3-0 edge for Lions in controlled scrimmage, 14-all tie in live portion

BURNET — In their final tune up prior to the Aug. 30 season opener at Brock, the Brownwood Lions' big play capabilities were on display in Thursday's scrimmage against the Burnet Bulldogs.

In 40 plays of controlled scrimmage action, and an additional two live quarters, the Lions scored five touchdowns — with four coming through the air from long distance. Brownwood outscored Burnet three touchdowns to none early on, while the live half finished in a 14-all tie.

“All in all I thought it was a good practice,” said Lions second-year head coach Sammy Burnett. “We got to see some areas we need to fix communication-wise in game situations that we need to fix before Friday, but it's typical and happens every year. There's no stress or strain, we're just going to make sure it's fixed before Friday.

“The defense played well and we got to put a lot of people in. We put our 2s in against their 1s (in the live half) and I thought they did a good job. They wound up scoring us on but our kids got great reps and we needed that for those guys.”

The controlled portion of the scrimmage opened with the Burnet first-team offense against the Brownwood starters on defense. The Bulldogs advanced as far as the Lion 37 on their first set of 10 plays.

The next batch of 10 plays belonged to the Lion offense, where three passes were completed that gained a total of 144 yards. First, quarterback Blaize Espinoza hit Parish White on a short pass that turned into a 64-yard catch-and-run for the first touchdown of the night. On the very next play, Espinoza found Landon Harris for a 30-yard gain, but the march ended without points. Four plays later, Espinoza found Damion Jones on a slant route, which resulted in a 50-yard scoring reception.

The Lions first-team offense followed with the next 10 plays, and a 56-yard connection from Andrew Huff to A.J. McCarty set up Royshad Henderson's 3-yard touchdown carry. On the next snap, Huff hooked up with Dane Johnson on a 58-yard catch and run, but the drive stalled at the Burnet 6 when the Lions lost a fumble.

During the live half, with the Lions trailing 6-0, Huff threw a deep post to Zach Strong on third-and-20 from the Brownwood 20, which resulted in an 80-yard touchdown following a fingertip grab.

“The pass Zach caught probably wasn't conducive to what Burnet was doing but I knew

he could get open and it's a 50-50 ball every time you throw it to him,” Burnett said. “We might look like a big play football but by golly if that's what you are take advantage of it. We're always going to press the field vertically and we're going to try and get one-on-one matchups with our guys and let them try and do their thing. If we can do that so be it, we'll take that big play. If we hit one of three we feel that's successful.

“We also had some good plays on some quick screens getting down the sidelines and using our speed to score.”

Leading 7-6 in the live half, the Lions added their second touchdown when Reece Rodgers scored on a 2-yard dive, which was set up by a 12-yard connection from Huff to McCarty on third-and-7, followed by a 26-yard scramble by Huff down to the Burnet 8.

“We're still doing some RPO (run-pass option) stuff that makes it look like we don't want to run the ball, but probably 90 percent of the plays we're calling are runs,” Burnett said. “But if they're going to leave one of our kids out there we're going to get them the ball. That's as good as a 5-yard run inside; it may be a 5-yard pass and it may be 50 yards, you never know. It's part of our running game, honestly. Most people don't know that, they look out there and think we're just throwing the ball. We call that a sweep in this style offense.”

Burnet's second-team offense never advanced further than its own 43 in the controlled scrimmage, but the Bulldogs marched 57 yards in seven plays on their second possession of the live half to grab a 6-0 advantage, thanks to a 14-yard scoring toss on a third-and-9.

Trailing 14-6, Burnet drew even with 3:42 remaining, scoring on a 12-yard run against Brownwood's second-team defense and adding a 13-yard two-point conversion pass following an offensive pass interference call.

On the Lions' final possession, a 34-yard carry by Rodgers was wiped out due to penalty, and two more flags against Brownwood prevented a final scoring threat.

Burnet's last drive ended at its own 46 just before time expired.

With the preseason officially behind the Lions, regular season action begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30 at Class 3A Division I No. 6 Brock, which knocked off Brownwood, 41-10, in last year's season opener at Gordon Wood Stadium.

“We better get ready for Brock,” Burnett said of the objectives going forward. “We're going to play at their house and they're going to bring it. They're a good football team that knows what they're doing. They play smash mouth football so we've got to bow our necks and stop them.”