Brownwood to compete in Gatesville tournament with pool play in Copperas Cove

The 7-on-7 Division II State Championship Tournament has been moved up two weeks from the traditional mid-July scheduling, therefore, state qualifying tournament action begins Saturday for the Brownwood Lions.

In the first of five scheduled state qualifier appearances, the Lions will take part in the Gatesville tournament Saturday. However, Brownwood will play its pool games in Copperas Cove beginning at 9 a.m. With rain in the forecast and not enough turf fields available in Gatesville, a number of teams were shifted out of town — including the Lions — which has happened before.

Brownwood’s pool will consist of the Lions, Little River-Academy, Moody and Cameron.

The four pool winners will meet later in the day at McKamie Stadium in Gatesville for the semifinals, with the winners of those two contests punching tickets to Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station June 29-30.

Following the Gatesville tournament, the Lions will compete at Brock on May 27, Snyder on June 10, Jim Ned on June 16 and at home June 23 in a ‘last chance’ event.

Brownwood head coach Kyle Maxfield, who is preparing for his second season at the helm of the program, feels much better about the strides made this offseason compared to last, where he took over the role as head coach and athletic director in mid-spring.

“We’re in a lot better shape than we were this time last year,” Maxfield said, “not only with how we’ve installed things this spring, but also being more familiar with both the offense and the defense going into these state qualifying tournaments.”

While winning is always an objective during the 7-on-7 season, the primary goal is continued improvement over the next month.

On the offensive end, “We want to see a good tempo, that we’re taking care of the ball and in 7-on-7 you’ve always got to be scoring points. The easiest way to not score points is to turn the ball over. There’s going to be drives that stall out here and there, but we want to be more consistent, play fast, make good decisions and be efficient.”

Many of the eyes of the Lions’ faithful will be focused on the quarterback position where Clayton Bertrand, Tommy Bowden and A.J. McCarty are all vying for the open starting position.

“The rotation with the quarterbacks will be key in 7-on-7,” Maxfield said. “We’ll be looking for them to make good decisions and make the correct reads.”

The receiving corps will consist of McCarty along with Braden Jetton, Rylan Reagan, Hunter Leonard, Nick Salazar, Grayson Swanzy, Jordan Ortega, Ben Kallman and Tristin Revada, while Gavin Jefferson and Cain Kittrell will line up in the backfield.

“Our receivers have gotten a lot better at getting off the ball and playing fast, and that comes with more confidence and being sure of their routes,” Maxfield said.

Defensively, Bowden, McCarty, Patrick Nash and Joseph Johnson are projected to get looks at safety; Jetton, Revada and Kirk Vickers will man the corners; and Jefferson, Leonard, Ian Moreno, Hunter Mares, Hayden Donahoo and Dylan Hickey are expected to rotate at the linebacker positions.

“On the defensive side, they’re a lot more familiar with what we expect, which is knowing what your job is every snap and in every coverage, ” Maxfield said. “Playing 7-on-7 is a little different in that you can play some man under, two-deep stuff. You can also work zone stuff. We like to mix it up on guys and make them think maybe the flat’s going to be open when we’re in zone coverage and a corner jumps up and picks it off. We just want to keep the offense guessing a little bit.”

With the school year winding down, Maxfield also touched on the offseason program and the progress made since the Lions concluded the 2016 campaign in the second round of the playoffs with a 6-4 overall record.

“Going back to January and February, that’s when we put the meat in our program, the mental toughness and getting stronger, ” Maxfield said. “The first stage was just bearing down and going to work and the kids responded great. We gained a lot of strength and athleticism in general.

“The second phase, strength is always a part of it, but there was more of an emphasis on agility. Running develops speed and at the same time it develops mental toughness. To me, whether you’re a track star or an offensive lineman, nothing creates mental toughness more than getting out and running, and I feel like we made some strides there.

“We’ve been doing some football skills this last phase, which started about the first of April. We’ve gotten plenty of work in on both sides of the bar as far as fundamentals, and we started our 7-on-7 league about three Mondays ago. We still have a ways to go, though, so we still need a good summer and a good camp.”