Burnett wants to see continued improvement from Lions after Liberty Hill scrimmage

LIBERTY HILL — Facing the fifth-ranked Class 4A team in the state, according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football, the Brownwood Lions experienced their share of highs and lows during Saturday's scrimmage against the Liberty Hill Panthers.

The Lions were outscored four touchdowns to one during the controlled scrimmage, through the first teams each finished with one trio to the end zone. In the live session, Liberty Hill ended up with a 21-7 advantage on the scoreboard.

“I'm proud of our kids and honestly we're about where we should be as a new program starting new systems,” said Lions first-year head coach Sammy Burnett. “But we're always going to strive to raise the bar and we're going to do that. We're going to go back to work this next week and just get better at our craft. We have to be masters at the positions we play.”

All eyes were on the offense, where the skill players performed admirable while the line continues to be a work in progress, as Lions first-year head coach Sammy Burnett admitted both before and after Saturday's action.

“A positive was our quarterback played well,” Burnett said. “He stayed calm under pressure and ran the offense. I saw some bright spots in the passing game. We've got some big play potential, I'm positive about that.

“But we have to get better up front as we all know. I've challenged the team, we have to work every day and get better up front. We have to be able to run the football and control the line of scrimmage and we didn't do that today. I don't care who we're playing, we have to do that every game. We set up the run and that helps us in the passing game. We can't be a team that just throws the ball over the place. We have to get sound on the front five and solidify that.”

Defensively, the Lions yielded 70 points and 772 total yards — including 726 rushing — in Week 3 loss at Liberty Hill last season. In Saturday's scrimmage, the Panthers took their first snap 70 yards to the end zone, but the Lions defense — which had not schemed for the Liberty Hill Wing-T attack — stiffened during the remainder of the 12-play set.

While the Panthers used a pair of 26-yard carries to advance to the ball to the Lions' 18, the drive ended when Clayton Bertrand picked off an errant pass at the goal line. Liberty Hill's first possession later ended with a sack of the quarterback by Ian Moreno.

“We played pretty good defensively. We didn't scheme them and got in a vanilla front and they took advantage of that front,” Burnett said. “The negative there is we could have had some tackles at the line of scrimmage or for losses that they broke for 40-yard touchdowns because there was no complete tackle. We have to get better at tackling and make sure we're hitting our fits better and make sure we're in shape and getting physical.”

When the Lions offense took the field, Tommy Bowden connected with Grayson Swanzy on a 19-yard pass to the Brownwood 44. An 11-yard scramble by Bowden, coupled with a facemask penalty, advanced the ball to the Panther 43. Liberty Hill was then flagged for pass interference, which put Brownwood at the 13. After a 2-yard loss on the ground, Bowden hurled a 15-yard jump ball touchdown pass to A.J. McCarty, who secured the ball at the goal line.

Bowden later connected with Braden Jetton on a 34-yard fade on third and 20 from the Brownwood 20 to extend the drive, the longest play of the initial 12 for the Lions.

On the ground, Bowden picked up 24 yards on four scrambles, but was sacked once for a 9-yard loss. The Lions' other two runs netted -7 yards.

When the second teams took the field, the Lion defense allowed a 37-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper and a 7-yard touchdown on the final play of the series.

Offensively for the Lions, the highlight was a 21-yard pass from Bertrand to Zach Strong for a first down. Another first down resulted after a pass interference penalty as the Lions advanced to the Liberty Hill 43 before the drive stalled. In five rushing attempts, the Lions did not gain positive yardage on any play. Also, Brownwood's first pass completion resulted in a lost fumble after a 5-yard gain.

In third team action, Liberty Hill scored on a 41-yard carry.

The Lions, meanwhile, picked up 10 yards on a quarterback scramble and lost yardage on five additional run plays, and tossed a 5-yard completion with an incompletion and interception as well.

During the 20-minute live quarter, which featured a running clock, the Lions held

Liberty Hill to a three-and-out on the initial possession. After a shanked 7-yard punt, Brownwood took over at the Panther 40. But over four plays, the Lions managed just 2 yards on a Bowden scramble, coupled with three incomplete passes, and turned the ball over.

Liberty Hill then completed a six-play, 60-yard drive with a 40-yard touchdown carry.

The Lions' second possession featured Bowden completions of 3 yards to McCarty and 2 yards to Joseph Johnson, along with a 2-yard loss on the ground. Brownwood punted the ball away, and three plays later the Panthers scored on a 60-yard pass.

Brownwood answered with its lone touchdown of the live quarter as, after losing 3 yards on a first down carry, Bowden connected with Hunter Leonard for a 73-yard catch and run to the end zone, closing the gap to 14-7.

But the Panthers tacked on another touchdown on a 43-yard carry with just over a minute left, while the Lions' final possession ended with a three-and-out.

The Lions wrap up their scrimmage schedule Thursday when they welcome Burnet to Gordon Wood Stadium. The varsity squads are tentatively slated to take the field at 7 p.m.

“We're going to stay strong and work, that's the only thing I know to do,” Burnett said of the agenda for the final week of preseason practice. “We're going to get the cardio going. I thought some of the kids were in pretty good shape, but we've got some kids that are going two ways that are playing 90 percent of the plays and they have to get in a little better shape. We're going to focus up front and controlling the defensive line of scrimmage and tackling better. We're going to fix that front line because we have to, we don't have a choice, we have to get it done.”