Brownwood's next chance to advance comes Friday at Jim Ned

SNYDER — Three opportunities have slipped away from the Brownwood Lions, but two remain as they seek their 18th consecutive appearance in the 7-on-7 state tournament later this month.

Saturday’s third state qualifying tournament for the Lions — at Snyder — mirrored their first on May 20 in Gatesville in several ways. Brownwood again dominated pool play but looked like a different team entirely in the qualifying match-up, falling to the Andrews Mustangs, 33-18. Andrews ended Brownwood’s 2016 football season in the second round of the playoffs as well.

“It was a little like Gatesville,” said Lions offensive coordinator John Contrucci, who was on hand to observe the action. “We have to learn to complete a tournament.

“We played well the first three games with a lot of excitement and execution on both sides of the ball. In the last game we didn’t, and I felt like that was the difference.”

The Lions played four games, with an hour in between each, making for one of the longest 7-on-7 tournaments Brownwood has competed in — on one of the hottest days of 2017 thus far.

The Lions snapped a three-game slump in 7-on-7 qualifying tournament action with a 21-6 victory over Lubbock Trinity Christian, followed by a 42-0 thrashing of Coahoma and wrapped up pool play with a 52-13 triumph over Midland Greenwood.

With a chance to lock up a state berth, the Lions held Andrews scoreless on the Mustangs’ first two possessions, however, Brownwood was unable to capitalize. The Lions first drive was halted on downs, while Andrews picked off Clayton Bertrand on the second drive — Brownwood’s lone turnover the entire day.

The Lions grabbed a 6-0 lead on its third possession as Tommy Bowden hooked up with Nick Salazar, but Bowden was unable to connect for the extra point.

Andrews immediately answered to seize a 7-6 lead, as the Mustangs scored on three consecutive drives to build a 20-6 edge by the time Brownwood snapped the ball for first time in the second half.

The Lions crept within 20-12 on a scoring toss from Bertrand to Salazar, but again the extra point failed. Andrews fired back with two consecutive touchdowns after a Brownwood drive stalled, opening a 33-12 advantage.

Bowden connected with Cain Kittrell on a 45-yard touchdown for the Lions’ final score, closing the final margin to 15 points.

Brownwood began the day a little sluggishly on offense, but the defense was stellar in the 21-6 opening win over Lubbock Trinity Christian. The Lions took a 14-0 halftime lead on scoring tosses Bowden to Hunter Leonard and Bertrand to Jordan Ortega. In the second half, Bowden and Leonard connected again for the final score.

Defensively, Dylan Hickey picked off a Lubbock Trinity Christian pass on the first possession of the game, while Hayden Donahoo added an interception on a fourth-and-goal play in the second half.

Though the Lions didn’t a force a turnover in the second game,they kept Coahoma out of the end zone in a 42-0 romp.

Brownwood led 28-0 at the break on Bertrand touchdown passes to Leonard and Nick Salazar, and Bowden scoring tosses to Ortega and Salazar. In the second half, Salazar caught his third touchdown of the game from Bowden, who later connected with Ben Kallman in the end zone for the sixth score of the contest.

The Lions and Midland Greenwood squared off in the third game for each team, with the winner earning the pool championship. Brownwood jumped out to a 25-0 advantage before Greenwood scored on the final snap of the opening half. First-half touchdowns for the Lions belonged to A.J. McCarty, on a pair of tosses from Brown, and Braden Jetton, who caught touchdown passes from both Bertrand and Bowden.

Jetton also intercepted a pass in the second half, which led to a Bertrand touchdown toss to Leonard. Bertrand also connected with Salazar in the end zone in the second half, while Bowden threw the final touchdown of the game to Kallman.

For the day, Bowden completed 62 of 88 pass attempts — 70 percent — with 13 touchdown passes. Bertrand was 46 of 68 through the air — 68 percent — with seven scoring tosses and an interception.

Leonard led all Lion receivers with 30 receptions, including four for touchdowns, followed by Salazar with 18 grabs and six scores. Kittrell hauled in 13 grabs with a trip to the end zone; Ortega and McCarty both finished with 10 catches and a pair of touchdowns; Jetton finished with nine grabs and two scores; Gavin Jefferson caught eight balls with one touchdown; Tristin Revada pulled down seven receptions; and Kallman added four catches with two trips to the end zone.

The Lions’ fourth of fifth opportunities to the qualify for the 7-on-7 Division II State Tournament in College Station on June 29-30 takes place Friday at the Jim Ned qualifier.

“We have a young group of kids that have come together over the last three weeks or so that are building momentum toward the season,” Contrucci said, “and I see these kids building more confidence in themselves.”