GATESVILLE — “I want our kids to win, I want them to get addicted to winning. Winning is contagious and it becomes a lifestyle.”
Those were the words of Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett prior to watching the first 7-on-7 state qualifier since he took over the football program, and the Lions definitely took those words to heart.
The Lions wasted no time in advancing to the 7-on-7 state tournament for the 19th year in a row, running the table with a perfect 4-0 record at Saturday’s Gatesville qualifier.
Brownwood knocked off Mineral Wells (31-19), Little River-Academy (40-13) and Cameron Yoe (40-25) in pool play, before upending Lampasas (33-19) in a tournament semifinal to secure one of two state berths from the Gatesville event.
The 7-on-7 Division II state tournament will take place Thursday, June 28 and Friday, June 29 at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.
“To qualify in our first event is a big deal for us and we don’t have to worry about that anymore,” Burnett said following the conclusion of Saturday’s action. “We got to see our kids get out there and compete a little bit against some guys in the same classification. I thought they did a good job executing for the most part. There were a couple of series where we were down a little bit but we responded and bounced back. There was a lot of communication between the kids and good leadership out there. I was really pleased with the start.”
Defense actually set the tone for the Lions in all four games as Brownwood yielded a total of two first-half touchdowns. Brownwood led Mineral Wells 18-0 at the break, Academy by a 19-0 count at halftime, Cameron 34-6 at intermission and Lampasas by a 20-6 count at the midway point.
The Lions picked off four passes — two by Grayson Swanzy and one each by Cooper Swanzy and Clayton Bertrand — while forcing 15 three-and-outs along with a pair of stops in goal-to-goal situations.
“A lot of that is communication, knowing what we’re supposed to be in and when they adjust, we adjust,” Burnett said. “We made our checks in coverage and other than a couple of technique issues, I thought we did a great job. We put a lot of bodies out there, got to see the chemistry and who worked well together. I was really pleased with the defense.”
Coupled with a stifling defensive effort, Lions quarterback Tommy Bowden — who took every snap Saturday — picked apart opposing secondaries as Brownwood was never threatened in any of its contests.
Bowden completed 98 of 144 pass attempts — 68 percent — with 22 touchdowns and three interceptions. Leading receivers included A.J. McCarty with 21 grabs and eight scores; Ben Kallman with 18 catches and three trips to the end zone; Grayson Swanzy with 12 receptions and a pair of touchdowns; Joseph Johnson with 11 catches and a score; Hunter Leonard with nine grabs and a touchdown; and Braden Jetton with eight receptions and two trips to the end zone.
“Spreading the ball around is very important because if you isolate one guy or they double one guy, it puts you in a bind,” Burnett said. “But when you have four and five across that you can throw the ball to at any time, that’s huge. The confidence Tommy has in everyone, he’s not eyeballing anyone, he’s just reading the defense, making the correct reads and throwing the ball well.”
With the Lions bound for College Station, Brownwood can play no more than its three pool games in the remaining three state qualifiers — at Burnet next Saturday, at Jim Ned on June 15 and at home on June 22.
Though the goal of reaching state — where Brownwood captured the Division II title in 2010 — has already been accomplished, there’s still plenty of work left for the Lions over the next month.
“I want to see us grow, execute a little more, expand the playbook a little more, and understand the playbook in situations,” Burnett said. “Continue to execute, don’t drop balls and don’t stop ourselves.
“Defensively, I want to see us continue with good coverage, good technique and a lot of team discipline.”