In recent seasons, the Brownwood Lions-Snyder Tigers showdown has played a significant role in district championship and postseason races. When the two teams meet again on Friday, simply earning the first victory of the season is the primary goal for both squads.
The 0-2 Lions will again tangle with the 0-2 Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Snyder in a battle of teams who have struggled early on opposite sides of the ball.
While the Lions have scored no more than seven points in either of their two previous games, the Tigers have surrendered no fewer than 35 — and are yielding 52.5 points per outing on average.
Though Brownwood did not come out on top against either Fort Worth All Saints or Graham, Lions fourth-year head coach Bob Shipley feels there’s no reason to panic, though there is an increased urgency to put together a complete performance. Last week the Lions were plagued by four turnovers, while in the opener 11 penalties — two of which negated touchdowns — cost Brownwood dearly.
“Although we’ve played two really good teams, we need to compete better and make things happen,” Shipley said. “We’re missing too many opportunities and getting ourselves in a hole we can’t dig out of.”
The Lions enter Friday’s contest averaging seven points and 227 total yards per game, and rushing for just 46 yards per contest. Meanwhile, the Snyder defense has been shredded for 499.5 yards per contest — 267 on the ground and 232.5 through the air.
Despite Snyder’s defensive woes, Shipley realizes the Lions offense still has a daunting task ahead.
“Snyder will play us really tough,” Shipley said. “We’ll have to earn anything we can get offensively. I hope we can get something going offensively. They’ve played two really good offensive teams. They look like a typical Snyder team in that they play really hard. They are physical and have a lot of quickness. They blitz a lot trying to disrupt the offense.”
Brownwood expected to be a running team heading into the season behind the offensive line of Caleb Wilbourn, Kevin Hobbs, Michael Livingston, Cody Skains and Jaylen Bocknite — the largest group in Shipley’s tenure — but remaining healthy has been an issue early. Meanwhile, first-year starter Braxton Kilgo has rushed for 102 yards on 34 carries — 3 yards per rush — in two games, while sacks have also taken away from the Lions’ overall rushing total.
“Braxton only has one year of experience as a running back so he’s a work in progress,” Shipley said. “We have to get better up front and stay healthy. We’ve been bit by the injury bug up front and it’s hurt our progress, in my opinion.”
The Lions have already put the ball in the air 60 times, with first-year quarterback Chris Keesee converting 38 of 58 pass attempts for 355 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions — all of which came last week. Keesee did have two touchdown passes called back against All Saints.
Cooper Howey leads all Lion receivers with 12 catches for 130 yards — including 10 for 110 yards last week. Matt McCrane has chipped in seven receptions for 64 yards, Eddie Duque has grabbed six catches for 80 yards with a touchdown, Clint Taylor has pulled down five receptions for 31 yards and Kaimon Ontiveros has made four receptions covering 22 yards.
“When the running game improves so will our passing game, that’s just the way it is,” Shipley said in reference to early season inconsistencies on offense. “We’re not exceptionally good at either one right now, but when you improve in one area the other area should improve, too, as defenses can’t key on you as much. You can’t have four turnovers and expect to beat a team like Graham.”
Statistically, the Lions defense improved on the 371 yards allowed in the season opener against All Saints by giving up 263 yards to Graham last week, as most of the Steers’ touchdowns were the result of short fields after Brownwood turnovers. Through two games, the Lions are yielding 200 yards through the air and 117 on the ground, on average.
Against Graham, the Lions gave up 99 yards on the ground on 36 carries — 2.8 yards per rush.
“I think overall we’re holding our own,” Shipley said of the run defense. “Graham has a very potent offense but I was proud of the way we played them, in the second half in particular.”
After allowing three touchdowns passes against All Saints, including two over 30 yards, the Lions held the Steers to 164 yards passing last week.
“We really didn’t play that bad,” Shipley said of the pass defense. “I thought after watching the film that our DBs did a pretty good job.”
The Lions will have their work cut out for them this week against a Snyder offense that is generating 39 points and 426 yards — 271 rushing and 155 passing — per game. Plus, Brownwood will be without starting linebacker Colten Guidry, who broke his leg last week and will be out the remainder of the season.
Snyder quarterback Brandon Davis has completed 21 of 39 passes for 302 yards with three touchdowns and also rushed for a team-high 298 yards with four touchdowns. D’Vincent Allison has chipped in 183 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, while Zach Harris has rushed for 55 yards and a touchdown. Leading receivers include Harris with 10 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, Jonathan Garcia with five catches for 67 yards, Felix Martinez with three receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown and Brenon Rhodes with three catches covering 39 yards.
“Their quarterback makes them go,” Shipley said. “He’s a Tebow type quarterback that’s big, has good speed and runs a lot of read plays where he has the option of keeping it. He had over 200 yards rushing in the first game. He’s a good passer, too, so you can’t overplay the run.”
As for as what it will take for Brownwood to notch its first victory of the season, the plan is simple. Whether or not the Lions execute that plan will be determined Friday night.
“We have to start being effective offensively and eliminate turnovers,” Shipley said. “Defensively, we have to limit their quarterback’s explosive plays.”