Seeking just their second trip to the 7-on-7 state tournament, and first since 2001, the Early Longhorns posted a 1-2 record Friday at the Brownwood qualifier.
The Longhorns knocked off defending 7-on-7 Division II state champion Graham, 46-34, however, Early needed to defeat either Fort Stockton or Breckenridge to advance out of pool play. The Longhorns were dealt a 26-19 loss by Fort Stockton, then dropped a 38-34 decision to pool winner Breckenridge.
Still, the win over Graham — which had already clinched a berth to College Station next week — provided the Longhorns with a boost to close out 7-on-7 competition.
“That's a big win for anybody, but for us that was a great way to finish the day,” said Early head coach Blake Sandford, who observed Friday's action. “Against Fort Stockton and Breckenridge we battled and we had our chances, we just came up short. But the kids were tough, they competed hard. After those two close games, in the third one they came out with a renewed sense of energy and got after them.”
With the 7-on-7 season over for the Longhorns, just over a month remains until the start of preseason football practice.
“7-on-7 is a portion of our offense, it's not all of our offense, but this portion that we did, we threw and caught the ball well and had some good defensive stops,” Sandford said. “Any thing we can do that's extra, above and beyond what we normally do, is obviously going to help us. Our take on it is we got better at the game of football and that's what we intended to do.”
Breckenridge went on to fall against Glen Rose in the state qualifying round, while McGregor knocked off Llano to earn the second state berth from the Brownwood tournament.