COLLEGE STATION – After an 0-2 start to the 7-on-7 Division II state tournament, the Brownwood Lions reeled off four consecutive victories. A fifth win in a row — and the Division II consolation championship — escaped the grasp of the Lions, however, as the Houston Worthing Colts tallied the final 19 points in a 25-19 victory over Brownwood Friday afternoon at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex.
“I’m a little upset right now because we had an opportunity to win a ball game and didn’t take advantage of it and gave it away,” Brownwood Lions head football coach Sammy Burnett said following the contest, which he observed with the rest of the coaching staff. “But our kids played hard, it’s not like they’re not trying, we have to learn and grow together as a family and we’ll do that.”
The Lions knocked off Rockport (23-6), Snyder (47-14) and Palestine (35-21) to reach the consolation final, where Brownwood led Worthing by a 19-6 count after the first possession of the second half.
“We scored the first drive of the second half, but then we started pressing and got out of our game and didn’t execute,” Burnett said. “Defensively, we weren’t following assignments and those are little things that go back to the trust factor. When things aren’t going well you have to trust what we’re telling you to do, or go and try and create something that we don’t normally do and that’s what happened. It’s not a negative, just growing pains and we’ll get through them and be ready come Aug. 31.”
Defensively, the Lions intercepted eight passes, including four in the first half of Friday’s consolation opener against Rockport — one each by Zach Strong, George Nicholas, Rowdee Gregory and Leonard.
Cooper Swanzy added a pair of interceptions against Snyder, while Strong grabbed two picks against Worthing — one that swung momentum the Lions’ way and one that proved costly after a taunting call that negated a Brownwood touchdown.
Trailing Worthing 6-0 midway through the first half of the consolation final, Strong picked off a pass at the goal line as the Colts were attempting to open a two-touchdown advantage.
The Lions went on to score on their final two possessions of the half, with touchdown tosses from Tommy Bowden to Ben Kallman, to establish a 13-6 edge.
With Worthing driving late in the first half, Strong picked off another pass with clear sailing to the end zone. Strong, however, was flagged for taunting, which nullified the touchdown, and the Lions were unable to reach the end zone before the first half expired.
“Ninety percent of what a kid does is either taught or allowed and then there’s 10 percent that just happens,” Burnett said. “That frontal lobe is not completely developed and kids make decisions that don’t normally make. As soon as Zach did that, which was totally out of character for him, he said ‘I don’t know coach, I don’t know.’ There’s also lessons we learn and I’d rather learn that right now than I would on Friday night when it means something. That’s a lesson we all can draw from, but you have to keep composure at all times and play with your feet, not with your mouth or your actions. I’m a little upset and disappointed, but that’s why we’re doing this. It’s an opportunity for us to grow. Through adversity good things can happen, and that’s what we’re looking for and this is a teaching moment for us.”
The Lions started the second half with the ball and Bowden and Kallman hooked up for the third time to boost Brownwood’s lead, but the points ended there.
Worthing responded with three consecutive touchdowns as the Lions offense sputtered. Down by six points and facing a third and goal at the Worthing 1 in the final two minutes, a four-second call — the 7-on-7 equivalent of a sack — was followed by a deflected pass in the end zone, as Brownwood’s hopes for the consolation title slipped away.
“For the most part today we played really well,” Burnett said. “One thing we learned from what we’re doing is when things are going well for us right now, we’re playing well. But when we face a little adversity there’s some doubt and we lose a little trust. In time we’ll gel as a group and as a coaching staff and learn to trust each other and that comes from building relationships.”
Overall, Bowden completed 85 of 130 passes in four games, a 65-percent clip after connecting on just 55 percent of his attempts in pool play. Bowden also hurled 18 touchdowns with four interceptions, as three occurred in Friday’s opener against Rockport.
Kallman led all Lion receivers with 25 receptions and six touchdowns, trailed by A.J. McCarty (17 catches, four TDs), Grayson Swanzy (14 catches, three TDs), Braden Jetton (10 catches, three TDs), Reece Rodgers (six catches), Royshad Henderson (four catches, one TD), Hunter Leonard (four catches), Clayton Bertrand (two catches), Khyren Deal (two catches) and Christian DeHart (one catch, one TD).
In the Lions’ opener against Rockport, all the points were scored in the first half and both teams combined to throw seven interceptions.
Rockport evened the score at 6 early in the first half, but Strong returned an interception on an extra point try for two points as Brownwood reclaimed an 8-6 edge and never looked back. Bowden tossed touchdowns to Jetton, McCarty and Kallman.
The second game against Snyder was dominated by the Lions, as Bowden hurled seven touchdowns – two each to Swanzy and McCarty and one apiece to Jetton, Henderson and DeHart.
The Lions tallied the first 20 points and led 27-7 at intermission.
In the victory over Palestine, the Lions overcame early deficits of 7-0 and 14-7 by scoring on their first five possessions.
Brownwood pulled even at 14 when Bowden connected with Kallman then, after a fourth-and-goal stop, the Lions took their first lead of the game just as the half ended, 21-14 on another hook up between Bowden and Kallman.
The Lions began the second half with the ball and scored in five plays as Bowden found Swanzy in the end zone for a 28-14 advantage. Palestine mustered just one more touchdown, while the Lions added an insurance score when Jetton ran away from the defense for a 30-yard touchdown.
Brownwood, competing in its 19th consecutive 7-on-7 state tournament, defeated Silsbee (28-18) in pool play Thursday while falling to Fairfield (28-20) and Midlothian Heritage (49-24). All three teams are ranked in the Top 15 of their respective classification by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
Looking back on the tournament, in which the Lions posted a 4-3 record, Burnett said, “I thought it was great for us to learn each other. We had some good success and we faced adversity and how you handle both of those defines you as a team. There’s things that we’re doing well and there’s areas we need to grow.
“They’ll get a week off, then we’ll come back with a couple of weeks of strength and conditioning before we’re out of time with that. Hopefully they’ll stay in shape before we start Aug. 6. When that gets here, we’ll be ready to roll.”