Brownwood to face Brock, Rockport-Fulton and Giddings in College Station
Seeking their second 7-on-7 Division II state championship, and first since 2010, the Brownwood Lions return to Veterans Park and Memorial Complex in College Station today for pool play against opponents who combined for a 35-5 record on the gridiron in the fall.
Brownwood has been assigned to Pool D along with Brock, Rockport-Fulton and Giddings, and the two teams with the best record advance to Friday morning’s 32-team championship bracket while the other two teams will compete in the 32-team consolation bracket.
“What’s fun about going to College Station is watching them compete again,” said Lions first-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “Our guys have made some plays in critical situations. If you look back to the tournament at Gatesville where we qualified, we started clicking. Then at our tournament in Brownwood we made some big plays at critical times to win all three of those games. I know our guys are going to be at their best and play to win.”
The Lions — who are preseason ranked No. 6 in Class 4A Division I by TheOldCoach.com’s Friday Night Football magazine — open pool play at 1 p.m. against the Brock Eagles, the reigning Class 3A Division I state champions who are coming off a perfect 16-0 season.
In 2015, Brock scored 888 points — an average of 55.5 per contest — with a season-best of 77 in a shutout victory over Venus. Though a run-based offense, Brock still scored at least 60 points eight times including three games of 70 points or more. Defensively, the Eagles allowed just 10 points per outing.
Brock is ranked atop the FNF Class 3A Division I preseason rankings as Eagles to watch include linebacker Zach Young, running back Tyler Gray, receiver/defensive back Kyle Thiel and quarterback Tren Corcorran.
Maxfield has firsthand knowledge of Brock’s talent as Shallowater — where Maxfield coached before coming to Brownwood — defeated the Eagles, 22-21, in the 2014 playoffs and fell by a 38-10 count this past season.
“We had a couple of battles with Brock and I know those kids will play hard and compete at the highest level,” Maxfield said. “Defensively, they do what they do on defense whether it’s 7-on-7 or Friday night, and that’ll be a challenge. They’re aggressive and they’ll come at us. It’ll be hard to get much on them, but hopefully we can create a few mismatches here and there and take advantage of it.”
The most noteworthy game in pool play takes place at 5 p.m. as the Lions battle the Giddings Buffaloes — their opponent in Week 5 of the regular season.
The Buffaloes — ranked preseason No. 12 in Class 4A Division II by FNF — are coming off a 12-1 campaign in which they averaged 42 points per game and eclipsed 50 points three times, including a season-high 69 in a 38-point victory over Columbus.
Top returning receivers for the Buffaloes include Jason James (36-510, 9 TDs), Treveon Johnson (28-610, 8 TDs), Chabastin Taylor (22-384, 8 TDs) and Travis James (21-271, 2 TDs). Taylor (15 of 29 for 240 yards with 3 TDs) or Rustin Grimm (7 of 12 for 42 yards with a TD) will likely receive snaps from center.
As for facing a regular season opponent in the 7-on-7 state tournament, Maxfield said, “You’re not being honest about the situation if you say that’s not an underlying factor when you know you’re going to be facing them Week 5. That adds something to the atmosphere, but it’s not a big deal. It is what it is, and it’s not Friday night football. Win, lose or draw it won’t affect what we do against them in Week 5.”
At 3 p.m., the Lions tangle with the Rockport-Fulton Pirates, who posted a 7-4-1 record a year ago. The Pirates are unranked in the preseason and projected to finish third in District 15-4A Division I by FNF.
Rockport-Fulton averaged 31 points per outing in 2015 with a season-best 55 coming in a 27-point bi-district playoff win over Kingsville. The Pirates also a ground-based offense as they attempted only two passes — both incomplete — while rushing for 290 yards on 60 carries their season-ending 41-20 playoff loss to La Vega.
Players to watch include quarterbacks C.J. Frost and Will Smith, running backs Justin Coleman and Hunter Joiley and tight ends Drake Hargrove and Max Manson.
The Lions (11-3 in 2015), meanwhile, are making their 17th consecutive trip to the 7-on-7 state tournament.
“The thing that makes this bracket tough is all the teams had a lot of success in the fall,” Maxfield said. “Then, if you think about, it’s been about a month since our older guys have played together. You worry about having a little rust, but I don’t think it will be a problem — nothing more than it will be for any of the other teams.”
While the Lions would like nothing more than to hoist a second 7-on-7 Division II state championship trophy, proper execution and a continued progression in offensive coordinator John Contrucci’s new scheme are the primary objectives.
“We have to take care of the ball and make good decisions on offense and don’t force it, live to play another down,” Maxfield said. “The turnover battle is just as big as it is on Friday nights. Pick sixes in 7-on-7 are a lot more common than on Friday nights.
“Defensively, we have to make the most of our opportunities. When you have a chance to make a pick, that’s a huge momentum turner when you’re able to make that play.”
7-on-7 Division II State Tournament Pools
Big Sandy Harmony
Houston Lutheran South
Tyler Chapel Hill
Tyler Grace Community