Brownwood looks to even record at 4-4 before returning to league play

Following a pair of narrow losses in District 3-4A Division I action, the Brownwood Lions step away from the league slate — but the competition gets no easier.

The Alvin Shadow Creek Sharks, a second-year program that will likely join the Class 5A ranks upon February’s UIL realignment, were a late addition to the schedule to give Brownwood the traditional 10 games, opposed to the nine scheduled in 2016. Brownwood graduate Brad Butler serves as head coach at Shadow Creek.

“They’re going to be 5A, but I don’t know if they’ll be Division I or Division II,” said Lions second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “If you’ve seen the kind of teams Manvel has produced the last few years, Brad thinks that’s the potential they have there.”

Kickoff between the Lions (3-4) and Sharks (3-2) is set for 7 p.m. tonight at Gordon Wood Stadium.

“It’s a little different having a non-district game in the middle of district,” Maxfield said. “It’s a lot like college now where they play a couple of conference games, pick up another, then go back to conference. We’ve talked as a staff and I’ve visited with some guys on how they approach it. This will be a big challenge for us and will test us as we get ready for playoffs, not to put the cart ahead of the horse.”

Shadow Creek owns victories over Silsbee (37-15), Marshall (28-21) and Houston Kinkaid (23-17), with losses to Midland Christian (36-24) and Fort Worth All Saints (46-16) in its most recent game Oct. 13. Midland Christian and All Saints are a combined 13-1 on the year.

“They’re legit and have some Division I talent,” Maxfield said. “They faced All Saints, which Brownwood has had some experience with before, and Midland Christian.”

The Sharks are averaging 26 points and 324 yards — 214 passing and 110 rushing — per outing.

Quarterbacks Jamarian George (46 of 76 for 773 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs) and Zion Buckley-Sneed (16 of 27 for 273 yards, 3 TDs) have shared time behind center, while leading receivers include Malik Rodgers (17-498, 6 TDs), Ketrick Burkhalter (13-175, 2 TDs), Marquez Huland (10-158, TD) and Dale Dickerson (6-105). Top ground gainers include Huland (230 yards, 2 TDs), Jay’veon Bell (155 yards, TD) and Buckley-Sneed (93 yards, TD).

“They run a spread on offense and their quarterback is like a jitterbug,” Maxfield said. “They’re probably 70-30 pass to run, but they scramble so much it looks like they wind up running it more than passing it to me.”

Defensively, Shadow Creek is giving up 27 points per outing on average.

“They’re going to be a different speed for us,” Maxfield said. “Their defensive ends, one’s committed to Arizona State I believe, and they can play. They get their hands on you and lock you out. They have good reach and control the line of scrimmage.

“Their secondary plays flat footed and it looks like there’s a lot of grass there, then as soon as the ball’s snapped they close in a hurry. We’ve been trying to simulate it as much as we can in practice. I think we have a few things that will help us move the ball on them, but it will come down to blocking those guys and maintaining those blocks.”

Brownwood’s offense enters the game averaging 37 points and 410 yards — 214 passing and 196 rushing — per outing, with only four turnovers.

Tommy Bowden has completed 93 of 144 passes for 1,445 yards with 15 touchdowns and one interception, while leading receivers include A.J. McCarty (27-441, 5 TDs), Nick Salazar (26-444, 5 TDs), Braden Jetton (18-316, 3 TDs) and Hunter Leonard (8-76, TD). Top ground gainers include Gavin Jefferson (646 yards, 7 TDs), Bowden (370 yards, 5 TDs) and Cain Kittrell (255 yards, 3 TDs).

Defensively, the Lions are surrendering 34 points and 423 yards — 250 rushing and 173 passing — per contest, with 12 takeaways on the season.

Standouts include Patrick Nash (51.5 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 sack), Kirk Vickers (39 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT), Hunter Mares (35.5 tackles, 1 INT, 3 sacks, 3 TFL, 1 FR, safety), Marcus Mosley (35 tackles, 2 INTs), Dylan Hickey (32 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 FR), Leonard (31 tackles, 4 sacks, 5 TFL, safety), Hayden Tunnell (31 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 TFL), Theo Bryant (29 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 FRs), and Hayden Donahoo (27 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 FRs).

While a victory is always welcome, the top priority for the Lions is to remain healthy with district games remaining at Big Spring next week and at home against Snyder Nov. 10.

“We’re in good shape, but Shadow Creek is the type of team that’s real physical and we want come out of this healthy,” Maxfield said. “You want a game like this to prepare for the playoffs and it’s a lot better than being open. Injuries are a part of the game that you can’t control, but overall we think this will be a positive for our kids.”

There is no Harris Weekly Ratings line for this game as Alvin Shadow Creek is not yet a sanctioned UIL member.