7-on-7 Lions win two of three at Mineral Wells tournament


MINERAL WELLS – The Brownwood Lions picked up two wins in their first three 7-on-7 Division II state qualifier games at the Mineral Wells tournament Saturday, but missed opportunities offensively prevented the Lions a chance to advance to the semifinals and play for a 24th consecutive state tournament berth.

The Lions opened the tournament with a 26-21 victory over Burkburnett, as a late defensive stand sealed the win, then fell to Dumas 20-14 due to an inability to reach the end zone on the final four possessions. The tournament concluded with a 19-7 victory over Ponder for the Lions, as the defense did not allow a touchdown over the final six drives of the contest.

2-1 is a good start for us, of course there’s a lot of things we can grow from,” said Lions head football coach Sammy Burnett, who observed Saturday’s action. “7-on-7 is pretty simple and if you get stops defensively, you have to turn those into scores on offense. We played three worthy teams, we just didn’t get it done.”

The offense scored on 8 of 17 possessions – 47 percent – as Braeden Stacks and Rory McNeese platooned at the quarterback position, completing a combined 41 of 72 pass attempts with eight touchdowns and two interceptions. Stacks connected on 25 of 42 attempts with five scoring tosses while McNeese was 16 of 28 with three touchdowns and two picks.

What we told them before we got started is that if you go in for a series and score you get to stay, so the incentive is to go put us in the end zone and you’ll play as much as you want to play,” Burnett said. “I saw some good things and I saw some bad things. Both of them have totally different skill sets, they have their traits and we have to figure out what we can do to fix what’s not working for them and build more confidence with them. We also want to expand the playbook. We’re running the same certain plays when we have 60 to choose from, but tshat’ll come with time.”

The Lions receiving corps is the most experienced unit on the entire roster and displayed their abilities Saturday. Carson Noe led the way with 14 grabs and two touchdowns, Grant Gray caught eight passes and scored three times, Stone Ratliff and Aaron Edmonds both finished with seven receptions and a trip to the end zone, Levi Pearson caught three balls and scored once, and Tre Mosley and Kenyan McDowell each tallied a catch.

Grant Gray had a really nice day and it’s good for everybody to see he can go make some plays,” Burnett said. “We know we can depend on Carson Noe, Stone Ratliff went out with a banged up hip and played well and Aaron Edmonds is a disciplined that goes out there and plays hard and when the ball comes his way he makes plays. To have four guys that can get after it is big.”

Defensively, the Lions allowed touchdowns on seven of 18 opponent possessions – just 39 percent – and intercepted one pass each game – by McDowell, Noe and Noah Gonzalez, the lone starter returning in the secondary. Brownwood did not allow a point in the second half of the final two games.

They hustled well,” Burnett said of the defense. “Some of the frustrations for me comes from the fact that teams are running plays that are just 7-on-7 plays and we don’t put ourselves in a defense to stop that kind of stuff because that’s not what we’re going to do on a Friday night. Our ultimate goal is to be sound in what we do on Friday nights so sometimes we’re at a disadvantage, but they continue to play and make plays no matter where the ball is to get us off the field and give our offense a chance. They did that the last two games and offensively we have to score. We have the ability and we should score every time we have the ball and that’s the focal point for us right now.”

In the 26-21 win over Burkburnett, the Lions scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 45-yard wheel route from McNeese to Pearson. Burkburnett had a chance to steal the win in the final two minutes and advanced inside the Brownwood 10, where the Lions held for the final three snaps.

Against Dumas, the Lions led 14-6 early – finding the end zone on their first two series – but never scored again. Dumas rallied to take a 20-14 lead before the half, and never team lit up the scoreboard after the break.

In the Dumas game we had three stops and then we had three opportunities to go up and probably should have beat them by two touchdowns,” Burnett said. “We couldn’t move the chains and they wound up beating us.”

In the finale against Ponder, the Lions trailed 7-6 until a pick six by Noe, then Stacks connected with Ratliff for a touchdown and a 12-point lead just prior to the break. Again, neither team reached the end zone after halftime.

The Lions are back in action next weekend on their own home turf as they host the 16-team Brownwood state qualifier.

I want to see improvement on the offensive side of the ball,” Burnett said in regard to next weekend’s goals. “We have the ability to score with the four or five receivers on the field, including the running back. We should be able to dish it around enough, understand what people are doing coverage-wise, and pick teams apart. We didn’t have a bunch of dropped balls, we just didn’t execute the way we needed to and it starts with the quarterbacks.”