The Brownwood Lions carry a two-game win streak into their homecoming encounter with winless Class 5A Abilene Wylie, as head coach Sammy Burnett’s squad looks to snap an eight-game skid against the Bulldogs.
Game time between the Lions (2-2) and Bulldogs (0-4) is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Gordon Wood Stadium. Brownwood last defeated Abilene Wylie in 2010 by a 45-7 count on the Bulldogs’ home turf.
“There’s a little bit of a rivalry that’s been going on with Wylie for quite a while,” Burnett said. “It’s been several years since Brownwood’s beat Wylie and I brought that to our kids attention and the fact that they’re going to use the fact that we selected them as homecoming to fuel the fire over there. I know (Wylie) Coach (Hugh) Sandifer is going to do what he has to to get his troops ready to go. There doesn’t need to be much of a spark to ignite the flames that Brownwood and Wylie have. We’re trying to get prepared and see if we can’t cover the multitude of things they do and be successful.”
The Lions are coming off a 20-16 victory at Wichita Falls Rider, another 5A Division II program, as Brownwood climbed out of a 10-point hole just over halfway through the forth quarter to snatch the win.
Wylie, meanwhile, suffered its most lopsided loss since 1982 as Abilene Cooper rolled to a 48-0 victory last week. The Bulldogs have also fallen against Stephenville (41-28), Georgetown (31-7) and Lubbock Monterey (28-21).
“You can’t look at their record because their record isn’t indicative of the kind of football team that they are,” Burnett said. “They still have great numbers and great size. We’re going to have to be more physical than they are, execute and want it more than they do, and I think our kids do.
“The bottom line is it will come down to what team goes out there and executes on Friday night. The team that makes the fewest mistakes, usually that’s the winner. We’re going to try and minimize our mistakes and maximize our opportunities and let everything else fall where it may.”
In Wylie’s loss to Cooper last week, the Bulldogs were limited to 112 yards — 71 rushing on 24 carries while completing 6 of 19 passes for 41 yards with a pair of interceptions. Meanwhile, Wylie’s defense was gashed for 474 yards — 272 on the ground and 202 through the air.
In the loss to Stephenville, which Brownwood will face at Gordon Wood Stadium on Oct. 26, Wylie finished with 315 total yards, including 263 passing, but turned the ball over five times. Stephenville generated 460 yards — 263 on the ground and 197 through the air.
“Coach Sandifer has been there a long time and they were an under center team forever, but they’ve evolved their system over the years,” Burnett said. “They’ve got an eclectic variety of things they do out of multiple formations and we’re going to have to be sound in our alignment. If you get lined up right, you can be successful.
“They also run a sugar huddle, which is a half huddle they get into close to the line of scrimmage and as soon as they get what they want they sprint to the line like Liberty Hill does, but from the gun. We’ve prepared ourselves for that and hopefully we won’t get out of kilter.
“Defensively, who knows? They’ll be a 4-3, they’ll be a 4-2-5, they’ll be a 3-4, a 4-4 stack, a 3-3 stack. I think they want to be an even front if they can be. In the secondary they’re going to be in multiple coverages. You can’t base the next play off what they did the previous play. They adjust their coverages almost every play. For them to be able to do that is because they’ve been in that system their whole life, that’s all they know.”
Among the players to watch for Wylie are defensive tackles Camin Brown and Carter Wright, along with cornerback/return specialist Jaden Speegle. On offense, Jaxon Hansen and Harrison Atwood have split time at quarterback while Bailey Hicks is a threat both out of the backfield and as a receiver.
Behind the offensive line of Brandon Farrow, Jacob Ruiz, Ulysses Villarreal, Dawson Evans and Theo Bryant, Brownwood enters the contest averaging 24 points and 342 yards — 115 rushing and 227 passing — per game, with three turnovers.
Quarterback Tommy Bowden has connected on 59 of 102 passes for 910 yards with five touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for a team-high 261 yards and six scores. Leading receiving threats include A.J. McCarty (24-328 yards, 3 TDs), Zach Strong (9-238, TD), Braden Jetton (9-105) and Ben Kallman (7-118, TD). Ian Moreno has chipped in 82 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, while Joseph Johnson has rushed for 61 yards.
Defensively, the Lions are giving up 29 points and 346 yards — 179 passing and 167 rushing — with six takeaways.
Leading the charge are Hayden Tunnell (33 tackles, 2 TFL), Moreno (30 tackles, 2 TFL), Hunter Leonard (27 tackles, 1 TFL), Santanna Espinoza (26 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack), Khyren Deal (20 tackles), Grayson Swanzy (20 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 INT), Rowdee Gregory (20 tackles, 2 TFL, 2.5 sacks), Damion Jones (18 tackles, 1 FR), Kris Hobbs (17 tackles, 2 TFL, 0.5 sack), Clayton Bertrand (14 tackles, 1 FR), Bryant (9 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack), Reece Rodgers (9 tackles) and Strong (9 tackles, 2 INTs).
Health-wise, Burnett considers the Lions “pretty banged up and beat up,” but still expects the team to be near full strength Friday night. Players nursing injuries include Deal (shoulder), Rodgers (hip), Moreno (thigh bruise), Tunnell (shoulder), and Swanzy (shoulder).
“There’s a difference in being hurt and being injured,” Burnett said. “We’re not really injured, we’re hurt and battered and banged up, but if we can get through Friday night we’ll have time to rest and recover through the break on our off week.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Brownwood is a 2-point underdog.