The College Station Cougars lifted the Division I Adidas 7-on-7 State Championship belt on Saturday in front of a home crowd as they defeated crosstown rival A&M Consolidated 20-19.
A&M Consolidated quarterback Gage Pahl connected with Devin Price for a touchdown, bringing the Tigers within one with just over five minutes remaining. Pahl was then called for a four-second violation on the extra point attempt and the Panthers regained possession, leading 20-19.
The Tigers forced a four-and-out giving them the ball back with two minutes left. However, their attempt at a comeback proved fruitless after another four-and-out allowed the Panthers to drain the remaining ticks on the clock.
The win gave College Station their first 7-on-7 state championship, following up their 5A DII State Championship in the fall. This title came with a team comprised mostly of new players. College Station quarterback Blake Bayliss said it was vital that the inexperienced team come out and prove themselves ahead of the fall season.
“It was so important for us to come out here and win this because despite losing a lot of players, we had people step up that really haven’t been in a situation like this and they played great,” Bayliss said. “We fought hard and it was awesome to see people play to their hardest that really haven’t gotten a chance yet.”
One of the players who hasn’t gotten his chance yet was Bayliss himself, who has yet to start a varsity game. Marquez Perez, who ran the show at quarterback in last year’s 5A DII state championship, graduated high school.
“It was huge for him to step up like that. We needed a quarterback with Brandon [Williams] shoulder injured so we came to Blake,” receiver Zachary Williams said. “He stepped up really nice, threw some good balls and got us out on top.”
The championship game marked the fifth game of the day for both teams and though Bayliss admitted that his team was exhausted in the final game, he recognized that playing in front of a home crowd catalyzed his team’s energy level.
“It was awesome, it was like everyone in College Station was here surrounding the field and it was awesome to have loud fans,” Bayliss said. “I love playing in front of so many people, it gets me hyped.”
The College Station crowd was especially loud when Williams made a phenomenal catch on a corner route in the back corner of the end zone just seconds before halftime. The Bayliss-Williams connection proved lethal in the game as the duo connected for two touchdowns.
“We work with each other all the time and our connection is getting so much better on the field. I know where he’s going to be and I think that’s really important going into the fall,” Bayliss said.
With two state championships won, the Cougars now set their sights on repeating as the state champion in the fall and Bayliss is confident they’ll be able to pull it off.
“I think we definetly have a shot to repeat. This team is a gritty team and we know what it’s going to take to get the job done this year,” Bayliss said.