Brownwood to face Lorena, Goliad and Palestine in pool play action Thursday

For the 18th consecutive year, the Brownwood Lions will vie for a 7-on-7 state championship, seeking their second Division II crown after capturing the title in 2010.

The Lions took part in five state qualifying tournaments before finally punching their ticket at home during the Brownwood event this past Friday. Brownwood opened pool play by pounding state qualifier Gatesville (55-26) in a rematch of the Gatesville tournament semifinals. The Lions then upended Early (34-14), and slipped past Jim Ned (36-30) to reach the semifinals. There, Brownwood downed Merkel (19-13) in a defensive battle.

“It was low-scoring,” Lions head coach Kyle Mayfield said after the qualifying victory over Merkel. “It came down to the last game and the last drive, and our kids were just resilient. They competed and found a way to get it done.”

At state, Brownwood will compete in Pool N of the 64-team Division II state tournament along with Goliad, Lorena and Palestine. The Lions will face Goliad at 2 p.m. Thursday, Lorena at 4 p.m. Thursday and Palestine at 6 p.m. Thursday on Field 9 at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.

The top two teams from each pool advance to the 32-team, single-elimination championship bracket, which begins play at 9 a.m. Friday. The third- and fourth-place teams from each pool will compete in the 32-team single-elimination consolation bracket, which starts at 8 a.m. Friday.

The Lorena Leopards, members of District 9-4A Division II, are picked to win their district by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine. The Leopards are coming off an 8-4A area finalist season with five offensive and seven defensive starters returning. Players to watch include quarterback/receiver Ben Johnston, running back Thor Hoffman, receivers Alec Brem, Coree Cleveland and Ben Craig and defensive backs Cam Bryant, Hayden Schrader, Braden Smith and Cade Michna. Lorena qualified at the Burnet tournament May 27.

The Goliad Tigers, who play in District 15-3A Division I, are also league favorites, according to DCTF magazine. Goliad posted a 9-4 record last season and reached the regional semifinals. Among the nine offensive and eight defensive starters returning are quarterback Rocky Morris, receivers Trey Ingram, Nathan Oliver, Daniel Rodriguez and Logan Moya, and linebackers Angel Hernandez, Hayden Reitz and Jacob Rubio. Goliad qualified at the Rockport tournament June 10.

The Palestine Wildcats reside in District 9-4A Division I and are projected to finish fourth behind Carthage, Henderson and Kilgore in one of the most loaded districts in the state in any classification. Palestine was 5-5 last year and missed the playoffs, but returns six starters on each side of the ball. Wildcats to watch include quarterback Tyler Grey, receivers Josh Williams, Quint Cook and Cameron Hamilton and linebackers T.J. Dever and Isaiah Thomas. Palestine qualified at its own tournament June 17.

Dave Campbell’s Texas Football website has the Lions projected to finish third in their pool behind Lorena and Goliad and ahead of Palestine.

Coming off a 6-4 campaign in 2016, their first year under Maxfield, the Lions have posted a 12-5 mark in 17 state qualifier tournament games this summer.

The Lions have been led by the play of quarterbacks Tommy Bowden and Clayton Bertrand, while leading receivers have included Nick Salazar, Hunter Leonard, Braden Jetton, Tristin Revada, A.J. McCarty, Ben Kallman, Gavin Jefferson and Cain Kittrell.

Defensive standouts have included Hunter Mares, Hayden Donahoo, Dylan Hickey, Kirk Vickers and Patrick Nash, among others.

Prior to the Brownwood qualifier, Maxfield said, “If you look at our compilation of games, we’re used to the system now and, to me, we’re playing 10 times better than we ever did last summer.

“7-on-7 is what it is, but we’d like to see the streak continue. You hate for it to come down to the last tournament, but throughout the years it’s come down to that for Brownwood several times.”