With the District 34-4A race behind them, and championships destined for the trophy case, the Brownwood Lions and Lady Lions will begin what they hope is another lengthy postseason run tonight.
In a bi-district doubleheader at Robinson High School, the Lady Lions (14-5-1, 9-1) will challenge Waco Connally at 5:30 p.m. while the Lions (16-2-2, 10-0) will take on Mexia at 7:30 p.m. If the Lady Lions are victorious, they will meet either District 35 champion Nacogdoches or District 36 fourth seed Sealy in the area round. Meanwhile, the Lions would square off with either District 35 runner-up Palestine or District 36 third seed Brookshire Royal in area round if they advance.
The Lions will be facing a Mexia squad that placed fourth in District 33, which also consists of playoff teams Waco High, Waco La Vega and Waco University.
“I don’t know much about Mexia except that they were in a tight race in a tough district,” Gibbs said. “They played against La Vega last Friday night with the winner finishing in third and the loser in fourth. La Vega was a talented team that we beat in a shootout in a preseason tournament so if they were in a battle with them, then I am expecting a tough matchup with Mexia.”
The Lady Lions’ foe, Waco Connally, was the third-place team in District 33 as China Spring, Waco University and Waco High also qualified from that district.
“Connally finished third in their district and their seeding came down to the final weekend with any possibility between third and fifth,” Gibbs said. “I have heard that Connally has some good individual players, a center-mid in particular. We’ll have to use our center-mids to counteract her by moving the ball quickly through midfield. Most of the games we’ve won this year have been won in the midfield — when we win that battle, we usually do well. That area will be a priority against Connally.”
The Lady Lions have won 14 of their last 15 games heading into the playoffs, which is cause for confidence at this point in the season. Still, Gibbs wants the Lady Lions to approach their remaining games as if they were extensions of the regular season.
“I am most pleased with how the girls have continued to get better,” Gibbs said. “We have a very young team with only two seniors so their maturity to continue to fight even when things looked bleak has been impressive.
“The girls have to continue to believe they can win. Our girls have to make sure and treat this like the regular season. There are more ramifications in the playoffs, but it’s a soccer game, just like the 20 other games we’ve played this year.”
The Lions, meanwhile, have reeled off victories in 16 of their last 17 outings, which also has Gibbs feeling strongly about the boys heading into the postseason. But along with the girls, Gibbs feels there are areas where the Lions can continue to improve.
“I am most pleased with our team defending this year,” Gibbs said. “One of the keys to defensive success is defending as a unit, not as individuals.
“We’ve got to keep the ball moving. It’s the same concept as team defending, it’s easier to defend a player on his own, it’s much more difficult to defend a player with options to pass to. If we can keep the ball moving quickly and continue to defend well as a team, then we’ll have a good chance to win.”