The first full school year of Brownwood High School athletics under the tutelage of athletic director Kyle Maxfield has reached its conclusion — and it was one of the most successful campaigns from top to bottom in recent years.
Each varsity sport for both the Lions and Lady Lions was represented in the 2016-17 postseason, which hadn’t occurred in at least five years.
“If you add all the sports together and look at the success as a whole, we couldn’t be more proud of our accomplishments this year as a program,” Maxfield said. “It’s been a while since we’ve had so much success in every program and that’s a credit to our coaching staff and the kids we have.”
In Brownwood’s first football season under Maxfield, the Lions advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
“That’s not our expectations for this coming year,” Maxfield said, “but for the first year, it’s not a bad start.”
The Lady Lions volleyball program, under head coach Julie Preiss, collected its first postseason victory since 2009, when Preiss, a Brownwood graduate, was still a member of the roster.
In cross country, the Lady Lions as a team advanced to the state meet for the third time, and first since 2013, all of which came under the direction of outgoing head coach Don Hood. Meanwhile, the Lions placed second in district and advanced to regionals.
Also during the fall semester, the Lions and Lady Lions tennis teams, led by head coach Mark Davis, qualified for the area tournament.
During the winter months, the Lady Lions basketball program, under the guidance of head coach Heather Hohertz, earned the program’s first outright district championship a season after reaching the regional tournament for the first time.
First-year head coach Nadir Dalleh, meanwhile, guided the Lions basketball team back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season — ending the longest postseason drought of any Brownwood program.
On the soccer pitch, head coach Keith Robinson was forced into double duty yet still managed to direct the Lady Lions to the third round of the playoffs, while the Lions were bi-district finalists.
In powerlifting, Lady Lion Victoria Sanchez punched her ticket to the state meet.
The Lady Lions softball program, led by head coach Jessica Lynn, wasn’t able to advance to the state tournament for a second consecutive year, but still won a share of the District 5-4A championship and reached the third round of the playoffs.
First-year head coach Blandon Hancock helped end another lengthy postseason absence in Brownwood as the Lions baseball team placed second in district to clinch its first playoff berth since the 2013 campaign.
The track and field program sent four entrants to the UIL State Championships — McLane Moore in the boys pole vault, Kyra Young in the girls 800 meters, the girls mile relay team of Alyssa Couey, Aleyia Cotton, Tristan Escamilla and Young, and A.J. McCarty in the boys long jump. The Lady Lions also won their third district championship in a row.
And the year concluded with sophomore Jaryn Pruitt capturing the 4A boys golf state championship by five strokes.
“The girls winning district in basketball was huge and volleyball made its biggest run since 2008,” Maxfield said. “Then you had boys basketball in the playoffs for the first time in four or five years, and the same for baseball making it for the first time since 2013.
“Tennis is always in a tough district with Wylie but still played well. Softball didn’t make it back to state but had another great season. Track had some state qualifiers, the girls won district again and the boys had a lot to qualify for regionals. And to finish it up with a state champion in golf, that leaves a good taste in your mouth.”
Unfortunately, some of the coaches who led the Lions and Lady Lions to their successes won’t be back next year.
After eight years, Hood — who was the head coach for boys and girls track and field and cross country — is headed to LeTourneau University to take over its first-year track program.
“You can’t put into words what he’s done,” Maxfield said of Hood. “Just look at all the success on the girls side, even in sports he’s not directly involved in. In some ways the girls are ahead of the boys and a lot of that has to do with the way he handled that side of it.
“Replacing him as a coach is impossible, but luckily he’s instilled expectations within our kids that will carry them through this. But like he said, a little change is good and we look forward to building on what he established. What he’s built doesn’t happen overnight, but you can lose it overnight if you don’t take care of it.”
Football assistant Shay Easterwood this past week was hired as the new head football coach and athletic director at Brady.
“I’m really happy for Shay and his family,” Maxfield said. “Shay is one of those guys that’s just a good-hearted person that comes from a great family. The name Easterwood is so well-respected in Brady, the same way it is here in Brownwood. He’ll be missed because of what he brought to our program not only on the field but off the field. He’s a great person and we wish him the best.”
And Robinson is departing Brownwood to coach soccer in Bandera.
“Coach Robinson has had a lot of success during his time here in soccer and we hate to lose him,” Maxfield said. “The way he stepped up when we needed him for the boys program this year, that’s all you need to see to know what kind of person he is.”
Though more attrition is possible between now and the start of the 2017-18 school year, Maxfield is not anticipating many more changes to the coaching roster. And while none of the coaching vacations have been officially filled, Maxfield stated the search for replacements for those positions is nearing completion.
“What a blessing it is to have (superintendent) Dr. (Joe) Young, (assistant superintendent) Dr. (Hector) Martinez and (Brownwood High School principal) Mitch (Moore) to work with,” Maxfield said. “It takes a team to get the right coach and the right fit. The main thing for all four of us involved in the process is we want what’s best for the kids. If we keep that as the main goal everything else will work out.”
The role of girls athletic coordinator, which Hood formerly held, has been officially filled from within Maxfield said, as Hohertz was recently promoted to the position.
“She’ll be starting her ninth year here as head coach and has been very successful,” Maxfield said. “She has a different viewpoint and a different approach, but it’s good to give the girls program some freshness. But she’s not going to try and reinvent the wheel. She knows if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. She has great communication with me and is an extension of the athletic director, and I look forward to working with her and to continued success.”