Brownwood closes out nondistrict schedule with test against Abilene Wylie

Mike Lee
Special to the Bulletin
Wylie running back Trey Gomez (22) extends for extra yards as Brownwood’s Zaiden Lopez (50) wraps him up during Friday’s game at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood on Sept. 25, 2020. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to open their year while the Lions fell to 2-3.

The Brownwood Lions don’t plan any changes to their approach for their only Class 5A opponent of the regular season.

Class 4A Brownwood – 2-2 so far against 4A opponents Lampasas, Midland Greenwood, China Spring and Burnet – play at 5A Division II Abilene Wylie at 7 p.m. Friday. The Bulldogs are 1-3, with a win over 5A Lubbock Monterey and losses to 5A Burleson, 5A Abilene Cooper and 4A Stephenville.

“We plan to do what we can to run it and pound the football,” fourth-year Brownwood coach Sammy Burnett said. “We want to keep the game close and try to wear them down in the fourth quarter. Our MO (modus operandi) doesn’t change, even though Wylie has more players and bigger players than we have. We’re usually smaller than our opponents every week, anyway.”

That means Wylie figures to see plenty of Brownwood junior Konlyn Anderson, who leads the Abilene Big Country area with 823 yards rushing and has scored six touchdowns. The workhorse running back is averaging 30 carries and 205 yards per game.

Brownwood running back Konlyn Anderson approaches the sideline after scoring a touchdown against Burnet on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021.

Wylie also figures to see a lot of Jason Jackson, who played both offense at receiver and defense at cornerback last week because of injuries. Jackson leads Brownwood in receiving with 15 catches for 234 yards and three TDs.

Additionally, Wylie should see a lot of Brownwood linemen Ethan Pesina, Slayde Espinoza and Alex Reyna, who also played on offense and defense last week because of injuries.

“We put those kids on the field both ways last week and let them grind it out,” Burnett said. “We felt like we had to do that to be successful.”

Brownwood quarterback Chance Jones (9) lets go of a pass during Friday’s game against Wylie at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood on Sept. 25, 2020. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to open their year while the Lions fell to 2-3.

Speaking of injuries, the Lions hope cornerback Case Markham returns this week from a concussion. Other Lions are questionable to hopeful, including linebacker Taylor Bessent, lineman Zaiden Lopez and linebacker Brandon Holland. Lineman Roan Aguinaga has been out with COVID.

While the Lions are averaging 279 yards rushing per game behind Anderson, they need more consistency from their passing game, which is averaging 122 yards per start. Chance Jones has passed for six touchdowns and no interceptions, but the junior quarterback is completing just 44% of his pass attempts. A key component to Burnett’s run-first offensive philosophy is to set up the passing game.

Defensively, the Lions performed better during last week’s 31-26 win over Burnet, which scored one of its touchdowns on a punt return. Burnet finished with 341 total yards, but for the season, Brownwood’s defense is allowing 39.7 points and 441 yards per game.

Wylie's Noah Beach (32) tries to get around Brownwood's Cade Jetton (22) during Friday’s game at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood on Sept. 25, 2020. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to open their year while the Lions fell to 2-3.

The Lions’ leading tacklers this season are linebackers Dryden Anderson with 39, Jaylon Brown with 31 and Quentin Thompson with 30.

Friday’s game is the final nondistrict tune-up before Brownwood opens District 5-4A Division I play Oct. 8 against Midlothian Heritage.

“We’d like to see our kids playing with more confidence going into district,” Burnett said. “We need to see more growth and development in our execution. And we must cut down on the penalties.”

The Lions are averaging nine penalties for 82 yards per game so far.

“Some of those penalties we’re getting, we’ve watched the film and we’re still trying to find them,” Burnett said. “I don’t know if a lack of officials has led to us getting more inexperienced officials, but they seem to be flag happy this year.

“In years past, you couldn’t get them to throw a flag.”

Brownwood's Tyler Tiner (70) wraps up Wylie running back Noah Beach (32) during Friday’s game at Gordon Wood Stadium in Brownwood on Sept. 25, 2020. The Bulldogs won 28-7 to open their year while the Lions fell to 2-3.

Wylie’s season has been a mixed bag so far. The Bulldogs beat 5A DI Lubbock Monterey 30-22, but lost to 5A DII Burleson 42-3. Wylie also dropped a 30-24 decision to crosstown opponent Abilene Cooper, a 5A DI program. Last week, the Bulldogs were routed 37-7 by Stephenville, the No. 5-ranked team in 4A DI and a member of Brownwood’s district.

“They’ve played good teams. There haven’t been any pushovers on their schedule,” Burnett said of Wylie. “They’re extremely large in their offensive and defensive lines, and they have big running backs and tall receivers. They look like a 5A team.”

Wylie’s size starts with defensive tackle X’Zavier Collins, a 6-foot-3, 300-pounder that controls the middle of the Bulldogs’ defensive front.

Wylie rushed for 221 yards against Monterey, but only 21 yards against Abilene Cooper. Quarterback Aiden Kincaid has completed 52 percent of his passes for 553 yards and three touchdowns so far. His top receivers have been J.T. Thompson and 6-foot-4 Harrison Heighten. Against Cooper, Height caught seven passes for 106 yards while Thompson had seven catches for 96 yards.

Josh Carpenter averages 5.8 yards per carry with 240 yards and four TDs so far. He had scoring runs of 26 and 45 yards against Monterey. Also, Wylie’s Grayson Bearden kicked a 55-yard field goal against Cooper.

“Wylie always uses a lot of formations, but overall, they’re going to pound the ball and throw when they have to,” Burnett said of Wylie. “We feel like if we can stop the run, we can beat them.”