Does 7-on-7 success predict Texas high school football championships?

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The 2022 Texas State 7-on-7 Tournament kicks off Thursday in College Station, as 128 teams representing high schools from all corners of Texas descend upon Aggieland for three days of high-octane passing league action. As much fun as the tournament will be — which you can stream live on Texan Live — there's always a lingering question, especially from detractors: what, exactly, does it mean?

Of course, nobody would suggest that winning 7-on-7 is as meaningful or special as winning a state championship in the fall; they're totally separate accomplishments. But how meaningful is success in 7-on-7? Can passing league success portend a successful fall season?

The answer is complicated, but in short: winning at 7-on-7 has a high (but not perfect) correlation to winning during the Texas high school football season.

What's the evidence behind this? Let's dive in, but first: a bit of history.

There have been three distinct eras of 7-on-7 in Texas. The first era, from its birth in 1998 until 2006 is the One-Division Era — that is, all teams competed together in one division, with one state champion. The second era, stretching from 2007 until 2017, is the Two-Division Era — the larger schools (Class 6A and 5A) competed in Division I, while everyone else (Class 4A and below, plus private schools) competed in Division II. The third and current era, which started in 2018, is the Three-Division Era — Division I for 6A, 5A and large private schools; Division II for 4A, 3A Division I and small private schools; and Division III for 3A Division II down through 1A. A total of 64 teams quailify in Division I, and 32 teams qualify in both Division II and Division III. For the purposes of this study, we're going to focus on the Three-Division Era, which is now three tournaments old: 2018, 2019 and 2021 (the 2020 tournament was canceled).

7-on-7 State Finalists Win More Than 10 Games On Average In The Fall

There have been 18 teams that have advanced to a State 7-on-7 championship game in the past three tournaments. How did they fare when the fall season rolled around? Pretty darn well.

Year 7-on-7 Finalist Season Record Season Playoff Result
2021 Hebron (5-6) 6A DI bi-district
2021 Lake Travis (12-3) 6A DI semifinal
2021 Kaufman (8-4) 4A DI area
2021 Argyle (11-2) 4A DI regional semifinal
2021 East Bernard (9-3) 3A DII area
2021 Childress (9-1) 3A DII bi-district
2019 A&M Consolidated (11-1) 5A DII area
2019 Southlake Carroll (13-1) 6A DI regional final
2019 Sunnyvale (12-1) 4A DII regional semifinal
2019 Pleasant Grove (15-1) 4A DII state champ
2019 Poth (11-2) 3A DII regional semifinal
2019 Crane (9-3) 3A DII area
2018 College Station (9-3) 5A DI area
2018 A&M Consolidated (10-2) 5A DII area
2018 Midlothian Heritage (11-2) 4A DI regional semifinal
2018 Pleasant Grove (13-3) 4A DII state final
2018 Gunter (14-1) 3A DII state semifinal
2018 Palmer (7-3) 3A DII bi-district

The results are pretty overwhelming. Of note in this data:

-Every 7-on-7 finalist — all 18 of them — made the playoffs
-15 of the 18 7-on-7 finalists won at least one playoff game
-The 18 7-on-7 finalists averaged 10.5 wins on average
-17 of the 18 7-on-7 finalists finished with a winning record

In fact, the 7-on-7 finalists had an .818 winning percentage in the fall, and you have to go back to 2014 to find a team (Whitehouse) that played for a state 7-on-7 championship that failed to make the playoffs in the fall.

Almost Half of the State Semifinalists Qualified for State 7-on-7 in 2021

That's looking at teams that performed well at 7-on-7; what if we take the inverse? Let's take a look at the 40 state semifinalists from the 2021 Texas high school football season and see how many of them were in College Station months before their deep playoff run.

2021 State Semifinalists that Qualified for 2021 State 7-on-7 (18): Albany, Austin LBJ, Austin Westlake, Celina, China Spring, College Station, Cuero, Denton Guyer, Falls City, Franklin, Gunter, Hawley, Lake Travis, Lorena, Southlake Carroll, Stratford, Tyler Chapel Hill, Waskom

2021 State Semifinalists that Did Not Qualify for 2021 State 7-on-7 (22): Brock, CC Flour Bluff, Crosby, Duncanville, Gilmer, Katy, Katy Paetow, Lago Vista, Liberty Hill, Lubbock Roosevelt, Lubbock-Cooper, Mansfield Summit, Marlin, Mart, Mount Vernon, North Shore, Shiner, South Oak Cliff, Stephenville, Timpson, Tomball, Wichita Falls Hirschi

Of course, even this is a bit misleading, because not every program participates in 7-on-7. It's difficult to tell which teams do and do not field a 7-on-7 team, but consider this: of the 22 state semifinalists that did not go to College Station last summer, ten of them have never qualified for State 7-on-7 — Katy Paetow, Liberty Hill, Lubbock Roosevelt, Lubbock-Cooper, Mart, Mount Vernon, Galena Park North Shore, Shiner, South Oak Cliff and Timpson. This can be for a myriad of reasons: for some like Galena Park North Shore, playing in state qualifying tournaments is not a priority; for others like Lubbock Roosevelt, their run-based scheme is not conducive to a passing league.

The teams we see in College Station at the State 7-on-7 tournament this weekend are not guaranteed to be successful in the fall, but history suggests that we keep our eye on them when toe meets leather in August.


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