Brownwood Lions seek to correct miscues, stay undefeated at Greenwood

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood Lions running back Konlyn Anderson runs against the Lampasas Badgers defense in the first quarter Friday at Gordon Wood Stadium.

From a football coach's perspective, the Brownwood Lions enjoyed a perfect season opener with last week’s 58-55 win over the Lampasas Badgers.

The Lions won after trailing for much of the game, but the coaches had plenty of examples to show their players where they can improve and keep them grounded and humble heading into Friday’s 7 p.m. road game at the Midland Greenwood Rangers.

Brownwood failed to fair catch the first two pooch kickoffs by Lampasas, and the Badgers converted the two special teams’ miscues into a 14-0 lead less than four minutes into the game. Defensively, the Lions allowed 55 points, 576 total yards and seven touchdown passes by new Badgers quarterback Dylan Sanchez.

That’s plenty to improve on.

“We actually played pretty well on most of our special teams, but our kickoff returns were not good,” Brownwood head coach Sammy Burnett said this week. “We can’t let those pooch kicks hit the ground. We’ve got to fair catch them and not wait for someone else to come in and do it.”

As for Brownwood’s defense allowing seven touchdown passes – some to wide-open receivers – Burnett said, “They (Badgers) released the running back several times, and they put some double moves on our safeties and cornerbacks. We have to get more pressure on the passer. We can’t let him sit back there and pick us apart.”

There were plenty of good things about last week’s win over Lampasas, starting with Junior Martinez. The sophomore kicker kicked three field goals, including two in the fourth quarter, and scored 16 points. He calmly kicked the game-winning 21-yard field goal as time expired.

The Brownwood Lions prepare to kick off against Midland Greenwood on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood.

“Without Junior, we definitely don’t win that game. It’s as simple as that,” Burnett said.

The Lions also amassed 576 total yards, including 387 rushing and a 7.2 yard-per-carry average. Workhorse junior Konlyn Anderson ran 36 times for 279 yards and three touchdowns, and backup Jaylon Brown added 53 yards on nine carries. Quarterback Chance Jones ran for two TDs, and he also passed for 189 yards and two scores to Thad Hinds and Jason Jackson.

The offensive line of third-year starter Ethan Pesina, fellow seniors Alex Reyna and Brandon Still, along with juniors Slayde Espinoza and Damian Sanchez deserve much of the credit for Brownwood’s offensive success last week – especially the 387 yards rushing.

“Our O-Line is the heartbeat of our team,” Burnett said. “I’ve said many times that we go as they go. They allow us to keep the chains moving.

“We ran the football well, and we have to establish the run if we want to be successful with our play-action and drop-back passes. Our offense being able to continually put points on the scoreboard was the difference in that game.”

Brownwood's Royshad Henderson walks away from the end zone after scoring a first-quarter touchdown against Midland Greenwood at Gordon Wood Stadium Friday night.

Now the challenge for the Class 4A DI Lions is to make the 200-mile bus ride west and beat the 4A DII Midland Greenwood Rangers. Greenwood is 0-1 after last week’s 16-7 loss to 4A DII Lubbock Estacado. This week’s game starts 30 minutes earlier than normal at 7 p.m. at Greenwood’s J.M. King Memorial Stadium.

While the Lions racked up 58 points last week, the Rangers struggled on offense, finishing with just 67 yards rushing on 29 carries and 171 yards overall. Greenwood’s lone touchdown came when Zane Ogle picked up a fumble by teammate Cade Carrell and ran the final 6 yards to the end zone.

Greenwood has long been a running team with the quarterback under center most of the time. Burnett said the Rangers are in the shotgun more and throwing more, but they haven’t forgotten about the run.

Aaron Fikes, the Rangers’ top running back, gained 66 yards on 18 carries against Estacado. However, he was stopped for a 5-yard loss on fourth-and-1 near midfield with 3:20 left to play.

Ty Flowers is back at quarterback after starting last season as a sophomore. Flowers was 15-of-23 passing for 104 yards against Estacado. Carrell, Rance Purser and Tatum Pierce combined for 12 receptions last week for Greenwood.

“They’re in more of a spread look, and they’re throwing it a lot more than they used to,” Burnett said of the Rangers. “But they’re still running a lot of their two-back running plays out of the shotgun.”

Defensively, the Rangers allowed Estacado 372 total yards – 223 rushing and 149 passing. The Matadors lost three turnovers.

“Their defense held a good Estacado team to 16 points,” Burnett said of Greenwood. “Their run defense will challenge our desire to run the ball. They have some good guys up front. We have to be dominant again with our O-Line.”

Burnett missed last year’s 35-15 Brownwood win over Greenwood while in COVID quarantine. In that game, the Lions converted three Ranger turnovers into short touchdown drives of 21, 5 and 29 yards. Brownwood squeezed 35 points out of 184 total yards, including a scoring run by Jones and a scoring pass from Jones to Jackson. The Lions’ defense limited the Rangers to 178 total yards.