BROWNWOOD LIONS - THE RETURN OF STEHL
By mark rogers
August 2, 2011
Every football coach wants it.
Every dad has visions of grandeur of it. The only problem is, most dads and moms (or whoever has naming responsibility) don't have the guts to pull the trigger to make it happen.
What am I talking about?
A tough-nosed, gritty, hard-working, super athlete named....Stehl Ratliff. Yes. The greatest football name that has ever existed.
A better name than Dick Butkus, Boss or Champ Bailey, Sirr Parker, or Mean Joe Green.
He's the running back for the Brownwood Lions who will anchor a running attack that might just send the Lions to another deep state title run.
In 2010, the Brownwood Lions missed out on playing for their 8th state championship by a mere 7 points. Carthage was the hurdle that finally tripped up the previously perfect Lions (14-0 going in to the semi-final game) beating Brownwood 35-28.
If the Lions were going to win a state title in this era, last year was their only chance...right? After all, they lost Graylon Brown, a seasoned QB, and Jaxon Shipley, a star receiver that will most likely see the field at Texas next year, to graduation.
Check out this ridiculous, video game-esque punt return for a little refresher on the type of player Shipley is.
They also graduated 17 other senior starters. Makes sense to think that last year was the year. This year the roster will be scattered with too many unknowns and too much inexperience. Right?
The good news about winning 14 games by an average score of 55-15 is that since the games are pretty much over 20 minutes in, the backups get a lot of quality minutes. You may argue that those minutes were "garbage" minutes and weren't productive, but any time a sophomore or junior can get out under those Friday night game lights and play real minutes is enormously beneficial.
As much as coaches try to simulate game speed and atmosphere in practice and scrimmages, NOTHING can substitute for Friday nights in the fall...nothing.
So even if the backups last year were playing against lesser opponents who already had their tails tucked, at least they were on the field....and that's half the battle of getting experience.
Another positive thing about the Lions this year is that no one expects them to do what they did last year. The expectation is "well, they had a great run, lost their star power, so making the playoffs this year will be a solid year." So the pressure is off. And that's huge.
But I can guarantee you that just making the playoffs is not the Lions' goal for 2011. The goal is to get back to the state semi-finals, win, then win the next one and bring home that elusive 8th title.
Besides gaining quality experience late in games last year and the pressure factor, here's how they're going to make a run:
Unless he gets injured, Mitch Stephens will be the stating QB. A solid athlete who has a good deal of game smarts.
The aforementioned Stehl Ratliff is coming back at running back. And if you think his name is the best thing about him (and, I know, it's the coolest football name...EVER), it pales in comparison to the kid's athletic ability.
Know what he does in the football off-season? Oh...not much...just pole vaults competitively. Do you know what kinds of athletes high school and college coaches pick to be the pole vaulters? Don't know?
Just go look at the pole vaulter table in the lunch room. It's the table with the freakishly gifted athletes who can do kip-ups from the floor, have vertical jumps around the 40-inch range, have somewhere between 2 and 4 % body fat (depending on gender), can leap tall buildings in a single bound, and are better athletes than you.
THOSE are the pole vaulters. And that's the kind of athlete Ratliff is. He really has no choice being a relative of Jordan and Jaxon Shipley.
There probably isn't a high school team in the nation that wouldn't want a guy like Stehl Ratliff on the roster (even if his name was Frank Smith).
But we're not done there. Recognize the name Kenny Vaccaro? That's right, he's the freshman who made a big impact on special teams for the Texas Longhorns last year. A ball hawk with a killer instinct, his little brother, Kevin will start at safety for Brownwood.
Check him out here. He's an impressive football player and has a grey shirt offer from UT on the table.
Add all those ingredients together and it doesn't matter what kind of district they're in or who they might play in the playoffs, the Brownwood Lions will be contenders, serious contenders, in 2011 and will be just as fun to watch as that 2010 crew.
And after all, you can't be named Stehl Ratliff and NOT play championship football. That just doesn't make sense.
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