Brownwood’s bid for a second 7-on-7 Division II state championship, and first since 2010, will require passing a stern test in pool play, where all three of the Lions’ opponents are preseason Top 15 teams in their respective classifications.
The Lions have been placed in Pool L of the 7-on-7 Division II State Tournament and will face Fairfield at 2 p.m. Thursday, Midlothian Heritage at 4 p.m. Thursday and Silsbee at 6 p.m. Thursday on Field 5 at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.
Fairfield, a member of District 8-4A Division II for 2018, is coming off a 6-6 season and is the preseason district favorite with a No. 12 state ranking according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine. The Eagles, led by head coach John Bachtel, return eight offensive and five defensive starters. Standouts include quarterback Chad Rustin (1,000 yards passing), running back JaShaughn Hatcher (1,000 yards rushing) and linebacker Avery Archibald (136 tackles).
Midlothian Heritage, a member of District 9-4A Division I for 2018, is coming off a 12-1 campaign and is ranked No. 6 in 4A Division I by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. The Jaguars, under the direction of head coach Lee Wiginton, welcome back five offensive and six defensive starters. Players to watch include quarterback Landon Ledbetter (2,860 passing yards, 39 TDs), receivers Langston Anderson (853 yards, 9 TDs) and Jay Wilkerson (735 yards, 10 TDs), and linebackers Noah Parker (106 tackles, 5 INTs) and Konner Jones (109 tackles, INT).
Silsbee, a member of District 10-4A Division II for 2018, went 7-5 last year and is ranked No. 4 in the state according to Texas Football, but tabbed to place second in its district behind No. 1 West Orange-Stark. The Tigers, led by head coach Randy Smith, bring back four offensive and eight defensive starters. Running backs Christopher Martin and Dralyn Taylor combined for more than 1,900 yards rushing last year, but the Tigers are breaking in a new quarterback.
The Lions have posted a 12-1 record during 7-on-7 qualifier season, and are coming off their best offensive outing of the summer at the Brownwood qualifier. The Lions averaged 54 points and scored on 23 of 27 possessions, while intercepting eight passes on defense — with two returned for touchdowns — and no points surrendered on the first 12 possessions of the qualifier.
Brownwood defeated Sweetwater (49-0), Ballinger (56-12) and McGregor (58-18) in its most recent outing.
Quarterback Tommy Bowden completed 74 of 100 pass attempts with 23 touchdowns and only one interception — that coming on an extra-point attempt. Bowden connected on 74 percent of his passes, and 32 percent of his completions resulted in touchdowns. By game, Bowden was 26 of 39 with seven touchdowns and a pick against Sweetwater, 28 of 37 with eight scoring tosses against Ballinger, and 20 of 24 with eight more touchdowns in the finale against McGregor.
Leading receivers included A.J. McCarty (17 catches, six TDs), Ben Kallman (15 catches, three TDs), Reece Rodgers (nine catches, four TDs), Grayson Swanzy (seven catches, two TDs), Braden Jetton (six catches, three TDs), Zack Strong (five catches, two TDs), Joseph Johnson (four catches), Hunter Leonard (three catches), Royshad Henderson (two catches, both TDs), Parish White (two catches, one TD) and one grab each by George Nichols, Khyren Deal, Hayden Tunnell and Brandon Farrow.
Defensively, Leonard intercepted three passes, Rowdee Gregory picked off a pair and Jetton, Nicholas and Strong each snagged one. Strong’s interception right before the half against Ballinger resulted in a touchdown, after he lateraled to Cooper Swanzy. Gregory later took a pick the distance against McGregor.
The Lions qualified for their 19th straight state appearance in their first qualifier on May 19 at Gatesville, posting a perfect 4-0 record.
Based on Thursday’s pool play results, Friday’s championship and consolation brackets will be set. With the state field reduced to 48 teams due to the introduction of the new 16-team Division III state tournament, Friday’s bracket play has been modified for Division II.
The top two teams in each pool automatically advance to Friday’s championship bracket, which begins at 9 a.m. All third-place teams are then seeded based on points scored, then points allowed, then a coin flip. The top eight third-place teams will play in the 32-team championship bracket. The remaining third-place and all fourth-place teams will play in the 16-team consolation bracket, which starts at 8 a.m. Friday.