The state-bound Brownwood Lions will venture to Stephenville today for their second straight 7-on-7 Division II state qualifier of the summer, this one hosted by Tarleton State University.
The Lions will play in just three Pool A games against Lorena, Smithville and Wellington as — by virtue of finishing second at Arlington Bowie and clinching their 10th straight trip to the 7-on-7 state tournament — Brownwood cannot advance past pool play.
The Lorena Leopards, members of District 19-3A, are coming off a 7-5, Division II area finalist campaign, but are not picked to reach the postseason in 2009 by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football.
The Smithville Tigers, who posted a 5-5 overall record out of District 25-3A last season, are again projected to miss the postseason by the publication.
The Wellington Skyrockets, defending champions of District 4-A, were 11-1 Division I regional semifinalists and are expected to repeat in 2009.
Brownwood is one of four state qualifiers in the 16-team field, along with Glen Rose, Gatesville and District 2-3A rival Graham. All four teams are in separate pools, leaving a dozen teams eligible to advance to state in College Station July 9-10.
Pool B is made up of Glen Rose, Snyder, Henrietta and Little River Academy, while Pool C will consist of Gatesville, Abilene Wylie, Brady and Comanche. Pool D will feature Graham, Eastland, Bridgeport and Goldthwaite.
Despite having just 14 players at their disposal at Arlington Bowie last weekend, the Lions swept pool play. Brownwood defeated Kaufman, 53-13, Wills Point, 46-12, and Whitney, 27-0. The Lions then went on to knock off Class 3A Division I state champion Prosper, 35-25, in the semifinals, before stumbling in the championship game against Celina, 40-31.
Quarterback Graylon Brown completed 102-of-149 pass attempts with 28 touchdowns and just two interceptions in five games at Arlington.
Jaxon Shipley led all receivers with 29 catches and eight touchdowns, followed by 18 receptions each by Luke Chastain, Vance McShan and Cade Johnson. Chastain grabbed five touchdown catches, McShan caught four scoring tosses and Johnson found the end zone once.
Dillon Ellis chipped in eight receptions and three scores, Levi Perez finished with seven and a touchdown and Chris Cotton snared four passes and scored once. Michael Ballejo added two receptions while Zac Fulton hauled in a pass, as well.
Lions first-year head coach Bob Shipley was pleased with the Lions offensive performance in Arlington.
“I thought Graylon did a really good job overall,” Shipley said after the event. “He had some times where he was inconsistent, but for the most part he led the offense very well. He had really nice touch on the ball and flamed it in there when he had to. I also thought the receivers did an excellent job catching the ball.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Derek Longoria intercepted two passes, Kevin Vaccaro and Chastain picked off one each and Tyler Harth and Perez each broke up a key pass at the goal line.
During pool play, the Lions yielded just 25 points in three games and allowed the opposition to score on only four of 23 possessions. The Lions also forced nine three-and-outs and made four stops in first-and-goal situations.
“Defensively, in pool play we gave up 13, 12 and 0, so the defense played well for the most part,” Shipley said after the event. “Then when we got into the semifinals and finals we started resting some guys and we had some guys out there that hadn’t played defense as much, but it was good experience for them.”
Shipley attributed the heat and fatigue to some of the Lions’ struggles in the championship game against Celina. That is an area where Brownwood expects to see significant improvement today, especially with the lighter schedule.
And with a trip to College Station already guaranteed, the Lions will concentrate more on traditional defense today, opposed to 7-on-7 packages.
“We’re going to continue to work more of our base coverage that we’ll run in the season and not so much a 7-on-7 coverage,” Shipley said. “At this point we obviously still want to win, but it’s not as important as us getting ready for the football season.”
Brownwood is slated to play its pool games at 10 a.m., 11 a.m. and noon at Memorial Stadium and the surrounding intramural fields.