Through the first two weeks of preseason practice, second-year head coach Sammy Burnett has been delighted with the progression shown by the Brownwood Lions. That sentiment continued Saturday afternoon as the Lions hosted the reigning Class 4A Division I state finalist Liberty Hill Panthers, who also come into the season ranked No. 4 in the state by Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine.
When the sweltering afternoon's worth of action concluded near 2 p.m., as temperatures had well surpassed the 100-degree mark, the Lions and Panthers had traded three touchdowns throughout the day.
Brownwood opened the scoring when Zach Strong scooped up a fumble and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Strong later added the second touchdown on the offensive end when he hauled in a 16-yard reception from quarterback Drew Huff on third-and-goal, which proved to be the final snap for the Lion starters. Brownwood also tacked on a touchdown by the second-team offense as Blaize Espinoza hooked up with Landon Harris on an 80-yard catch and run, in which Harris broke a couple of tackles, to match Liberty Hill's touchdown tally of three.
The Lions, who were plagued at times by a rash of penalties, used a short passing game throughout much of the day and rushed the ball only a few times.
“I asked them to play very physical, I asked them to understand the scheme and have a passion for each other and they did,” Burnett said of the offense. “I thought we executed well. Our options off of our plays, I thought we did a good job with that. We blocked well on the perimeter for the most part and we did a good job up front for what we had in. The hardest part of our offense to get rolling and get going is always going to be the line.
“We did some good things, like getting the ball to some people, but we missed some big shots. I can think of three balls that if we connect on them they're going to be touchdowns. But working together live for the first time and with a new quarterback, I thought we did really well.”
Defensively, along with Strong's fumble return and an interception by Dane Johnson later in the day, a bone jarring hit by a multitude of Lions sent a Liberty Hill ball carrier's helmet flying, which led to a brief dust up on the field. The Panthers, however, were later able to record a 70-yard touchdown run, while a 61-yard gallop set up a 9-yard score on the next play. Liberty Hill also drove 70 yards in nine plays and added a 2-yard rushing score as well.
“They hurt us twice on one play, the trap, they started seeing what we were doing and false keyed us and things like that,” Burnett said of the defense. “We hadn't prepared for that and we don't in a scrimmage. Other than that I thought we outphysicaled them. You saw them get up and they were frustrated. They're used to bullying people and they didn't bully us. The defense bowed its neck and showed what it could do.”
As for how the conditioning held up in triple-digit heat, Burnett was pleased with the way the Lions handled the day.
“We have a lot of guys that go two ways and Liberty Hill two platoons so they're sending a new group out there ready to play,” Burnett said. “When I watch what we're doing and I watch how we're breathing and how they're breathing I think we're right on track with our conditioning based on watching our kids play many reps.”
The Lions will take part in their second scrimmage Thursday at Burnet, then begin regular season action Friday, Aug. 30 at Brock.
As for the impending week of preparations, Burnett said, “We'll do what we do on Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday we'll prepare a little bit for Burnet and just figure out what they're going to do. But the main thing is we have to get better at what we do so we'll be working on that.”