GLEN ROSE — A fairly inexperienced Brownwood Lions 7-on-7 squad has demonstrated steady improvement throughout its first three state qualifying tournaments, and on Saturday those efforts were rewarded with a trip to College Station.
For the 15th straight summer, the Lions will compete in the 7-on-7 state championship tournament. Brownwood will be one of 64 teams in the Division II field at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex July 10-11, thanks to Saturday’s 44-27 victory over the West Trojans in one of two semifinals at the Glen Rose qualifier.
“I know I keep throwing this out there, but we’re really young, underclassmen across the field except for two seniors,” said Lions head coach Chuck Howard, who observed Saturday’s action. “Nobody wants to be the group that doesn’t qualify, but at the same time, and I want to say this and mean this, this isn’t Friday night football.
“I want our athletes to realize that it’s just a part of what we do, things that we need to improve on and get better at. I’m excited about how hard they’ve been working. They had a great spring and offseason and they’ve really put in a lot of time and effort.”
After sweeping pool play in their own tournament as well as the Gatesville state qualifier, the Lions were unable to pick up a victory in the semifinal round to secure their berth at state. Saturday’s 17-point triumph over West, however, further illustrated the progress Howard has noticed.
“What I’m most proud of is each and every weekend we’ve competed and each and every weekend we’ve continued to get better in terms of execution on both sides of the ball,” Howard said. “From that standpoint, I’m really proud of our players.”
Statistically-speaking, quarterback Colt Bertrand completed 45 of 65 passes — 71 percent — with 15 touchdowns on Saturday, while Colt Garrett connected on 19 of 28 attempts — 68 percent — with four touchdowns and one interception.
Connor Howard led all receivers with 14 catches, including four touchdowns, while Cory Richardson hauled in 10 receptions with a team-high five trips to the end zone. Brandon Diaz also pulled down 10 passes and scored once, while Rylee Gregory finished with nine grabs and four touchdowns. Tristan Duque chipped in eight grabs and two scores, Grant Lewis caught four passes and scored once, Carson Cloy finished with two receptions, and McLane Moore and Rawlings Rios added one catch each — Rios’ for a touchdown.
Defensively, Garrett and Moore picked off two passes each, while Lewis and Diaz added one interception apiece. Diaz returned his pick for six points.
“Our athletes are just gaining more confidence in what we’re doing so they’re able to react faster and make plays on the ball they weren’t able to three weeks ago,” Howard said.
Brownwood played just two pool games — wins of 45-14 over Grandview and 40-32 over Palmer — as Rio Vista no-showed.
The Lions raced out to a 33-0 halftime lead on Grandview, scoring on all four of their first-half possessions and once on defense.
Against Palmer, the Lions tallied the first 20 points and led 40-20 before surrendering touchdowns on the final two drives.
In the victory over West, Brownwood was in a 13-12 hole, but a scoring toss from Garrett to Diaz, a three-and-out by the Lions defense and a touchdown connection from Bertrand to Richardson gave the maroon and white a 26-13 halftime edge.
West closed to within 26-19 on its first drive of the second half, but consecutive touchdown tosses from Bertrand to Howard, with a Moore interception sandwiched between, allowed the Lions to open a 38-19 edge and cruise down the stretch.
The Lions will compete in their final state qualifier at Tarleton on Saturday, but Brownwood will play no more than three pool games, having earned a state berth. Still, Howard is looking for the Lions to continue their positive progression.
“What we expect each and every snap and each and every Saturday is to get better,” Howard said. “We’re still making some mistakes and we still have a lot of room to improve, so that’s what I’m looking for.”