Brookesmith Mustangs aim to repeat as district champs

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
Brookesmith’s Johnathan Willoughby breaks away for yardage against Blanket in a 2019 game.

New Brookesmith football coach Todd Lawdermilk realizes numbers are an issue, but there’s enough talent and experience on hand for the Mustangs to extend their playoff streak to six straight seasons.

Much of Lawdermilk’s optimism is based on the return of senior Avery Williford, a senior who last year averaged right at 200 yards rushing per game and scored more than 30 touchdowns. The 6-foot, 185-pound Williford also averaged 14 tackles per game on defense and 36 yards per punt on special teams.

“I was hired in late May, and I met the players the last week of school,” Lawdermilk said. “We’ve been together pretty much every day since the start of July. I see a lot of potential talent. I think we have a good shot at repeating as district champs or at least being right there with a chance.

“We’ve got to stay healthy. We’ll probably have nine or 10 kids total.”

The Mustangs finished 7-3 last year and beat Blanket 68-52 for the District 15-1A Division II championship — their first district title since 1985 — as Williford rushed for 218 yards and three touchdowns and also scored on a 77-yard kickoff return. Brookesmith lost 80-30 to Cherokee in bidistrict – marking the fifth straight season for the Mustangs to lose in the opening round of the playoffs.

“Four of our eight returning players from last year are seniors, and we want to send them out on a good run in the playoffs,” Lawdermilk said. “I know we’re in a tough region with Richland Springs and Calvert and Oakwood and Blanket. But we’d still like to be playing at Thanksgiving. It would be great if our Thanksgiving dinner was a team meal.”

Blanket is picked as a slight favorite over Brookesmith in this year’s District 15-1A DII race, with Sidney rated as a looming threat. Rising Star and Panther Creek complete the five-team district.

Brookesmith hopes to continue its offensive momentum from last year, when the Mustangs scored 54 points or more in six of nine on-the-field games. In addition to Williford, the offense will include 6-1 senior Grant Featherston at end, along with junior Kyler Cantu, a move-in addition since last season.

Conner Heard, another senior, figures to play at center, end or fullback. Landon Slayton, a 6-3, 300-pound freshman, is another possibility at center.

Senior Tristen Slayton opened preseason practices at quarterback, but he may move to fullback if Trey Tost, a 5-10, 150-pound sophomore, can take over at quarterback. Freshman Blazon Walker is another backfield option, and Brenden Been, a 5-10, 280-pound sophomore, will help in the line.

Defensively, the Mustangs are looking to improve a unit that last year allowed 44 points per game, including 80 points in the bidistrict loss to Cherokee. Williford leads the Brookesmith defense from his middle linebacker position, and Featherston and Cantu are the projected starters at outside linebacker.

Tristen Slayton, who averaged 11 tackles per game last year, will play at linebacker or safety. Tost can also play safety. Heard and Walker are the projected starters at defensive end. Been and Landon Slayton will add size to the line in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

Brookesmith’s nondistrict schedule includes five teams – Strawn, Blackwell, Evant, Santa Anna, and Veribest – that last year combined for a 33-18 record.

Lawdermilk, a native of Mertzon, has coached for 22 years in both six-man and 11-man. His six-man head-coaching stops include Lohn, Veribest, Hart and Dell City.

“It’s still about blocking, tackling, and reading your keys,” Lawdermilk said of the differences between six-man and 11-man football. “The biggest difference is on offense. Linemen are eligible pass receivers, and with fewer players on the field, there’s a lot more open space.”

2021 Brookesmith football schedule

Date                Opponent                               Time

Aug. 27           Veribest                                  7:30 p.m.

Sept. 3             at Strawn                                 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 10           Evant                                       7:30 p.m.

Sept. 17           Santa Anna                              7:30 p.m.

Sept. 25           at Blackwell                          7:30 p.m.

Oct. 1              at Bluff Dale                           7:30 p.m.

Oct. 8              Open

Oct. 15            at Panther Creek*                   7:30 p.m.

Oct. 22            RisingStar*                             7:30 p.m.

Oct. 29            at Blanket*                              7:30 p.m.

Nov. 5             Sidney*                                   7:30 p.m.

*District 15-1A Division II games