The Brownwood Lions begin their quest to qualify for their 20th consecutive 7-on-7 state tournament during Saturday's Gatesville qualifier, but who shows up for the event remains to be seen.
With the possibility of a Game 3 in the Region I-4A baseball quarterfinals series between Brownwood and Argyle — which would take place at noon Saturday in Glen Rose — a significant portion of the Lions' squad could be missing from the first qualifier.
“If baseball's playing Saturday we'll have a big core group of our kids not there,” said Lions head football coach and athletic director Sammy Burnett. “We'll just fill in the best we can and perform the best we can, mend the fences with what we've got. Potentially not having some key parts of what we're doing will put us at a disadvantage for sure, but we're going to do the best we can and see if we can get in position to qualify. If not, we've got three more tournaments. We wish baseball the best of luck and if they happen to be playing in a Game 3 Saturday against Argyle we sure want to support that and that's more important than a 7-on-7 state qualifier for sure.”
The Lions will play all three of their pool games in McGregor, as the threat of rain Saturday resulted in Gatesville spreading the tournament over multiple cities, which it has done in years past.
Brownwood will clash with McGregor at 9 a.m., Rockdale at 10 a.m. and Palestine at 11 a.m. If the Lions advance to the semifinals of the 16-team tournament, they will return to Gatesville where another victory would result in a berth in the 7-on-7 Division II state tournament at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station June 27-28.
The Lions are also slated to take part in the Burnet state qualifier next weekend, host their own on June 8 and compete in the Jim Ned qualifier June 15.
Brownwood competed in the 7-on-7 Division I bracket from 2000-07, as prior to 2008 all teams competed in just one division. In 2008, Division II was created and the Lions have played there since, winning the 2010 state championship and reaching the consolation final last year.
Along with their four qualifying tournaments this summer, Brownwood is taking part in a Monday night league as well, where the Lions have posted a 6-0 record in two weeks of competition.
“Reports are they performed well, I wasn't at the last one because I was at the state golf tournament,” Burnett said. “A.J. (McCarty) and Drew (Huff) split time at quarterback and there was some good and bad out of both, a lot of room to grow. We're seeing people step up and play other positions and those are bright spots. They're trying to learn the scheme and what's going on without having cheat sheets. The goal is to give them as many reps as we can to get more familiar with our schemes. If we can do that we'll be more prepared come August than we were last year for sure.”
As is the case each 7-on-7 season, Burnett and the rest of the Lions coaching staff are anxiously awaiting new faces to emerge. Players to watch include Isyah Campos at receiver/defensive back, Hunter Day at receiver/tight end, Dane Johnson in the slot, Huff at safety, Cooper Swanzy at running back/receiver/middle linebacker, Royshad Henderson at running back and Damion Jones, who has moved to outside linebacker along with playing receiver.
“We have a lot of spots we have to fill and a lot of positions that are still battling,” Burnett said. “We can't tell a whole lot until we get pads on, but we look like we have a pretty good base and an idea of what we want to do. We know the kids a lot better this year than last year. We're just trying to solidify where we want to start and 7-on-7 is giving us a good chance to do that.”