Based on their performance at their final 7-on-7 state qualifier of the season, the Brownwood Lions are primed and ready for next week's Division II state tournament.
The Lions completed a 12-1 run through state qualifier action with three more victories at the Brownwood tournament Friday — rolling past Sweetwater (49-0), Ballinger (56-12) and McGregor (58-18).
“I'm really pleased with where we are right now and this gave the kids a chance to see who they are going into the state tournament,” said Lions head coach Sammy Burnett, who observed Friday's action.
The 7-on-7 Division II state tournament will take place Thursday and Friday at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.
“The kids are confident, we lost one game throughout the whole season and we know that was our fault,” Burnett said. “This gives them a strong foundation to know that if we just do what we do we'll be fine. Don't worry about who we're playing, but how we play. That's all we can control. If we can do that, be positive and confident in who we are, I think we'll be just fine.”
Offensively, the Lions scored on 23 of 27 possessions — 85 percent of their drives —including a stretch of 12 consecutive touchdowns.
Defensively, Brownwood did not allow a point until the final possession of the first half of the second game — a string of 12 straight drives — and intercepted eight passes overall, returning a pair for touchdowns.
“I liked the enthusiasm. We made some plays and we celebrated those plays,” Burnett said. “We played three quality teams and took control. We executed offensively, I can only think of a couple of times that we didn't when I thought we should. Defensively, I thought we played well, got off the field on third down, had some picks, and the offensive capitalized on those. It was an all around good day. “
Quarterback Tommy Bowden completed 74 of 100 pass attempts with 23 touchdowns and only one interception — that coming on an extra-point attempt. Bowden connected on 74 percent of his passes, and 32 percent of his completions resulted in touchdowns. By game, Bowden was 26 of 39 with seven touchdowns and a pick against Sweetwater, 28 of 37 with eight scoring tosses against Ballinger, and 20 of 24 with eight more touchdowns in the finale against McGregor.
Leading receivers included A.J. McCarty (17 catches, six TDs), Ben Kallman (15 catches, three TDs), Reece Rodgers (nine catches, four TDs), Grayson Swanzy (seven catches, two TDs), Braden Jetton (six catches, three TDs), Zack Strong (five catches, two TDs), Joseph Johnson (four catches), Hunter Leonard (three catches), Royshad Henderson (two catches, both TDs), Parish White (two catches, one TD) and one grab each by George Nichols, Khyren Deal, Hayden Tunnell and Brandon Farrow.
“I was really pleased with the production, but there's always something we can pick out and something we can learn,” Burnett said. “I thought we weren't reading and getting rid of the ball as quickly as we could, but we were running good routes, people were getting open and it gave us opportunities to throw and catch. We threw one ball that we should have caught for a touchdown that we didn't execute on, but out of however many plays we ran to have only one big mistake I think is a plus.”
Defensively, Leonard intercepted three passes, Rowdee Gregory picked off a pair and Jetton, Nicholas and Strong each snagged one. Strong's interception right before the half against Ballinger resulted in a touchdown, after he lateraled to Cooper Swanzy. Gregory later took a pick the distance against McGregor.
“That all comes down to the communication they're having,” Burnett said. “Whatever formation they come out in, the pre-snap alignments and communication have been good there. Then the post-snap alignment and trading kids off, the communication has been really big. It's what's kept those teams behind the chains and has given us an opportunity to get off the field.”
The Lions will be competing in their 19th consecutive 7-on-7 state tournament next week, seeking a second title with the first coming in 2010.