By Raymond Linex II
— Legos for one child might lead to a castle. Another may take the same blocks and make an airplane.
The fun lies in the mixing and matching and building, and a change in play caller at Mildred hasn’t halted results.
Last year offensive coordinator Kevin Morton said he had “lots of toys in the toy box” as Mildred went 13-1 and finished a touchdown away from playing for a state title. Morton left for the top gig in Normangee, and William Braswell, the new play caller this year, does a few different things with the toys left, but he and the Eagles find themselves in the same position.
Mildred (12-1) faces Sonora (11-3) at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Marble Falls. The winner earns a date at Cowboys Stadium next Thursday in the Class 2A Division II state title game.
“This year we’ve changed terminology some, but it’s still a lot of Kevin’s terminology,” said Braswell, a former Corsicana assistant now in his third year at Mildred. It’s his first as offensive coordinator after taking over for Morton, who oversaw an offense that averaged 52.5 points per game in the regular season last year.
If you want to compare numbers, Braswell’s offense averaged 59.9, and he did so after losing an all-state wide receiver, another two-year starter and a 1,000-yard back. The common thread is a solid offensive line, and one of Class 2A’s top quarterbacks in Nic Shimonek.
With the running combo of Draylon Sterling (1,880 yards, 33 TDs) and Jeremy Ballard (617, 12) and a receiving corps now 13 games into the season together, he has a unit averaging 467.3 yards per game. The Eagles ramped up their no-huddle attack offense this fall.
“We’ve been really blessed with the kids we’ve had the last two years,” Braswell said.
Braswell had verbally agreed to the same post with Italy, which is still in the playoffs in 1A, but stayed at Mildred after Morton left and took the coordinator’s position. It was a beneficial move, head coach Patrick Harvell said.
“Coach Braswell was a big part of us instituting the no huddle system last year,” Harvell said. “Even though he didn’t call the plays, he was a big part of it, and we were able to keep that continuity when (Morton) left.”
There are some differences in the two play callers. Morton liked to set the run up with the pass, Braswell said. The run sets up the pass for Braswell.
Most important, for Harvell, is that Braswell continues his philosophy of being balanced. It’s a philosophy Braswell heard preached at all of his stops before Mildred.
“We try not to be one dimensional,” he said.
Last year, the Eagles ran the ball 55.7 percent of the time. This year, that number is up to 63.7, and Braswell understands Shimonek’s opportunities have been limited. In district, the Eagles set and re-set the school scoring record three times.
You’re not passing much in the second half in games like that.
And, he is a firm believer in another of Harvell’s approaches: From week to week, you take what the defense gives you.
“We don’t want to pound a square peg in a round hole,” Braswell said.
In the first two playoff games, Mildred averaged more than 350 yards a game on the ground, and threw for 102 a game. Last week, the Eagles threw for 208, and ran for 151.
Still, one notable difference between the offense this year compared to last is play-action passing and utilizing the running backs in the passing game.
“I can probably count on one hand, in all 14 games last year, how many times we ran a play fake,” Braswell said.
It paid dividends last week when the Eagles took advantage of aggressive safety play to hit 51- and 38-yard passes in the 45-35 win over Nocona.
Ballard also had a 53-yard touchdown catch off a screen, and he and Sterling have combined for 26 catches for 462 yards and six touchdowns. Last year, Mildred running backs had 12 catches for 153 yards and one score.
The toy box remains well-stocked.
“For me, it’s about trying to find the best way to utilize the talent we have,” Braswell said.