The Brownwood Lions last won a district championship in 2010, which is also the last time they defeated the Abilene Wylie Bulldogs. Head coach Kyle Maxfield’s squad will attempt to put an end to both droughts in Friday’s District 3-4A Division I opener.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium.
Both the Lions and Bulldogs are coming off bye weeks and enter district play with 3-2 records.
“It’s been a good week and we can tell there’s a little pep in their step,” Maxfield said. “Some of it might have to do with the weather being cooler, but also we know it’s Wylie week and the start of district. The kids are putting in the time and the work and we want to be as prepared as we can be going into Bulldog Stadium Friday night.”
The Lions are attempting to halt a seven-game skid against Wylie, which has opened the season with victories over Vernon (45-6), Lubbock Monterey(42-17) and Brownfield (50-7) and losses to Argyle (56-7) and Denison (24-23).
“Argyle is always going to put a quality team out there and it just kind of snowballed for Wylie against them,” Maxfield said. “Denison is a lot like us when you watch them on film. They run similar schemes and have similar athletes and linemen, so that was a good film for us to watch.”
The Bulldogs have also had to overcome the loss of running back/linebacker Cason Grant and quarterback Sam King. But King returned for the pre-district finale against Brownfield and Grant is expected to be back in action Friday night.
“The big key to them on offense this year, and still on defense, is their two-way star Cason Grant,” Maxfield said. “He’s been hurt but we expect him to be back. I don’t think he’s going to miss this game. He’s a great kid, a great player and when he’s healthy and playing on offense they move him around everywhere. Coach (Hugh) Sandifer does a great job finding ways to get him the ball.
“Their quarterback is also back for them. They’ve been beat up a little more than most teams in the area have been, so this extra week off for them comes at a bad time for us because it allows them to get healthy. But (defensive coordinator) Coach (Sam) Gillispie’s got a plan in place and they’ll be some adjustments during the game, but we’ve had a great week of practice. Hopefully we can get some takeaways and take advantage of them.”
Wylie enters the contest averaging 33 points and 374 yards — 209 rushing and 165 passing — per outing,
Bailey Hicks (374 yards 4 TD), Grant (372 yards, 4 TDs) and Brady Horn (195 yards, 2 TDs) are the primary weapons in the backfield while King (17 of 32 for 340 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs) and Tyler O’Connor (33 of 63 for 462 yards, 3 TDs, 4 INTs) have taken the snaps behind center. Leading receivers include Gatlin Martin (13-320, 6 TDs), Grant (9-103, 2 TDs), Evan Cantrell (7-112, TD) and Horn (7-67, TD).
Defensively, the Bulldogs are giving up 22 points and 348 yards — 194 on the ground and 154 through the air — per game.
“Their defensive front is still plenty good, they’ll be one of the best fronts we’ve played,” Maxfield said. “They really don’t have the big, standout guys like they did last year, but they have guys that play hard and get after it. They give you so many looks that you have to keep it simple and do what you do. You can’t get too elaborate on your play calling because you never know where they’re going to be. We just have to have our rules and follow them and get it done.”
The Lions come into district play on a two-game win streak, having defeated Alvarado (21-7) and Giddings (20-14) after back-to-back losses to Graham (54-49) and Liberty Hill (70-49). While the offensive hasn’t been as explosive as the first three games of the season, the defense has shown dramatic improvement since its two-game skid.
For the season, the Lions are still averaging 40 points and 449 yards — 233 passing and 216 rushing — per outing, with only two turnovers. Defensively, Brownwood is giving up 33 points and 427 yards — 276 on the ground and 151 through the air — per game, with nine takeaways.
Quarterback Tommy Bowden has completed 64 of 106 passes for 1,142 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions, while rushing for 273 yards and a team-best five touchdowns. Gavin Jefferson leads the ground attack with 519 yards and four scores, while Cain Kittrell has chipped in 194 yards and three touchdowns. Leading receivers include A.J. McCarty (22-366, 5 TDs), Nick Salazar (16-343, 5 TDs), Braden Jetton (10-199, TD), Ben Kallman (6-85), Kittrell (4-49), Hunter Leonard (3-51, TD), Jefferson (2-73, TD).
Defensive standouts for the Lions include Patrick Nash (36.5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 TFL), Hunter Mares (29.5 tackles, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 1 FR, safety), Kirk Vickers (28.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT), Dylan Hickey (24.5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 FR), Marcus Mosley (21.5 tackles, 1 INT), Hayden Tunnell (20.5 tackles, 4 sacks), Isaiah Marquez (20.5 tackles), Leonard (20 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 TFL, safety), Theo Bryant (20 tackles, 2 TFL, 2 FRs), Hayden Donahoo (19 tackles, 2 FRs), Clayton Bertrand (16.5 tackles).
Last season, Brownwood was defeated by Wylie, 35-13.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Brownwood is a 10-point underdog.