State-ranked Cougars bring high-powered offense to Brownwood

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
Senior Lions defensive tackle Kris Hobbs is pictured during the Lions' victory over Midland Greenwood last Friday at Gordon Wood Stadium.

The China Spring Cougars will bring a new state ranking to accompany an offense that’s averaging 58 points per game into Friday’s 7:30 p.m. nondistrict football game against the Brownwood Lions at Gordon Wood Stadium.

The Cougars (2-0) own wins of 74-35 over Class 4A Division I Benbrook and 42-13 over 3A DI Lorena. The two wins gained China Spring a No. 10 spot in this week’s 4A DII state rankings by Brownwood is 1-1 after last week’s 35-15 win over Midland Greenwood in the Lions’ home opener.

“Benbrook and Lorena are both good teams, and they scored over 100 points combined on them,” third-year Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett said of China Spring. “Their quarterback, Major Bowden, used to be here in Brownwood. China Spring likes to run the quarterback read stuff with Major, and if you take that away, they’ll give it to the running back.”

Bowden moved from Brownwood to China Spring along with his father, Cougars assistant coach Brad Bowden.

The Cougars’ running back, senior Emmanuel Abdallah, is averaging 205 yards per game with seven total touchdowns rushing through two games. The 5-foot-8, 180-pound runner gained 269 yards and scored four TDs against Benbrook. He followed that with 141 yards and three scores against Lorena.

Bowden, a 5-9, 165-pound junior, rushed for 90 yards and two TDs against Lorena last week. He also was 4-of-7 passing for 54 yards.

“They haven’t had to pass much, but we’re going to try to put them in positions where they have to do that,” said Burnett, who will miss his second straight game Friday while in quarantine from exposure to COVID-19.

Following last week’s impressive performance against Greenwood, Brownwood’s defense stands ready for the challenge of China Spring’s high-scoring offense. The Lions made multiple lineup changes prior to last week’s game with the intention of having no two-way starters. The changes worked as Brownwood’s defense limited Greenwood to 178 total yards.

Brownwood’s defense also forced three official Greenwood turnovers -- fumble recoveries by Kris Hobbs and Christian Chambers, along with an interception by Malachi Revada -- and the Lions converted all three miscues into short touchdown drives. The Lions also scored on an 8-yard drive after Cade Jetton’s recovery of a muffed punt by Greenwood.

Not having any two-way starters helped Brownwood rebound from a 55-23 season-opening loss to Lampasas, where the Lions started seven players both ways in the 100-degree heat.

“That was a huge adjustment for us,” Burnett said of last week’s improvement. “Some could have gone both ways, but we put some other kids on the field and we were still successful. We have a roster in place where we can get a lot of kids on the field and give them a chance to perform and be productive for our team.”

Burnett said some players eventually would play some on both offense and defense later in the season as the weather continues to cool.

In last week’s 42-13 win over Lorena, the China Spring defense also dominated. Like Brownwood last week, the China Spring defense forced three turnovers and converted all three into touchdowns. The turnovers included a fumble recovery by nose guard Blake Barrett and an interception by sophomore linebacker Tre Hafford that helped the Cougars take an early 14-0 lead.

China Spring defensive end D’marian Alexander has logged 18 tackles, including three for losses, along with a blocked punt and a forced fumble in two games. Hafford had 10 tackles and a blocked punt against Benbrook while defensive back Dawson Exline had eight tackles and a fumble recovery against Lorena.

Brownwood’s offense was opportunistic last week, taking advantage of Greenwood turnovers to score on drives of 5, 8, 21 and 29 yards. But the Lions’ offense must be more productive than last week’s 184 total yards. Workhorse running back Royshad Henderson has been the most consistent Lion on offense with 225 yards on 46 carries so far. He ran for three touchdowns against Greenwood.

Sophomore Chance Jones made his first varsity start at quarterback last week. He finished 11-of-17 passing for 82 yards and a 10-yard score to Jason Jackson. Jones also ran for a touchdown.

“We want to see Chance continue to evolve as a varsity quarterback,” Burnett said. “We want him to be confident in his reads and take the opportunities to run. We want him to be more accurate with his passing and make his progressions and not get locked into one read.”

During his quarantine, Burnett continues to work from home by evaluating video, scheduling practice sessions and game planning. He can’t attend practices or games in person until at least Tuesday, Sept. 15.

“Without a doubt, this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in 27 years as a coach,” Burnett said of the quarantine. “It’s tough to be away from your football family -- the coaches and players. I’m struggling with that.

“But I have all the confidence in the world in our coaching staff. They have great experience. And our kids will play hard regardless of the situation.”