BURNET — The Brownwood Lions set a high bar in their initial 7-on-7 state qualifying tournament outing last weekend, posting four victories at Gatesville — with most of the games decided by halftime — en route to clinching their 19th consecutive state tournament appearance.
Saturday’s second effort at Burnet wasn’t quite as sharp, and the roster was slightly different, though Brownwood won two of three games. The Lions opened with a 35-28 triumph over Fredericksburg, fell by a 19-13 count to Liberty Hill, then knocked off Little River-Academy, 35-12, for the second time in as many weeks.
After securing a trip to College Station last weekend, Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett stated continued growth, development and improvement were the biggest keys for the Lions in the remainder of their 7-on-7 qualifiers. In their second outing, the Lions provided a mixed bag of results.
“I thought we were a little flat,” Burnett said. “I know it’s a long week for them but we’re not going to make excuses, we came out flat. I thought we played okay the first game, but we definitely squandered some opportunities the second game – too many drops on first down and a lack of execution. We had many opportunities to beat Liberty Hill and didn’t do it. That’s on us. We can make any excuse we want, but the bottom line is it’s on us. After that, it’s all about how you respond and how you bounce back. We sat and got a little break and came back against Little River-Academy and played well, did what we had to do and got back on the right track.”
Quarterback Tommy Bowden completed 53 of 91 passes — a 58 percent success rate — with a dozen touchdowns and no interceptions during the three contests. Leading the way for the Brownwood receiving corps was A.J. McCarty with 12 receptions and three touchdowns; Hunter Leonard with eight catches and a score; Joseph Johnson with seven grabs and a trip to the end zone; Royshad Henderson with six receptions and a score; Grayson Swanzy with five catches and a pair of touchdowns; Ben Kallman with five receptions and a trip to the end zone; Braden Jetton with four receptions, half resulting in scores; Khyren Deal with a pair of catches; Christian DeHart with a touchdown grab; and George Nicholas hauled in a pass.
On the defensive end, Leonard picked off a pass against Fredericksburg while Deal recorded an interception against Liberty Hill.
“We had several kids gone so we brought up some youngsters, Khyren Deal and Royshad Henderson, and we saw some really good things out of them so I’m excited about that,” Burnett said in regard to the defensive effort. “That was one of the things we wanted to focus on, leaving the young ones in the back end and I thought they both did a fine job. Royshad did some good things on offense as well so it was nice to be able to come out and relax and see them.”
Against Fredericksburg, the Lions fell behind early 7-0, but Bowden connected with Swanzy on a 45-yard scoring strike and McCarty on the extra point to knot the score. Leonard then picked off a pass to set up Brownwood’s next drive — another 45-yard scoring toss from Bowden to Swanzy, with a McCarty extra point — as the Lions took the lead, 14-7.
The Lions led 21-13 at halftime, but Fredericksburg pulled even at 21 and again at 28. Brownwood scored the decisive touchdown on a toss from Bowden to Henderson, along with a Damion Jones extra point catch, for the final seven-point margin.
Against Liberty Hill, Bowden completed just 12 of 28 passes as misfires and drops plagued the Lions’ offense.
Brownwood failed to score on its first two drives, the second ending on what appeared to be a second down after the Lions had picked up a first — but the officials ruled otherwise.
Trailing 6-0, the Lions drew even on a touchdown pass from Bowden to McCarty on their third possession. Liberty Hill answered, however, and regained a 12-6 lead at intermission.
In the second half, Brownwood grabbed its first lead, 13-12, on its second possession of the half when Bowden hooked up with Kallman and Johnson added the extra point catch.
Liberty Hill immediately responded for a 19-13 edge, but the Lions had one final opportunity to snare the victory. After a pair of first downs, however, Brownwood’s drive stalled inside the 15.
Brownwood’s offensive woes continued in the first half against Academy, as the Lions were down 12-7 before Bowden connected with McCarty for a touchdown and extra point to result in a 14-12 halftime advantage.
In the second half, the Lions held Academy off the board while Bowden threw scoring darts to Jetton, Leonard and Johnson.
The Lions’ next 7-on-7 state qualifier falls Friday, June 15 at Jim Ned, then Brownwood hosts its own event Friday, June 22.
The 7-on-7 Division II state tournament is slated for Thursday, June 28 and Friday, June 29 at Veterans Memorial Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.
“No. 1, they need to go be kids for a while,” Burnett said in regard to how the Lions will treat the two weeks before their next tournament. “They’re going to take a week off and they we’re going to start strength and conditioning on June 4 and get back at it. But right now they just need to relax and go be kids and enjoy a little bit of time off, rejuvenate and recharge those batteries. I told them to do that and make sure to make decisions that affect their family in a positive way and don’t do something that will affect us in a negative way.”