Effort was the primary objective during the Brownwood Lions’ first football scrimmage this past Saturday against Midway, and physicalness will be the theme of tonight’s final preseason scrimmage.
The Lions host 5A San Angelo Central in their final tune-up prior to the Aug. 30 season opener against the Burnet Bulldogs at the Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Kickoff Classic at the San Antonio Alamodome. The sub-varsities will open the action at 5 p.m. at Gordon Wood Stadium, while the varsity squads are slated to tangle at 7 p.m.
“Playing hard will be the No. 1 thing throughout, but against Central, we want to see a little more pop and a more physical aspect,” said Brownwood Lions head coach Steve Freeman.
Starting spots also could be decided based on tonight’s performances as several positions are still up for grabs. The Lions are returning only five offensive starters and one defensive starter from last year’s 6-4 squad.
“Essentially, you can take a look at the entire roster and it’s a mix-and-match right now,” Freeman said. “That’s an honest analogy.”
The Lions are riding the positive momentum of a three touchdowns to one scoring edge over Midway in Saturday’s scrimmage, but Freeman stated plenty of work is still ahead of the team.
“Some people may refer to it as having questions answered, but I feel like the season itself answers the questions,” Freeman said.
One of the areas to keep an eye on tonight is the offensive line, where four new faces lined up during the Midway scrimmage. Tackles Stavion Lowe, who has verbally committed to TCU, and Jake Senkirik are the two returning starters, but Senkirik sat out the Midway scrimmage.
While Freeman was pleased with the first-team offense’s passing attack, the run game managed just 38 yards on 12 carries, and 35 of those yards came on quarterback scrambles.
“Offensively, we mixed and matched up front,” Freeman said. “We had one of our senior guys gone, so we moved a couple of people around. Pass protection was decent at times and we didn’t mix in a lot of play action, but the running game was less than desired. It seems like annually (the offensive line) is what we always speak to because it always starts there regardless of who is at quarterback or at running back.”
Linemen competing for playing time include seniors Tracer Skelton, Billy Allen, Francisco Castaneda, Daniel Nguyen and Zach Green; junior Michael Gonzales; and sophomores Jorge De La Paz, Dylan Burleson and George Vela.
Among those handling the bulk of the running back chores will be seniors Rashad Deal and Payton Ragsdale, along with sophomores Tyler Harth and Derek Longoria.
Coming off an appearance in the 7-on-7 Division II state semifinals, the Lions passing game was the sharpest aspect of the offense in Midway. Lions quarterback and TCU verbal commit Casey Pachall completed 10 passes for 148 yards, while rushing for 35 yards on four carries.
Parker Taylor led the Lions with five receptions for 99 yards, highlighted by a 40-yard grab. Shelby Miller added two catches for 29 yards, Travis Holleman finished with two receptions for 11 yards and Bubby Harrell grabbed a 7-yard catch.
Saturday’s defensive performance against Midway, with one touchdown allowed and four turnovers forced, was the brightest spot of the day. Now the Lions will look to piece together back-to-back stifling efforts, which would boost the unit’s confidence even higher heading into the opener.
“Defensively we held our own pretty well the other day, but we’ve still got room to be more physical,” Freeman said. “We matched up pretty good with a good runner (Midway’s John Hubert). He got loose one time for a substantial gain, but we were able to hold them out of the end zone, which is definitely a plus.”
Ragsdale, Longoria and Gonzales recovered fumbles for the Lions, while Hayden Hewitt intercepted a pass.
As is the case on the offensive side of the ball, several defensive positions also are up for grabs.
The battle to squeeze into the rotation across the defensive front features many of the same names that are vying for time along the offensive line.
Linebackers looking to make an impact include Skelton, Longoria, Harrell, Daniel Gonzales, Richard Lopez and Ryan Elliott.
Fighting for playing time in the secondary are Hewitt, Ragsdale, Deal, Holleman, Taylor, Tanner Vaughn, Christian Arredondo, Andrew Bullard, Tyler Kemp and Vance McShan. Harrell could also see time in the defensive backfield.
“We’re pleased right now with the defense, but we know there is a still a lot of progress to be made,” Freeman said.
The San Angelo Central Bobcats are coming off a 5-6, bi-district finalist campaign. The Bobcats, who will compete in the 10-team District 2-5A, return six offensive and five defensive starters.
Players to watch include 2007 leading rusher and passer Tyler Jones (334 yards on the ground, 683 through the air) and leading receiver Marc Campos (23 catches for 345 yards).