The Brownwood Lions will attempt to secure their ninth consecutive postseason appearance and put an end to the winless season of the Big Spring Steers when the two squads square off in District 3-4A Division I action at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Neither the Lions (4-4, 0-2) nor Big Spring (0-9, 0-3) own a district victory at the moment, but the Steers are facing their final chance for a victory of any sort with their bye scheduled for next Friday. A Brownwood victory would put the finishing touches on a winless campaign for Big Spring, while a Steers’ victory would put the Lions in a must-win situation against Snyder next week to force a likely tiebreaker to determine the district’s final two playoff teams.
Brownwood enters Friday’s contest coming off a hard-fought 28-21 non-district victory over Alvin Shadow Creek, which will likely be a Class 5A program when the UIL unveils its latest biennial realignment.
Big Spring has lost 24 games in a row dating to Sept. 18, 2015, and was throttled by Stephenville, 71-0, a week ago. The Steers allowed 514 yards — 346 rushing and 168 passing.
Through nine games, Big Spring has been outscored 436-99, an average of 48-11 per contest. The Steers have lost by at least 20 points in every game this season, and District 3-4A Division I opponents are averaging a 45-point victory against Big Spring.
Still, second-year head coach Kyle Maxfield said the Lions are in no position to overlook any opponent.
“We fear no team, but at the same time we respect every opponent,” Maxfield said. “We’re still trying to get better every week. We know Big Spring has struggled but they have some great looking kids. It’s a long trip out there and we know when you have that lion on your helmet you’re going to be everyone’s best shot.”
The closest call for Big Spring in district action was a 40-13 loss to Snyder in the league opener on Oct. 13. Tied at 7 early, the Steers trailed 14-7 after one quarter, 23-7 at halftime and 37-7 through three periods.
Big Spring finished with 261 total yards — 169 rushing and 92 passing — with three turnovers, while allowing 270 yards — 163 on the ground and 107 through the air — and creating one takeaway.
Quarterback Abel Clark accounted for most of the offense, rushing for 122 yards and a 10-yard touchdown while completing 9 of 22 passes for 92 yards — including a 9-yard score to Jeremiah Cooley — with a pair of interceptions. C.J. Harris caught a team-high five passes for 66 yards for the Steers.
“They have a big sophomore quarterback, a good looking kid that can make some plays,” Maxfield said. “They also have some big linemen, but they don’t move as good as some of the teams we’ve played. They also have some good receivers. Overall, their best athletes are probably sophomores, and the coach over there is trying to change the culture. But we’ll still be as prepared for them as possible.”
Through eight games this season the Lions are averaging 36 points and 397 yards — 217 passing and 180 rushing — per contest, with still only four turnovers.
Quarterback Tommy Bowden is coming off a four-touchdown effort and has now thrown 19 on the season with only one interception, completing 110 and 168 attempts for 1,681 yards in the process. Brownwood has also developed a three-headed monster of big play receivers in A.J. McCarty (30-516, 6 TDs), Nick Salazar (30-458 5 TDs) and Braden Jetton (24-420, 5 TDs). The ground attack is anchored by Gavin Jefferson (699 yards, 7 TDs), along with Bowden (335 yards, 5 TDs) and Cain Kittrell (283 yards, 3 TDs).
Defensively, the Lions yielded just 255 yards last week and are surrendering 32 points and 405 yards — 206 passing and 199 rushing — per outing on average, with 13 takeaways for the year.
Standouts include Patrick Nash (57 tackles, 7 TFL, 1 sack), Kirk Vickers (42 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FR, 1 INT), Marcus Mosley (39.5 tackles, 1 for loss 2 INTs), Hunter Mares (38 tackles, 1 INT, 4 sacks, 4 TFL, 1 FR, safety), Hunter Leonard (37 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 TFL, safety), Dylan Hickey (36 tackles, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 FR), Hayden Tunnell (35 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 TFL), Theo Bryant (33.5 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 FRs), Hayden Donahoo (29.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 FRs), Santanna Espinoza (23 tackles, 1 for loss, 2 sacks, FR), Isaiah Marquez (20.5 tackles), Tristin Revada (19.5 tackles, INT) and Ian Moreno (19.5 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack).
“We want to come out and be crisp and clean from the start, no mental mistakes,” Maxfield said of Friday’s night objectives. “We need to be focused on what we need to do.”
On the health front, center Wyatt Jacobs will miss at least the Big Spring game, as Carlos Benites will step into the starting center role while Rylan Reagan moves from tight end to interior lineman. Also, Mares, at linebacker, will continue to play despite a cast on his arm, as he tallied 2.5 tackles with a sack against Shadow Creek despite the hinderance.
“We’ve tried to establish a culture where it doesn’t matter whose playing, it’s always next man up,” Maxfield said. “I’m excited to see how we look Friday night.”
Last season, Brownwood collected a 57-13 victory over Big Spring.
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, the Lions are a 38-point favorite.