The Brownwood Lions will return to the site of last year’s season finale to get their first taste of competition in 2008 in a scrimmage against the Midway Panthers Saturday at Panther Stadium in Hewitt.

The freshman and JV scrimmages will start the action at 10 a.m., with the varsity squads slated to square off at noon.

The Lions and Midway were District 16-4A rivals the past four seasons, splitting the series two games apiece. Midway is still part of the revamped 16-4A, while the Lions have moved to Class 3A and are considered by many preseason prognosticators - including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, which ranked Brownwood No. 3 - to be state championship contenders.

“We know who we’re up against,” said Lions head coach Steve Freeman of crossing paths with Midway once again. “This will be the fifth time we’ve seen them in recent years, so we know pretty well what’s involved with Midway.

“They’re pretty excited right now about their season. If there was a tougher district than 16-4A the last couple of years (Brownwood, Midway, Copperas Cove, Waco High, Killeen, University), it’d be the next couple of years in 16-4A (Midway, Waco High, Waxahachie, Ennis, Corsicana, Midlothian, University and Cleburne). They seem to be real excited about getting things rolling and getting on the field, as are we.”

The Lions will have their plates full in their own new district - 2-3A - which consists of Abilene Wylie, Breckenridge, Graham, Snyder and Sweetwater. But the Lions must crawl before they walk, and there are plenty of important dates on the calendar prior to the start of district action in October.

Scrimmaging against a team the caliber of Midway - which defeated the Lions, 36-22, in their last meeting in Hewitt this past November - can only help Brownwood prepare for its upcoming schedule.

“We’re excited because we know Midway is going to be a real good football team,” Freeman said. “This is a great way for us to start. We’ve always tried to gauge ourselves this way, by playing progressively instead of the other way around.”

Freeman stated he is pleased with the progress the Lions have made since preseason practices began Aug. 4. Brownwood returns six offensive starters, two defensive starters and 12 lettermen overall from last year’s 6-4 squad. The Lions will be suiting up 34 varsity players for the scrimmage, including six sophomores who are recent additions to the roster.

“It’s been a pretty good two weeks,” Freeman said. “You always have to work through a mental process, especially in years like this with the weather. It can present somewhat of a lethargic mentality, but we have to be tougher than the weather. That’s a good conversation piece for a lot of folks, but we don’t have time to think about it. We try to protect them and do the best we can, but other than that, we’re getting ready to open up in San Antonio (against Burnet) in a couple weeks.”

Some of the Lions battled stomach ailments this week, but Brownwood is entering Saturday’s scrimmage injury-free, a trend Freeman hopes continues.

“Right now we’re in good shape health-wise,” Freeman said. “We had a little bit of a stomach virus that went around early in the week and every time that starts you hope it stops. We went through a couple of days where I was a little worried about that and, historically at some point in time, that’s going to happen. If it’s going to happen, though, I would just as soon it happen right now.”

The format of the varsity scrimmage will start with discontinued drives consisting of 20 plays each for the Midway first-team offense, Brownwood first-team offense, Midway second-team offense and Brownwood second-team offense.

Following those 80 snaps, action will shift to a pair of 10-minute live quarters. Possessions will begin at the 30 yard line, with Midway getting the ball first. The clock will not stop except for penalties and injuries. All penalties will be marked, first down chains will be used and all fourth downs will be punted unless inside the opponents’ 40 yard line. Punt returns are not live, but turnovers are unless they occur on plays involved in the kicking game.

As for what Freeman wants to see from the Lions Saturday, his answer was clear - effort.

“I want to see them trying hard and giving an all-out effort,” Freeman said. “The learning aspects will come. That’s the least of my worries, ever.”

The Lions host San Angelo Central for a scrimmage Friday, Aug. 22 at Gordon Wood Stadium, then open the regular season at 3:45 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 30 at the Alamodome against the Burnet Bulldogs.