I’ve resisted the temptation thus far, but I’m short on both time and ideas for this week’s column, so I’ll fall back on my crutch — sports.

Starting on the home front, there’s plenty to talk about in the Brown County realm of sports.

Early revealed Refugio defensive coordinator Kent Hawthorne, a former head coach at Weimar and Cumby, as its new athletic director and head football coach on Friday. In his eight seasons as head coach, he owns a 43-29 record with two trips to the playoffs.

Hawthorne’s mission is to return to the Longhorns to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and he also wants to surpass the success of 2005 and 2007 state semifinal teams. 

Coming from Refugio, which averaged 62 points per game and posted a 27-1 record over the past two seasons, Hawthorne stated he wanted the Longhorns to have the ball as much as possible — that includes no punting and opening games with onside kicks.

That philosophy worked well at Refugio, and I’m curious to see how it pans out for the Longhorns this coming season.

Also, the Bluebonnet Relays returned this weekend. While not as large in terms of overall teams as some of the meets in the past, the lack of 4A and 5A schools could prove to be beneficial for the Brownwood contingency in the long run.

With Brownwood, and the rest of the Class 3A schools, forced to compete in a division with 4A and 5A athletes, the Lions and Lady Lions had to put forth an even greater effort to succeed. If the Lions and Lady Lions continue to display the same type of drive and determination the rest of the spring, another healthy number of qualifiers could be headed for regionals — and possibly the state meet.

The Brownwood Lions wrapped up their Bluebonnet Invitational with the final two of five games on Saturday. Over the past two weekends, the Lions have played 10 games and four more are scheduled for the coming week of spring break. 

With the Lions slated to open District 8-3A action March 19 against Liberty Hill, first-year head coach Blake Sandford should be well aware of his team’s strengths and weaknesses when league play arrives.

Kudos to Brownwood soccer coach J.B. Gibbs, who in his first season as head coach for both the Lions and Lady Lions, has both teams poised to earn their first district championships. 

The Lions have won 14 of their last 15 games overall and are undefeated in district action, with a chance to clinch the title March 19 at Salado. Meanwhile, the Lady Lions have won 12 of their last 13 games and share the top spot in the District 34-4A standings. 

Combined, the Lions and Lady Lions own a 15-1 district record and are 26-7-3 on the season.

———

Former Brownwood Lion, Early Longhorn and Texas Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro appears on the fast track to becoming a first-round NFL draft choice in April.

Vaccaro’s stock skyrocketed during the NFL scouting combine in February and some draft gurus have him listed as the No. 1 safety available. Several mock drafts, which seem to come out daily, have him listed as a first-round draft choice.

Due to the Dallas Cowboys’ recent release of Gerald Sensabaugh, a few mock drafts released in the last few days even have Vaccaro landing in Dallas at the No. 18 pick.

The draft always provides high drama as teams reach for some players while other players plummet down draft boards for a variety of reasons. But with a home grown talent in this year’s draft, it promises to be an extremely memorable weekend.

———

Speaking of home grown talents, former Brownwood Lion Casey Pachall has returned to the TCU campus and football program and, from all accounts in a recent Fort Worth Star-Telegram article, is on track to reclaim his position as starting quarterback for his senior season.

The last year of Pachall’s life has been well documented, and hopefully his troubles are behind him. With Pachall back in the fold, TCU could make a push for a Big 12 championship in the Horned Frogs’ second year in the league. And if Pachall continues to progress off the field as he has lately, there could also be draft rumors circling around him next spring.  

———

Another former Brownwood Lion, Shelby Miller, is attempting to make the St. Louis Cardinals’ starting pitching rotation.

After missing time due to a sore shoulder, Miller returned to the mound Friday in Grapefruit League action against the Washington Nationals.

Facing most of the starters from last year’s NL East champion Nationals roster, Miller allowed two runs on three hits with a walk in three innings. The appearance was just Miller’s second of the spring.

Reporters who follow the Cardinals on a daily basis feel Miller has the inside track at landing the final spot in the rotation — and based on how he performed after his Major League debut in September, it’s easy to understand why.

How it all plays out, however, remains to be seen — for a few more weeks, at least.

 

Derrick Stuckly is the Editor of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Sundays. He may be reached by e-mail at derrick.stuckly@brownwoodbulletin.com.