BRYSON, Texas — Heading into 2017, the district 12-1A DI title was thought to be possibly determined between Bryson and Newcastle.
Bryson was poised for a breakout season after a successful improvement from 6-5 in 2015 to 8-3 in 2016. Newcastle was entering this season seeking its eighth-straight district championship, some believing it was possible for the Bobcats to reload again.
Heading into the next to last week of the regular season, things are quite different.
Bryson looks to be the favorite to win a district title, while Newcastle has been knocked off its throne, and are in danger of missing the postseason. Emerging in their places are a pair of programs revitalized with first-year coaches. Derek Schlieve and Saint Jo were off to a hot start, but have fallen behind with an 0-2 district mark.
“We knew going into district, Newcastle would be down,” Bryson coach Jason Briles said. “They gave us all we could handle, but we took care of them early. With Saint Jo and Forestburg on the rise with new coaches and new energy, we didn’t know what to expect.”
Forestburg looks to be on pace to have one of its top regular season finishes in school history, under first year coach Tommy Tritz and with an explosive offense; the unit currently averages 59 points per game in seven wins.
Speaking of explosive offenses, Bryson’s breakout 2017 is indeed coming to fruition, led by an offense averaging 57.7 points per game. The Cowboys began the season taking a strong Milford team down to the wire, but dropping the contest by one. Bryson suffered a second setback against Borden County two weeks later, but snapped the Coyotes shutout streak in the contest.
“We had a plan last spring to toughen up our non-district schedule,” Briles said. “Going wire-to-wire with Milford really spoke volumes about how the kids have been preparing.”
Bryson is led by one of the more dynamic quarterbacks in six-man football this season with Brayden Houser. The senior signal-caller has wowed fans with a whopping 1,763 yards passing and 34 touchdowns on 98 completions. That’s without his 440 yards and eight scores on the ground.
“Brayden has been real reliable for us the past three years,” the coach said. “We can’t really run the offense the way we’d want to without him on the field. This year we have other guys that have been in the system too to help out.”
Those players include a steady stable of receivers for Houser to choose from. Namely Tristan Stephens (16 catches, 271 yards, seven TDs), Ethan Robinson (20 catches, 473 yards, seven TDs) and Paul Davidson (34 catches, 673 yards, 10 TDs). Robinson is also one of the top rushers for the Cowboys, recording 606 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Perhaps the most interesting unit to observe in this contest will be both defenses. The Cowboys and Longhorns units performed well enough to lead them to success this season. But with two dynamic offenses opposing each other, one team’s defense will need to bring their best performance of the season to get the win. Forestburg’s ‘D’ has allowed an average of 34.4 points per game in its wins, a number bumped up to 36.12 when factoring in the 48-0 loss to Strawon.
Bryson’s has allowed an average of 22.5 points per game; excluding the losses to Milford and Borden County, which shrinks this number down to 12.8.
“I’m sure it’ll be a tense buildup to the game,” Briles said. “There’d probably be some trash talk back and forth between the kids, which I wouldn’t condone of course, but they’re gonna have fun with it. They’re excited to play each other.”
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