In the final game before the start of the District 3-4A Division I portion of the schedule, the Brownwood Lions will attempt to establish their first win streak of the season as they venture to Wildcat Stadium in Temple at 7 p.m. Friday to battle the Giddings Buffaloes.
The Lions (2-2) halted a two-game skid with a 21-7 victory over Alvarado last week, sparked by the best performance of the season from the Brownwood defense. Meanwhile, Giddings (1-3) has opened the season with losses to Geronimo Navarro, 29-28, Wimberley, 45-28, and Yoakum, 56-28, with its lone win coming over Canyon Lake, 28-23. The Buffaloes’ opponents have combined for a 13-3 record.
“They bring a lot to the table on both sides of the ball,” said Lions second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “If anyone has had as brutal of a schedule as we have, it’s Giddings.”
Giddings enters this week’s game in a similar scenario to what Brownwood faced last week. The Buffaloes are looking to rebound from a 56-28 loss to Yoakum in which Giddings surrendered 712 yards, including 679 rushing, on a total of 40 snaps — an average of 17.8 yards per play. Giddings allowed touchdown runs of 58, 64, 72, 88 and 95 yards, along with a couple of 26-yarders and one from 3 yards out.
“They played a really talented Yoakum team, and they get up and down the field fast,” Maxfield said of Yoakum, coached by former Bangs head coach Bo Robinson. “They’ve got some twins that are committed to Division I schools, and they can really go. They broke some long runs.”
A week prior, Giddings collected its only victory over Canyon Lake, 28-23. In that contest, the Buffaloes finished with 497 yards — 260 rushing and 237 passing — but still allowed 493 yards — 308 rushing and 185 passing.
Buffaloes quarterback Rustin Grimm completed 14 of 25 for 237 yards in the win with a pair of touchdowns. Jaylon Joiner hauled in three receptions for 114 yards with a 74-yard scoring reception, Travis James added three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown, and Luke Benignus and Drew Villesca finished with a team-best four receptions for 40 and 38 yards, respectively.
On the ground, Tavion Page rushed 11 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns, including a 95-yard scoring sprint, while Brandon Mitschke chipped in 41 yards and a touchdown, Ja’Darius Johnson rushed for 33 yards and Grimm added 20.
“Giddings has a lot of speed and has some size,” Maxfield said. “Defensively, they have a tackle that reminds me of some of the defensive tackles we’ve played — really athletic and can move. It’ll be a challenge for us to maintain our blocks on him because he can get off blocks pretty quick. They do a good job on defense of matching up personnel wise. We sub tight ends, receivers and running backs, and whenever we sub they’re going to match it up. If we’re in four wide they will give us a nickel look, and if we have two running backs in the game they’ll bring an extra linebacker in.”
After yielding 124 points and 1,437 yards the previous two games, the Lions responded with their best defensive outing of the season at Alvarado — 232 yards and one touchdown allowed with three turnovers forced, with two eventually resulting in touchdowns.
Offensively, however, Brownwood faced its greatest struggles against Alvarado. The Lions were limited to 21 points and 214 yards — both season lows. Brownwood tallied 137 yards over the first three possessions — all touchdowns — but mustered just 77 yards the rest of the game. The Lions rushed for 174 yards on 39 carries, and completed 6 of 11 passes for 40 yards.
“We’ve just been trying to get better at what we do,” Maxfield said. “We’ve got some personnel packages that we think will help us some.”
The Lions have also had to overcome Mother Nature this week in their preparations for Giddings.
“The weather has limited us some,” Maxfield said. “You started worrying about people slipping and pulling muscles and whatnot when you practice on wet grass. We’ve been out to the stadium a few times, because the ground is soaked, and we’ve been in the indoor facility a few times. We’ve had to change our schedule and be real flexible.”
Health-wise, the Lions were missing three starters along the offensive and defensive lines due to injury last week. Their availability against Giddings is still not certain.
“We’re trying to get a few of our guys back that are banged up,” Maxfield said. “They’re not 100 percent but they’re further along than they were last week. Santanna Espinoza’s been working out this week, while Colby Coppic has worked out some but he’s really favoring his shoulder. It’s just touch and go with those guys, but they have been getting some work this week. It’s good to see them back out there padded up, but they’re not 100 percent. It’s our open week next week and we want to be real careful not to set them back heading into district.”
Heading into Friday’s game, the Lions are averaging 45 points and 476 yards — 259 passing and 217 rushing — per outing, with only one turnover.
Quarterback Tommy Bowden has connected on 55 of 84 passes for 1,011 yards with 12 touchdowns and no interceptions, while rushing for 169 yards — third-most on the team — and three scores. Primary receiving threats include A.J. McCarty (20-345, 5 TDs), Nick Salazar (14-329, 5 TDs), Braden Jetton (8-174, TD) and Ben Kallman (6-85). Gavin Jefferson (415 yards, 4 TDs) leads the ground game, complemented by Cain Kittrell (196 yards, 3 TDs).
Defensively, Brownwood has forced seven turnovers — five fumbles and two interceptions — while allowing 38 points and 480 yards, including 317 rushing, per outing.
Leading tackles for the Lions include Patrick Nash (30.5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL), Kirk Vickers (24 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT), Dylan Hickey (23.5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 FR), Hunter Mares (20 tackles, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, safety), Theo Bryant (17 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 FRs), Marcus Mosley (17 tackles), Hayden Tunnell (17 tackles, 2 sacks), Isaiah Marquez (16 tackles), Hayden Donahoo (15 tackles, 2 FRs), Hunter Leonard (14.5 tackles, 3 sacks, safety), Clayton Bertrand (14.5 tackles) and Tristin Revada (11 tackles).
Last season, Brownwood slipped past Giddings for a 36-35 victory at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Brownwood is a 4-point favorite Friday night.