State 7-on-7 roundup
A notebook from this weekend's state 7-on-7 tournament
Seven Lakes tops Whitehouse, claims DI title
If you thought a state power like Allen or Cedar Hill or Katy was going to come away with the state 7-on-7 Division I title, you thought wrong.
Katy Seven Lakes, which was flying below everyone’s radar, was the hottest time in the tourney, taking down A&M Consolidated, Wichita Falls, Hutto and Manvel before pummeling Whitehouse in the championship game, 42-25.
“I felt great about the team today. We persevered through the heat and showed what we could do as a team,” said Seven Lakes athlete Braeden West. “We have a great team and great athletes all around. Nobody gave up. We all stuck together.”
West was the star of the tournament for the Spartans. A natural running back, West lined up at wide receiver for Seven Lakes during the tournament and was virtually unstoppable. West made numerous acrobatic catches and was simply faster than every defensive back he faced.
The title game was actually a tight contest until West scored twice and led Seven Lakes on a 21-6 run in the second half. West believes the success he and his team experienced in College Station will equate to victories in the fall.
“I really think this is going to transition to the field this season. I think we showed people what we could do, and it should be really fun,” West said. “Hopefully, we can win a state championship in the real season too.”
Seven Lakes is coming off a 6-4 season but returns seven starters on both sides of the ball.
While Whitehouse’s hearts were heavy with disappointment, the Wildcats had a remarkable run in the tournament. Led by defensive backs Justin Dunning, a Texas A&M commit, and Nate Brooks, a North Texas commit, Whitehouse stymied its opponents.
“We built good team chemistry. (7-on-7) helps us DBs with our technique. It’ll help the offense continue to improve as a unit,” Brooks said. “Everybody is sleeping on us because we’re after Pat (Mahomes), but we’re going to shock a lot of people. I’m hoping we can win district and make it to the fourth or fifth round.”
Graham takes down Prestonwood in DII thriller
Graham is no stranger to the 7-on-7 Division II state title game. The Steers fell to Celina in 2012 before bouncing back with a win over Argyle a year ago.
Often times, experience makes all the difference. And it did for Graham this weekend as the Steers topped Prestonwood, one of the top private schools in the state, 47-45.
“It’s been a long day, and we worked really hard. We came out with the same enthusiasm as we did in the first game of the tournament,” said Graham quarterback Landry Turner. “We did what we needed to do to get the win, and it was a fun one for sure. It was a good run.”
Despite not having star defensive back Mike Freeze, a TCU commit, available, Graham made a couple of key defensive plays late, including stopping Prestonwood’s 2-point conversion as time expired.
Turner, a transfer from Springtown, made some solid throws in tight windows and helped the Steers roll on offense. But he was quick to give his defense credit.
“We have to give props to our defense because they’re one of the best defenses in the state of Texas for sure,” Turner said. “Mike Freeze is a big influence to our team. Not having him here was a difficult situation, but we overcame that, the heat and other tough teams.”
It was a tough one to swallow for Prestonwood, but the Lions should be fine this season. Prestonwood has athletes galore on both sides of the ball including wide receiver Michael Irvin Jr., whose father is known simply as “The Playmaker.”
Cramps got the best of Irvin in the title game, but he made a big impact for his team in the tournament and should be one of the best private school players in the state in 2014.
“It was a great journey, but I didn’t pull through for my team when it mattered. But I feel like this is going to make us stronger,” Irvin said. “I expect us to win this season, and I expect to improve from last season and keep improving.”
- One of the biggest surprises of the tournament was Cedar Hill getting bounced in the first round of the consolation bracket. The Longhorns struggled from the get go, falling to Cy Creek in their pool opener. Even with all the FBS on the field, Cedar Hill just couldn’t put it together.
- The most impressive team not to win a state title was Manvel. The Mavericks steamrolled over Cy Creek, Arlington Bowie and Allen before falling to Seven Lakes in the semifinals. Manvel has a great secondary led by Deontay Anderson and Will Lockett and a talented junior quarterback in D’Eriq King.
- The player that really caught my attention was Manvel wide receiver Gary Haynes. The 5-foot-9 speed demon was perhaps the most elusive player in the tournament. Haynes did most of his damage coming out of the slot and made defenders miss left and right. Haynes holds offers from Houston and Louisiana-Lafayette, but his stock should rise soon.
- Allen quarterback and Texas A&M commit Kyler Murray had an up and down tournament. At times, he looked like the amazing talent he is, making unbelievably accurate passes. But other times, he threw some awful interceptions. Murray and Allen’s run came to an end against Manvel in the quarterfinals.
- Fellow Dallas-area quarterback Chason Virgil was very impressive. The West Mesquite field general showed poise in the pocket and has a very quick release. But it’s not just about his physical tools, Virgil’s demeanor and swagger helps lift his teammates. Expect big things from him this year.
- Virgil’s West Mesquite team fell in the first round to Hutto. The Hippos came away with a one point victory thanks to Rice commit Brandon Douglas, who made plays on both sides of the ball. The Owls like him as a defensive back and got an absolute steal. Douglas and Hutto fell in the quarterfinals to Seven Lakes.
- Despite being known as a run-heavy team, Katy made its way to the quarterfinals. Defensive back Collin Wilder, a Texas Tech commit, was the key cog of an opportunistic defense that came away with takeaway after takeway. And it should be noted the Tigers were without arguably their best player in Rodney Anderson.
- East Texas always produces pure athletes, and John Tyler’s team is filled with them. Take wide receiver Rodney Bendy — a 6-foot-4 monster, Bendy was impossible to cover 1-on-1. Fellow wide receiver Nick Cain was an absolute burner and defensive back Isaac Warren might be the most underappreciated defender in the state. CUJO Nation made a nice run to the quarterfinals before being ousted by Whitehouse.
- Celina was my pick to win the Division II championship, but the Bobcats fell short of expectations. While quarterback Nathan Elliott did everything he could to lead his team to victory, Celina lost a heartbreaker to Episcopal School of Dallas in the second round.
- Kaufman definitely deserves a round of applause. The Lions took down Gilmer after the Buckeyes got back Kris Boyd from The Opening and shut down Tobyn Tannehill and Big Spring en route to an appearance in the semifinals. But Kaufman just couldn’t get it going against Graham.
EJ Holland is the associate editor of Dave Campbell's Texas Football and TexasFootball.com.
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