The bye weeks are in the rearview mirror, hopefully along with any additional weather issues, as the Brownwood Lions begin their postseason push. The Lions, coming off a 27-13 victory over rival Stephenville on Oct. 14, are seeking consecutive wins for the first time this season as the Big Spring Steers visit in the home finale at Gordon Wood Stadium.
Kickoff between the Lions (3-3, 1-1) and Steers (0-8, 0-3) will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
“It feels like we haven’t played a game in forever, but having two open weeks, it is what it is,” said Lions first-year head coach Kyle Maxfield. “We’re using it to our benefit and I think we got better at some things this past week. We’re anxious to get back out on the field and back on a roll. It’s been an awkward situation, but our kids have responded well and are licking their chops to get back on the field Friday night and play some ball.”
The last bye in the Lions’ schedule presented the opportunity for some lingering injuries to heal, but the stops and starts this season have played a role in Brownwood’s inconsistency, according to Maxfield.
“Hopefully we’re fresh, but you worry about being a little rusty without playing every Friday,” Maxfield said. “I do think that’s had an effect on our offense getting into the kind of rhythm we’ve wanted to. We said all along we don’t have any excuses, you just deal with the cards you’re dealt. I feel like we’ve gotten better at some things this week, a lot of guys got a lot of reps, so I think it’s going to be a good thing for us.”
Brownwood is welcoming a Big Spring squad that has struggled under first-year head coach Clint Finley. The Steers are winless in eight outings and in three District 3-4A Division I contests Big Spring has been outscored 145-48, with its closest decision being a 20-point loss to Snyder in the league opener.
“Coach Finley comes from a long line of great players and coaches in his family and he’s a great guy,” Maxfield said. “They have some work to do out there but he’ll get it going. This will be their last game since they’re open the last week so it’s a different situation for them as well, but we’re looking to get a ‘W’ at Gordon Wood Stadium for the seniors and our fans here in Brownwood.”
Big Spring’s most recent outing last week was a 52-27 loss to Stephenville, which Brownwood held to a season-low 13 points the week prior.
The Steers trailed 14-7 after one quarter, 28-13 at halftime and 45-13 through three periods en route to allowing 362 yards — 188 passing and 174 rushing — with no takeaways. Offensively, Big Spring produced 376 yards — 255 through the air and 121 on the ground — but coughed up the ball five times, including four on fumbles.
Big Spring quarterback Dylan Cantu completed 17 of 33 passes for 255 yards with touchdowns of 60 yards to Robert Valencia and 6 yards to Daniel Luna, who finished with nine receptions for 91 yards. Valencia added 92 yards on the ground and caught three passes covering 99 yards. Jeremiah Cooley also contributed two receptions for 42 yards.
“Offensively they’re very similar to us, run a lot of the same base plays,” Maxfield said. “They have a little quick back and have some talent, they’ve just had some first-year growing pains under Coach Finley, which a lot of us do in the first year.
“Defensively, they base out of a 4-2-5, which we’re familiar with, and play some man coverage and maybe some zone combination coverage on one side depending on your formation. They are definitely someone you can’t overlook because they have the talent to be a really good team. This being their last game of the year, you never know what kind of team is going to show up.”
The Lions are coming off their best defensive performance of the season, yielding just 13 points while forcing five turnovers in a two-touchdown victory over Stephenville.
For the season, Brownwood is giving up 27 points and 382 yards — 228 rushing and 154 passing — with 15 takeaways.
Defensive standouts include Jeremy Brown (51.5 tackles, 1 for loss, 3 INTs), Hunter Mares (49 tackles, 11 for loss, 2 sacks, 2 FR), Grant Fanara (44.5 tackles, 2 for loss, 1 FR), Hayden Donahoo (43.5 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack, 1 INT), Devonte Evetts (35 tackles, 4 for loss, 2.5 sacks), Blaine Hughes (31.5 tackles, 1 FR, 1 INT), Crystan Wright (27 tackles, 2 for loss, 3 INTs), Devon Jefferson (25.5 tackles, 1 for loss, 1 sack), Hayden Tunnell (23 tackles, 5 for loss, 2 sacks, FR), Dylan Hickey (22.5 tackles, 1 sack), Gavin Jefferson (20 tackles, 1 sack) and Corleone Pressley (17.5 tackles, 4 sacks).
On the offensive end, the Lions are manufacturing 26 points and 296 yards — 153 passing and 143 rushing — per contest with 11 turnovers.
Gavin Jefferson (619 yards, 7 TDs) leads the rushing attack along with McLane Moore (178 yards, TD) and Harley Price (150 yards, TD).
Moore has also connected on 55 of 105 pass attempts for 918 yards with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Receiving threats include Wright (16-213), Pressley (11-231, 2 TDs), Hughes (7-151, TD), Brown (7-85, 2 TDs), Gavin Jefferson (4-56, TD), Patrick Nash (3-76, TD) and Braden Jetton (2-89, TD).
With the Lions a heavy favorite Friday, and likely the same next week at Snyder, the challenge is to continue to improve and establish positive momentum for the postseason without overlooking the opponent.
“The kids have a mentality of not being satisfied with where we’re at and trying to get better each week,” Maxfield said. “We need more consistency on both sides of the ball. Our defense is coming off their best performance of the year. We need to maintain where we’re at and keep tackling.
“Offensively, I think we proved we can run the ball even when everybody in the stadium knows we’re going to run the ball. It starts with the blocking up front, cleaning some things up, then spreading the wealth. We want to mix it up, get everybody more touches and be more explosive on offense. That’s what we’re trying to get to if we want to play until December.”
According to Harris Ratings Weekly, Brownwood is a 31-point favorite.