Brownwood to face Rockdale in championship bracket opener at 7-on-7 Division II state tournament

COLLEGE STATION — In what was perhaps the most evenly-matched pool of the 16 at the 7-on-7 Division II State Tournament, the Brownwood Lions prevailed as Pool N champions Thursday at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex, keeping alive their opportunity to capture a second state title.

In six pool games between Brownwood, Palestine, Lorena and Goliad, five of the contests were decided by four points or less. In the final battles — Brownwood against Palestine and Lorena versus Goliad — the Lions scored on their final snap and converted the extra-point pass for a 27-26 victory. Meanwhile, Lorena dropped a 35-34 overtime decision to Goliad, allowing Brownwood to secure the top seed.

If the result of either of the last two games had been different, the Lions would have found themselves in the consolation bracket.

“Obviously anybody could have beaten anybody,” said Lions head coach Kyle Maxfield, who observed the action, “but you can never count our guys out. They’re just bred that way and the Brownwood Lion came out in them.”

The Lions experienced their share of tough breaks during qualifying tournament season as it took Brownwood five attempts to reach its 18th consecutive state tournament. But when the Lions needed the bounces the most, they went in Brownwood’s favor Thursday.

“It was really neat the way it all went down,” Maxfield said in reference to the final two pool games. “We scored and made the extra point right when the horn went off to beat Palestine. Then Goliad and Lorena were going to overtime, so our whole team was at midfield rooting for Goliad. In overtime, Goliad scored first and made the extra point, then Lorena scored quick, but Goliad batted down the extra point. So we went from being in the consolation bracket based on the point system to winning the pool in one play.”

Brownwood started pool play with a 41-39, three-overtime victory over Goliad. The Lions led 14-7 at halftime, but Goliad drew even at 20 at the end of regulation.

“We felt like we outplayed them, we just had some bad breaks at critical moments that kept Goliad in the game,” Maxfield said. “Goliad runs a lot of 7-on-7 formations, bunch stuff that you don’t see on Friday nights, but we adjusted to it as the game went on.

“Overtime was a battle and we just kept fighting. After the first overtime you have to go for two points. The second overtime neither one of us made it, then in the third overtime we made ours and stopped them.”

The Lions struggled in their second outing, suffering a 33-13 loss to Lorena — the only Pool N contest that was decided by more than a touchdown. Brownwood trailed 13-6 at halftime and was unable to recover after the break.

“The Lorena score was kind of lopsided, but it was closer than that,” Maxfield said. “We just threw some picks in that game that hurt us.”

Brownwood — which is seeking its first 7-on-7 state championship since 2010 — will face Rockdale at 9 a.m. Friday in the first game of 32-team, single-elimination championship bracket action. If the Lions are successful, either Carthage or Cuero will await in the round of 16.

“We ended on such a high note, it was kind of like an NCAA basketball tournament game,” Maxfield said. “Our fate was in someone else’s hands, but we still ended on a high note so I expect us to have a lot of energy. Coming out of our pool, we’re definitely battle-tested. We just need to make good decisions and fly around, and that’s one thing we did that last game.”