Improving from one week to the next is a goal every coach wants to see achieved, and Brownwood Lions first-year head coach Sammy Burnett got an eyeful of that in the second and final scrimmage of the season.
After laboring at times against No. 5 Liberty Hill this past Saturday, the Lions dominated from start to finish Thursday night at Gordon Wood Stadium against the Burnet Bulldogs.
In controlled scrimmage action, the Lions outscored Burnet five touchdowns to none and created four turnovers. Brownwood first-teamers accounted for four of those scores and three of the takeaways.
Then, in a pair of 12-minute live quarters, the Lions continued their roll by outscoring Burnet 19-6. The lone touchdown allowed by Brownwood came with 1:19 left in the live action on a 6-yard quarterback keeper.
“We saw some growth,” Burnett said. “Defensively I thought we did a pretty good job but there are still some areas we need to work on. We busted some assignments and I don’t know if it was a lack of focus or lack of communication. We need to work on that as a staff to make sure we’re getting what we need to get into them on time. But I thought we flew around to the ball and for the most part played pretty well.”
While the Lions defense suffocated Burnet all night, the offense showed off its big-play capability.
In the controlled portion of the scrimmage, the Lions scored on a 37-yard touchdown run by Joseph Johnson; a 13-yard pass from Tommy Bowden to Braden Jetton that was set up by a 53-yard catch and run by A.J. McCarty; a 34-yard scoring toss from Clayton Bertrand to Zach Strong; a 75-yard touchdown pass from Bowden to McCarty; and a 27-yard Bowden scramble.
“Offensively, we have vertical threats and sometimes as a coach you think all you can do is throw the ball, but when you have four or five people you can throw the ball to and defenses allow you to do it, then we’re going to take those shots,” Burnett said. “We’re a big play team. I’m one of those guys that likes to march, march, march, but I just think we’re a little different football team. We’ll pound you for a little bit and then we’ll bust you with a big play. We have that potential.”
On the defensive side of the ball in the controlled scrimmage, the Lions allowed Burnet to advance to the Brownwood 13 in just seven plays, but Reece Rodgers ended the drive with an interception in the end zone. From that point on, the Bulldogs mustered very little positive momentum.
Just two snaps later, Kris Hobbs recovered a Burnet fumble. The Bulldogs’ second set of plays began with an interception by Strong, while in live scrimmage action Jayron Anglin picked off a pass as well.
“Burnet played physical and wasn’t shy, but we swarmed to the ball pretty well and I was pleased with that,” Burnett said.
Offensively during the live action, the Lions’ first play was a 66-yard scramble by Bowden that put the Lions up 6-0 with 9:42 left it the first period.
“Sometimes he can turn a bad play into a good play,” Burnett said of Bowden. “He showed some explosion tonight and tough running. He needs to work a little more on staying in the pocket a hair longer to see if something will develop downfield before we escape, but you have to let a horse run and let him play the game and see it how he sees it.”
The Lions’ longest play of the scrimmage occurred with 3:01 left in the opening period as Bowden and Jetton hooked up for an 80-yard scoring strike on second-and-23. Zack Smith added the extra point to boost the advantage to 13-0.
Then, with 5:49 left in the encounter, Johnson scored again on a 14-yard carry to cap the Brownwood scoring.
Amongst the areas of greatest improvement Thursday night was the performance of the offensive line, which is the biggest area of concern entering the season due to the unit’s lack of overall varsity experience. Against Liberty Hill last week, aside from Bowden scrambles, the Lions did not rush for positive yardage on any play.
“I’m pleased with the offensive line, they showed some growth,” Burnett said. “They’re always the slowest to mature but I think that’s happening now.”
Brownwood also appeared to get stronger as the scrimmage progressed, which Burnett hopes is the start of a trend.
“If you watch the last part of the half we started winning the battles up front and started moving the ball 5, 6, 7 yards a pop,” Burnett said. “That tells me we’re getting in shape and starting to wear people down. I tell them all the time we take pride in winning the fourth quarter, and we won the fourth quarter tonight.”
Next up, the Lions welcome Class 3A Division I No. 1 Brock to Gordon Wood Stadium at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31 to kick off the 2018 football season.
“I’m proud of the growth,” Burnett said. “We still have a long way to go but we have time to get there. The kids have bought in, they’re listening, they’re applying and I see that growth daily. I’m pleased where we are this week compared to where we were last week. We’ve got five or six days to get ready for a good Brock team and we’re going to be ready.”