At second glance, Brownwood Lions head coach Bob Shipley isn't as upset with the season-opening 31-7 loss to Fort Worth All Saints as he was leaving the field Friday night. With that said, the Lions' fourth-year head coach still expects a better performance in Friday's home opener against the Graham Steers — something that will be required to upend a Steers squad that mauled Mineral Wells, 53-7, in its season opener a week ago.
Despite the 24-point defeat in the opener — Brownwood's first loss in the first game of the season since Shipley's arrival — the Lions left several points on the field that could have made the final result closer, if not swayed the outcome in Brownwood's favor.
"I feel better after having watched the film," Shipley said. "We had some calls that went against us that could have easily gone for us that would have changed the entire complexion of the game. Our defense gave up 21 points and 14 of those were big plays that we should have prevented. We had 14 points called back, we dropped two potential pick 6s and gave up an easy punt return because we had a lapse in coverage. All of that is correctable."
Though Shipley feels better about where his team stands one week into the regular season, neither he nor the Lions want a similar display in their debut at Gordon Wood Stadium and an 0-2 start to the campaign.
"Our kids better feel pressure because we won’t accept any less than the best out of our kids and we didn’t get that consistently enough last week," Shipley said. "It’s a healthy pressure, I think. They want to get back out there and show people that we are better than what we showed last week."
Against All Saints, the Lions generated 232 yards of total offense — 160 through the air on 17 of 25 passing, and 72 on the ground on 31 carries. Brownwood also lost a fumble and had the two touchdowns, and 110 yards of passing, called back as part of 11 penalties for 105 yards.
Chris Keesee handled all the passing duties, while Braxton Kilgo was the top rusher with 59 yards on 17 carries. Matt McCrane caught three passes for 27 yards, Clint Taylor finished with three receptions for 22 yards and Dylan Martin added three catches for seven yards. Eddie Duque finished with 51 yards receiving on two catches, including a 39-yard touchdown, while Cooper Howey added two receptions for 20 yards.
"I’m disappointed in our run game effort," Shipley said. "I’m convinced that we are better than we showed Friday. Our backs and line have to do better. Our passing game had its moments. They were getting some pressure on our quarterback. We have to get more aggressive with our protection and he’ll have to trust them."
The Lions will be facing a Graham defense that surrendered just 124 yards of total offense to Mineral Wells last week, and 73 of those yards came on a third-quarter touchdown carry. The Steers also forced three turnovers, including a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown by Jerrod Mahan.
"Graham hasn't shown much scheme-wise," Shipley said. "They play base defense and coverage and are really good at what they do. They don’t try to fool you. They’ve become really good at being in the right place and flying to the ball. They have no apparent weak spots and are very solid."
Brownwood's defense, meanwhile, gave up 371 yards of total offense last week — 236 through the air and 135 on the ground. The Lions surrendered touchdown passes of 16, 33 and 61 yards, while the special teams also fell victim to a 53-yard punt return.
Leading tacklers in the opener for the Lions included Dylan Lewis with 10, Mack Monsen with eight and one sack and Jace Newman with seven and a pair of sacks.
"I thought we did a pretty good job stopping the run but we’ll get better," Shipley said. "The tough thing about being a defensive back is that when you make a mistake everybody sees it and you get blamed. Anyone else on the field, other than the quarterback, can make a mistake and it goes unnoticed. We had a couple of mistakes and they capitalized on them, but we did some good things back there, too. As I said, it would have been nice to have at least one pick 6, we just dropped the ball."
Graham counters with an offense that racked up 475 yards of total offense, including 312 rushing, against Mineral Wells. The Steers — who led 12-0 after one quarter, 33-0 at halftime and 47-7 heading into the fourth period — received 187 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground from Dillon Gonzales. Quarterback Ben Davis passed for 158 yards and threw a pair of touchdowns to Spur Hearne, while Bryce Reeves grabbed a team-high five catches for 86 yards.
"It’s hard to judge Graham based on the Mineral Wells game," Shipley said. "Everything they did worked but they obviously have the ability to run and pass effectively. Their skill kids are really good."
Though the Lions had a few players not finish the All Saints game due to injuries, Shipley expects Brownwood to be at full strength for the home opener.
"I think everyone who played last week will be good to go this week," Shipley said.
In terms of what must occur for the Lions to notch their first victory of the season and avoid consecutive losses to open the season, limiting miscues is the main objective, according to Brownwood's head coach.
"We have to cut down on mistakes, period," Shipley said. "Teams don’t show much in scrimmages and that was certainly the case with All Saints. They had one scrimmage and in that scrimmage they only played one defensive series and two offensive series, so we really didn’t know what to expect from them. We have two scrimmages and a game film on Graham, so we feel like we have a little better idea of what they’re going to do. There are no excuses this week."