season, getting a 7-yard run from Munoz at 4:01 to tie it at 7 and then a thrilling 65-yard TD pass from Munoz to Danny Cardenas with 13 seconds left in the first to make it 14-all.

For the half, Munoz threw for 235 yards as North fought back against a Brandeis team that had lost once all year, to region king SA Clark. While they could not keep up with the Broncos’ excellent team speed, they did get big games from Cardenas (four catches, 115 yards) and Juan Ramirez (six for 91).

But it all came down to two drives that stalled.

The first came after Brandeis had gone 80 yards in 10 plays for a 20-14 lead with 9:03 remaining in the second. Simon Edwards got a first on a 3rd-and-1 run and then Andrew Partida located an underthrown ball from Munoz for 24 yards to the Bronco 42. Munoz spent the day avoiding a furious rush, and only rushed for 27 yards on 17 tries. He was sacked for minus-5 but then connected with Ramirez to set up a 4th-and-one from the 33. One of the weaknesses of the Spread Offense is the short-yardage situation, and here Edwards was stuffed for no gain, turning the ball over.

The Broncos went down and built a 13-point lead thereafter on one of three first-half touchdown passes.

But The Coogs, who had been a comeback team all season long, were determined to extend the program’s farthest advance in history. They got a 46-yard gainer to a wide-open Ramirez and then a 30-yard advance from Cardenas, who was superb in all three playoff games this season.

Came a 2nd-and-goal from the 2, but Munoz’s look-in pass to Ramirez was picked off by Brandeis’ Cody Rogers, and that was it, basically.

The Broncos moved to the North 27 and the clock appeared to run out; however, the Alamo City club had called time out with 0:01 left. The next snap was the killer, as Dominique Britto (two TDs) picked the desperation heave out of the air for the touch.

Coach Roy Garza, whose team had defeated Los Fresnos and Sharyland to advance to the third round for the first time, noted that this series of plays in the second doomed the team.

“We had our chances, that’s for sure,” he said. “But when they got that touchdown at the end of the half, it was going to be tough for us to come back. Brandeis has a fine football team and they deserved to win, but our kids battled the best they could. We just didn’t finish those drives when we got down there, and against a team like that, that’s just not going to fly.”

Stellar 2,000-yard back Noah Copeland burned the Coogs for 254 yards and three scores, including a 67-yard burst on the first play of the second half that sealed the deal permanently.

BRANDEIS VS. NORTH

BRAND        14    20    10    7    -     51

NORTH        14      0      0    0    -    14

SCORING

B: Dominique Britto 31 pass from Kyle Sewell (Hunter Boelhauf kick) 8:02

N: Matt Munoz 7 run (Alan Guajardo kick) 4:01

B: Noah Copeland 11 run (Boelhauf kick) 2:13

N: Danny Cardenas 65 pass from Munoz (Guajardo kick) 0:13

B: Copeland 35 run (kick failed) 9:03

B: John Jackson 44 pass from Sewell (Boelhauf kick) 4:10

B: Britto 47 pass from Sewell (Boelhauf kick) 0:00

B: Copeland 67 run (Boelhauf kick) 11:44

B: Boelhauf 37 FG 3:04

B: Michael Barrientos 6 run (Boelhauf kick) 11:20

STATS

BRANDEIS: FD 25; RUSH 340; PASS 164; TOTAL 504; TO 0

NORTH: FD 14; RUSH 95; PASS 254; TOTAL 349; TO 2

RUSH: Simon Edwards 7-39; Munoz 17-27; Mark Esquivel 2-20; Juan Ramirez 2-6; Michael Pacheco 1-3

PASS: Munoz 14-21-2 254; Pacheco 0-2-0

RECEIVING: Cardenas 4-115; Ramirez 6-91; Jordan Quiroz 3-24; Andrew Partida 1-24

TACKLES: Manny Garcia 12; Andrew Escobedo 11; Robert Rodriguez 10; Alex Chavez 8; Bryan Trevino 7; Hector Trejo 6