Four months removed from the 2018 high school season and four months away from the opening weekend of the 2019 campaign, Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett touched on all things related to Lions football as he embarks on his second season at the helm of the program.
The Lions have added four new varsity coaches, a potential starting quarterback through transfer and a 10th game to the 2019 football schedule.
Like the Alvin Shadow Creek game from the 2017 campaign, the Lions have added another Class 6A first-year program to the slate — Conroe Grand Oaks. The neutral site game will be played Friday, Oct. 4 at Taylor High School, falling between Brownwood’s pre-district finale at Abilene Wylie and the District 5-4A Division I opener at home against Gatesville.
“They’re going to be a talented group and we’re going to embrace that challenge,” Burnett said. “I felt this was better for us than to have two bye weeks, which was difficult for us. Any opportunity we have to compete we’re going to do so, it doesn’t really matter who it’s against.”
The coaching staff has been reshuffled with the additions Jeff Huff, former offensive coordinator at Mineral Wells; Dex Dennard, former offensive line coach at Odessa High; Jeffrey Russell, former defensive coordinator at Lone Oak; and Andy Howard, a former Brownwood assistant most recently employed at Goldthwaite.
“Coach (Brad) Bowden left to take an assistant head coaching job at China Spring, and Coach (Kirk) Chastain is moving to the junior high to be the junior high coordinator,” Burnett said. “Dex Dennard is coming to coach our offensive line from Odessa High and he’s very highly recommended. We’re blessed that he and his wife have family in this area so they wanted to get this way. He always dreamed of coaching in Brownwood so we got him which I think is a solid hire.
“Jeff Huff was the offensive coordinator at Mineral Wells, Jeremy Russell, who was the defensive coordinator at Lone Oak, is going to join us as a D-line coach, and Andy Howard, who’s been here previously, has been the head coach at Brady and been in administration and coaching at Goldthwaite, and he’ll coach receivers for us.”
Huff brings with him two sons and the oldest — Drew — could be starting under center for the Lions in the season opener at Brock. Huff, who will be a senior, completed 111 of 208 passes for 1,404 yards with 12 touchdowns and five interceptions as a junior at Mineral Wells, and also rushed for 240 yards and two touchdowns on 61 carries.
“I’m really excited to see how Drew develops and if he can fill the role,” Burnett said. “He’s got some big shoes to fill with Tommy (Bowden) graduating. I just want to see the maturation of him in the offense and how it relates to the kids and see how it develops through 7-on-7.”
7-on-7 on the horizon
The Lions, coming off an appearance in the Division II consolation bracket championship game, will be seeking their 20th consecutive trip to the 7-on-7 state tournament in College Station.
Qualifying tournament action for Brownwood begins May 18 at Gatesville, where the Lions punched their ticket to state a year ago. The Lions will then return to Burnet for the second year in a row on May 25, host their own tournament June 8 and venture to Jim Ned on June 15.
“Hopefully we’ll qualify early again,” Burnett said.
Obviously, the quarterback position will be monitored closely.
“Drew is coming in from Mineral Wells and hopefully we’ll get him in a couple of weeks and he can start learning the system and develops into the quarterback we think he can. If not, we have some versatility with A.J. McCarty, who’s been really working at quarterback the last month. Rowdee Gregory is always an option, but he’s more of a defensive specialist and a sniffer guy.”
The 2019 7-on-7 Division II state tournament is scheduled for Thursday, June 27 and Friday, June 28 at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.
Though the Lions’ offseason started sooner than would have liked after a 4-6, bi-district finalist campaign in 2018, Burnett has been pleased with the strides made since late November.
“We started offseason in late November, early December and we’ve been grinding for the last however many months,” Burnett said. “We just started working on football this week. I’m really pleased with the growth of the program, the way our kids are responding, the work ethic they’re starting to develop. I think we’re setting in place the foundation to build the program back where we want it.”
Among the greatest areas of improvement has been team strength.
“The biggest surprise I had honestly coming into the offseason was testing for the first time and seeing how weak we were as a team,” Burnett said. “Since then a lot of kids have gained a lot of strength. We have kids squatting 100 more pounds than they did at the beginning of offseason. In every test they’ve increased, and their 40 and pro agility times have dropped for the most part.”
As for what he’d like to see the remainder of the school year, Burnett said, “Character is a big deal to me, how they conduct themselves all the time. I remember what 7-on-7 was like last year, the little fires I was trying to put out whether it was language or behavior. The things we’ve instilled in them on a day to day basis, I want to see evidence of that whether things are going well or if they face adversity. Hopefully they’ve heard the lessons and will apply the lessons and show great character. It takes great character to be successful.”
Projects on deck
Brownwood’s A.B.C. Club (Alumni, Business and Community Members) is hosting the first We Are Brownwood four-person golf scramble at The Hideout Sunday, June 2. The tournament is a fundraiser for a pair of projects Burnett hopes to soon see come to fruition at the high school.
“What it is in a nutshell is we’re going to extend our weight room to be able to fit all our kids in at one time, and to be able to get our workouts done in an appropriate fashion,” Burnett said. “And then we’re building a multi-purpose indoor workout facility that will house any program we have from drill team to band to football to soccer to baseball and softball. It’s big enough to have multiple sports in there at the same time. That’s a big need for ours kids to level the playing field and have an opportunity to compete at the highest level. Once we get that building constructed it will be another phase in developing championship programs.
“When we talk football, we use it probably the least amount of anybody, days in the summer when it’s really hot and with inclement weather. Against Stephenville last year it rained a lot that week so we couldn’t practice our pass hull offensively or defensively, so that kind of hampered us with Stephenville being a spread team that throws the ball all over the place.”
The golf tournament begins with a 1 p.m. shotgun start, which follows 11 a.m. registration and a noon meal. The cost to enter is $400 per four-person team and awards will be presented to the first- through third-place teams, along with the longest drive and closest to the pin winners. For more information on the golf tournament, call (325) 430-0395 or email email@example.com.
In the near future, donations to the projects will also be accepted at the website WeAreBrownwood.com.
“As soon as we can get enough funds initiated to start the project we’re going to get going,” Burnett said. “We have some irons in the fire right now, people we’re going to set meetings with that are interested in the project that can help us get it kicked off. It doesn’t have to be multi-millionaires, if we all gave $5 a month for a certain period of time we could get that thing done.”
Looking further down the road, Burnett hopes to integrate an alumni association at Brownwood High, following in the footsteps of major college athletics.
“My goal is for it to be like an alumni group like they have at A&M or Baylor or wherever. When you graduate from there you give back to your alma mater, so why not do it at your own high school?” Burnett said. “Let’s keep that going so we can use those funds to develop all our facilities. We need work done at the baseball and softball fields and I’d love to attack that project. We need lights at multiple facilities and I’d love to generate funds. I have plans to relocate the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions right out in front of the indoor facility. My vision is to have a miniature Dallas Huston Walk of Champions leading you to the Gordon Wood Hall of Champions and into the multi-purpose facility. The goal is have it used by many and any.”