With the first victory of the season, and the Sammy Burnett coaching era, under their belts, the Brownwood Lions eye their first win streak of the season with a short week to prepare. The Lions (1-2) venture to Class 5A Division II Wichita Falls Rider at 7 p.m. Thursday, where the Raiders are attempting to snap a two-game skid.
After falling to Brock and Snyder the first two weeks, the Lions bounced back with a 47-26 victory at Graham as Brownwood tallied the final 20 points and held the Steers scoreless over the final 17:38 of the contest.
“It’s amazing the feeling you have once you’ve gotten that win compared to a loss that just weighs on you,” Burnett said. “In the movie ‘Radio’ there’s a comment made in the coffee shop when the coach walks in that says ‘I love Friday nights when you’re looking for a win and Saturday mornings when you find one,’ and we sure did find one. It’s a lot easier to go to work, to want to work and go through the process again of trying to stay in the win column.
“We still had some busted assignments up front but we controlled the line of scrimmage in the second half offensively and defensively, and that was really big. We won the turnover game. At halftime we challenged the kids because we hadn’t created a turnover with special teams or defensively, and we needed to make it happen, and sure enough we had two interceptions and almost a third. The way the kids responded, they controlled the third and fourth quarters and that’s sort of my mentality, I want to be a second-half football team. Not that I don’t want to start fast, but it’s not about how you start it’s how you finish. I believe in dominating the third and fourth quarters and having the endurance to be able to do that, and I think that showed a little bit on Friday. When we started wearing them down and controlling things, that’s when the see saw end.”
Rider — which has faced all 5A Division I foes thus far — kicked off the season with a 31-17 home victory over Saginaw Boswell, but lost quarterback Jacob Rodriguez to a foot injury in the process. Since then, the Raiders have been shutout by Azle, 21-0, and Amarillo, 28-0 — just the second time in program history Rider has been blanked in consecutive games.
“When you see them against Boswell they look pretty good,” Burnett said. “Then you see them against an Azle team that I thought was an average football team and they just really didn’t look very good. They played well I thought against Amarillo, but Amarillo just overpowered them.”
In Rider’s victory over Boswell, Rodriguez hurled a 72-yard touchdown to Nick Darcus while Latrevius Boyd rushed for 141 yards, Darien Boyd chipped in 77 and Samuel Manuel added 32 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Colsen Welch also booted a 47-yard field goal. The Raiders finished with 359 yards, including 282 on the ground, while giving up just 165 yards and forcing six punts.
In the loss to Azle, the Raiders mustered just four first downs and 18 yards of total offense, including -7 rushing on 35 attempts while completing 4 of 11 passes for 25 yards with a pair of interceptions. Azle racked up just 175 yards — 97 rushing and 78 passing — with one turnover, while Rider gave the ball away three times.
Against Amarillo last week, the Rider offense performed better but still couldn’t light up the scoreboard. Jack Cantrell took over at quarterback and completed 13 of 27 passes for just 73 yards and an interception, while Manuel rushed for 156 yards. The Raiders finished with 222 yards — 149 rushing and 73 passing — but turned the ball over four times, including three fumbles.
Defensively, Rider gave up 361 yards — 237 rushing and 124 passing — with one takeaway.
“The No. 1 thing that sticks out is they’re extremely athletic,” Burnett said. “They have a couple of kids that are young but man they’re specimens. Their physiques are well ahead of their age. They’re going to base out of a 3-4 defense, similar to what we do, but they’re more of a cover 4 team but every once in a while you see them get in some cover 3 stuff and try and force the edge a little bit more. They’re shifty and slide in and out of an even front defensively.
“Offensively, they’re extremely multiple with their formations. They’ll do a lot of motion out of the backfield, a lot of motion from side to side, short motion, motion into a sniffer. They’re tough just because they’re so multiple. They’ll go from a tight end set to motion to empty to motion from empty to the backfield, they’ll do a lot of things so we’ll have to be real sound at what we do and be generic or vanilla so our kids can play fast.
“Their quarterback has been out and they’ve been struggling a little bit because they’ve been trying to find a quarterback. He hurt his foot in the first game, but the rumor mill says he’ll be back this week. They’ve played three kids at quarterback so far trying to find a fit, but I think the starting quarterback will be back this week.”
The Lions enter the contest averaging 26 points and 338 yards — 215 passing and 123 rushing — through three games, with just one turnover on a muffed punt.
Quarterback Tommy Bowden is coming off his best game of the season — 274 passing yards and 3 TDs along with 94 rushing yards and 2 TDs — and has completed 39 pf 68 passes for 646 yards and four touchdowns, while rushing for a team-best 184 yards and four scores.
A.J. McCarty recorded a career-best 10 receptions for 140 yards and two scores last week and has hauled in 15 catches for 200 yards for the season. Other receiving threats include Braden Jetton (7-81), Zach Strong (6-182, TD), Ben Kallman (4-74, TD), Ian Moreno (3-32), Grayson Swanzy (2-51) and Hunter Leonard (1-21).
Moreno has chipped in 86 yards and two touchdown on the ground while Joseph Johnson has contributed 60 yards rushing.
The Lions finished with a season high 471 yards of total offense, including 197 rushing, behind the front five of Brandon Farrow, Jacob Ruiz, Ulysses Villarreal, Jayln Jones and Theo Bryant.
“The offensive line is getting better and better every week,” Burnett said. “It never ends for them. I feel sorry for them. The last couple of weeks we’ve been facing an even front with some really good defensive tackles, and this week really isn’t going to be any different other than they are going to an odd front. Their nose guard is a sophomore but he’s a big ol’ man and he’s bringing a lot of weight and leverage and their defensive ends are the same way. Their work is cut out for them again but I don’t think they would have it any other way.”
Defensively, the Lions are yielding 33 points and 356 yards — 202 through the air and 154 on the ground — with two takeaways, interceptions by Strong and Swanzy that occurred in the Graham game.
Leading tacklers include Hayden Tunnell (23 tackles), Moreno (21 tackles, 2 TFL), Santanna Espinoza (18 tackles, 2 TFL), Leonard (18 tackles, 1 TFL), Khyren Deal (14 tackles), Clayton Bertrand (13 tackles), Swanzy (12 tackles, 1 INT), Rowdee Gregory (11 tackles, 1 TFL, 0.5 sack), Damion Jones (11 tackles), Bryant (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), Kris Hobbs (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 0.5 sack), Reece Rodgers (9 tackles), Strong (7 tackles, 1 INT) and Jones (7 tackles, 1 TFL).
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Brownwood is an 8-point underdog.