The Brownwood Lions’ hopes of a District 8-3A championship rest in the hands of their league rivals going forward, but head coach Chuck Howard’s squad is still in prime position to earn the program’s fifth consecutive postseason berth.

    The next hurdle in the Lions’ playoff path is a road trip to Lampasas, where the Badgers are still in search of their first 8-3A victory. Kickoff between Brownwood (3-4, 1-1) and Lampasas (2-5, 0-2) is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday.

    The Lions are coming off a 31-20 home loss to Liberty Hill, while Lampasas rallied from a two-touchdown deficit only to suffer a 58-57 overtime loss to Llano a week ago.

“I’m not disappointed in our kids, I’m disappointed for them because I felt like Liberty Hill was a winnable game, and our goal was a district championship,” Howard said. “At this point we still control our own destiny as far as the playoffs go, so it’s very important we show  up Friday night and play the best game we’ve played all year against Lampasas.

“There’s a lot of parity in our district and any time you come into a game in this district not ready to play, you can be disappointed. I expect us to play well, but I don’t ever underestimate anyone with the up and down play we’ve had. We have to go play the best game we can possibly play.”

Though the Lions surrendered 448 total yards to Liberty Hill last week — all on the ground — Howard felt the defensive effort was among the best of the season for a Brownwood team that has yielded no fewer than 30 points in any game.

“I thought our effort was tremendous,” Howard said. “After watching the film, we were more physical than Liberty Hill. They had the ball for 62 plays and for 54 of those plays I felt like we dominated them physically and tackled well. But for eight plays, that probably accounted for over 200 yards. That was due to a lack of focus and a lack of execution in terms of getting trapped. That’s the first thing we talk about when you play a slot-T team is stopping the trap, stopping the fullback. We just got too far upfield.”

The Lions are allowing 43 points and 457 yards per game — 219 rushing and 238 passing — heading into Friday’s contest against another run-heavy offense in Lampasas. In last week’s loss to Llano, the Badgers rushed for 524 of their 608 yards of total offense. Steven Jazdak led the ground assault with 358 yards and five touchdowns.

The Badgers rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth period to take the lead, but Llano scored right before the end of regulation and again on the first drive of overtime. Lampasas matched the touchdown, but opted for a two-point conversion and failed.

“I coached against Coach (Brian) Emerson when he was at Medina Valley and they were a true wing-T,” Howard said. “They’re a little more multiple here. They’ll run some shotgun and trips, but they’re still underneath center a lot. They’ll run the trap inside, the belly inside and a little bit of the buck sweep, similar to Liberty Hill, but with a lot more tosses on the perimeter and all the boot legs off that stuff. They’re not as similar to Liberty Hill as I originally thought.”

Tasked with shutting down the Badger ground game is a Brownwood defensive unit led by Dylan Lewis (78 tackles, four sacks), Dalton Simmons (76 tackles, one sack), Henry Rivas (52 tackles, one fumble caused), Grant Lewis (45 tackles, four fumble recoveries, two sacks), Brandon Diaz (34 tackles, one sack), Kaimon Ontiveros (26 tackles), Derrick Johnson (25 tackles, two interceptions), Ceth Hardy (24 tackles) and Braxton Kilgo (21 tackles).

Though the Lions have generated 56 points in two district games, Brownwood has sputtered — especially right after halftime — on offense against its 8-3A foes.

“The last half against Burnet and for two quarters last week, we didn’t execute very well on offense,” Howard said. “We have not executed well, particularly in the third quarter, and we have to get that fixed. That’s certainly been a point of emphasis. We have to get that corrected.”

Brownwood is no stranger to injuries this season, and last week the Lions at times were playing without three starters along the offensive line in Kory Owen, Michael Livingston and Jaylen Bocknite. Howard did not reveal which linemen, or if any other injured Lions would play Friday night, stating only, “We’re banged up and we’ll see on Friday.”

The Lampasas defense has yielded 51.5 points per game in district, up from its 34 points per game surrendered for the entire season. The Lions head into the encounter generating 28 points and 345 yards — 259 passing and 86 rushing — per outing.

“I don’t pay attention to their points allowed and all that stuff, I just know we have to prepare to play our best game and go down there and get after them. They did beat a very good China Spring (5-2) team,” Howard said in reference to the Badgers’ 35-14 victory in non-district action on Sept. 27.

Chris Keesee has connected on 159 of 228 pass attempts for 1,813 yards with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions for the Lions, and Connor Howard (54-700, 6 TDs) continues to lead 8-3A in receptions followed by Johnson (32-336, 3 TDs) and Ontiveros (17-234, 4 TDs). Kilgo (328 yards, 5 TDs) remains the anchor in the rushing attack with occasional carries by Howard and Ontiveros.

In other 8-3A action Friday, Liberty Hill (6-1, 2-0) travels to Burnet (5-2, 1-1) where a victory by the host Bulldogs could thrust Brownwood back in the middle of the 8-3A championship race, if the Lions are victorious in Lampasas.