Whose stock is up or down following the State 7-on-7 Tournament?
DCTF'S HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL INSIDER ASSESSES THE PERFORMANCES IN COLLEGE STATION, AND WHAT THEY MAY SIGNAL ABOUT THIS FALL
The 2017 Texas 7-on-7 State Championships are in the book, and after another great weekend of competition we decided to take a look at a few teams whose stock may be rising or falling based on our last glimpse of them before fall practices start.
Stock On The Rise
Texarkana Pleasant Grove: The Hawks made a nice showing in their first ever State 7-on-7 Tournament, advancing all the way to the quarterfinals. Although the offensive system they run doesn’t necessarily translate to 7-on-7 (PGHS is a Wing-T based offense), the Pleasant Grove defense not only passed the eyeball test, but they also performed at a high level, including their most impressive effort — a 39-14 win over Lubbock Estacado in the Round of 16. The Hawks broke through a year ago (advancing to the third round), and they could be poised for bigger and better things after a very strong summer.
Longview: Staying out in East Texas, Longview had no troubles navigating the “Pool of Death,” going 3-0 on Friday behind a dominant defense that has shown a knack for snagging turnovers all summer. The Lobos lost a late lead against Clear Brook in their opening game Saturday, and Brook hauled off and advanced all the way to the semifinals. The Lobos offense will rely heavily on the running game, but if their defensive front can take a step forward, they have a secondary that could emerge as a truly elite unit that will rival any in the state. The Lobos are still relatively young as several juniors and sophomores could see action, but this is a team that made a statement this weekend.
San Angelo Central: Don’t expect the Angry Orange to take as big a step back as many thought they might this offseason. Junior QB Maverick McIvor and the offense were outstanding all weekend as the Bobcats got to the winners bracket for the first time, and the secondary looks to be much more athletic as well. San Angelo won’t be the clear state title contender they were a year ago, but they are still going to be formidable and could be better in 2017 than we thought at first glance.
Cypress Creek: The Cougars return seven starters on both sides of the ball from a team that went 5-5 a year ago and they put together a really strong showing over the weekend, advancing to the Round of 16 before falling to College Station by a touchdown. QB Mateo Renteria and WR Miles Battle could be one of the state’s top passing combinations in the state in 2017.
Clear Brook: Clear Brook broke through last year with a run to the third round of the playoffs and they kept up their winning ways over the weekend, going 5-2, losing only to Lake Travis in pool play and dropping their semi-final to Waxahachie. WR Caleb Chapman may be one of the state’s most underrated players, and the supporting cast looks to be just as tough as last year. Could the Wolverines be a Region III sleeper in the fall after a surprise playoff run in 2016?
A&M Consolidated: Many statewide have dismissed A&M Consolidated as “the other school” in College Station, as College Station High has ascended to statewide power status. However, could the Lee Fedora Effect be in play? Consolidated rolled to the semifinals on Saturday with a dynamic offense and a swarming, ball hawking defense that had four interceptions in their quarterfinal win over College Station. Fedora, who has won a pair of state titles, is one of the state’s most respected head coaches and he’s a bit rejuvenated after taking last year off. I think the demise of the Tigers being a solid program is greatly exaggerated and I am confident this will be another very good year for both schools in town.
The Jury Is Out
Lake Travis: I don’t know if Lake Travis’ impressive performance is going to change my opinion on the Cavs in 2017 just yet. I still think this is a Top 10 team, but I’m not moving them up based on the title they won Saturday. We all knew Garrett Wilson was tremendous (and he exceeded expectations) and quarterback Matt Baldwin is more than capable of leading the offense. What will tell me more about Lake Travis and their chances of a repeat will be how their defensive front seven (which was very underrated in 2016) performs, and obviously in 7-on-7 we can’t see that.
Waxahachie: Waxahachie takes 7-on-7 as seriously as anyone. The addition of the Sterns brothers (who moved in from Midlothian) has helped, and the experience of QB Bryce Salik gives Waxahachie plenty of optimism for a season of offensive fireworks. However, where Waxahachie has stumbled the last two years is on the defensive side of the ball, especially against teams who play a more physical brand of football. On the positive side, I think the Indians found a potential big-time outside weapon in WR Tevin Wofford, who had a huge tournament, but Wofford isn’t on the defensive front seven, and that’s where I think Waxahachie will need to improve if they want to put together a full season of consistent success. The past two years, they’ve had these one-off great games (like last year’s victory over eventual state champion Highland Park), but then subsequently they’ve had some struggles in district play and missed out on the playoffs.
Mercedes: For the second straight year, Mercedes had a big run in the consolation bracket. This year it was after the heartbreak of a 2-1 day one record, and losing out on a spot in the winners’ bracket on a tiebreaker. Overall the Tigers posted a 5-2 record and their offensive skill talent is as good as anyone in the Valley, but this team’s tale for 2017 will be told in the trenches. If Mercedes can improve there, they could be more apt to compete with teams like Calallen in in Region IV, but if they don’t, the strong 7-on-7 performance will simply be a nice footnote.
No Need to Panic Just Yet
Gilmer: Don’t make too much of the Buckeyes’ 1-4 effort over the weekend. Gilmer’s offense, led by Poppy Brown, was as sharp as ever, but the defense did have some struggles. That being said, Gilmer is still going to be integrating Aledo transfer Brannon Webb into the secondary and Gilmer traditionally doesn’t always fare well at State 7-on-7. Throw in the fact that the defensive line at Gilmer should be pretty good as well, and I wouldn’t be too concerned about the Buckeyes’ less-than-stellar showing over the weekend.
Celina: I would be a little concerned if I was a Celina fan after what can only be described as a disappointing 0-4 record over the weekend. Typically Celina dominates at the State 7-on-7 Tournament and is in contention for the title in most years, but 2017 was different. The Bobcats never looked in sync Thursday and didn’t handle adversity all that well, most notably in the loss to Abilene Wylie when it appeared the Bulldogs got under the Bobcats skin just a bit. That doesn’t usually happen, typically its Celina getting under the skin of their opponents with gritty play, flawless execution and players stepping up in big moments. It would be easy to speculate about all the reasons the Bobcats don’t look like themselves, but for now, the thing we’re certain about is it was a concerning performance.
DeSoto: It was a rough 2-3 weekend for DeSoto, who in most years is a lock to advance to the championship bracket. The good news is I thought the DeSoto defense looked more athletic (is that possible?) than last year, and they were flying around making plays, but the offense struggled throughout the weekend. Was it a bad weekend for the unit overall, or a sign that DeSoto may have to tailor their offense differently this year due to heavy graduation losses? I think we all knew DeSoto wouldn’t be the offensive juggernaut they were a year ago, the level of talent combined with senior leadership that was battle hardened from a tough 2015 made them a focused and determined group. Now that the Eagles have the state title burden lifted, will they have the same fire and intensity they had in 2016? That remains to be seen.
Matt Stepp is the Texas High School Football Inside for Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Find him on Twitter: @Matt_Stepp817.