Saturday will serve as “take three” for the Brownwood Lions in their pursuit of a ninth straight trip to the 7-on-7 state tournament, while the Bangs Dragons enter the fray for the first time in 2007.
Both the Lions and Dragons comprise part of the 16-team field that will be competing at the Abilene state qualifying tournament, slated to take place at Abilene Christian University starting at 9 a.m. The two teams that advance to the championship game will earn berths in the 7-on-7 state tournament, which will be held July 13-14 at Texas A&M University in College Station.
The Lions — who won the Round Rock tournament in both 2005 and 2006 to qualify the opening weekend of the summer — are down to their last two chances to reach state. Brownwood also hosts its own qualifier on June 23.
“There’s no pressure and our ultimate goal isn’t to make it to A&M,” said Lions offensive and 7-on-7 coordinator Mitch Moore. “We’d like to qualify, but our main purpose in this is still to get better for the fall. If we continue to compete hard and play well, good things tend to happen.
“Nobody in this tournament has qualified for state, so every team will have the same goal.”
The Lions were seconds away from locking up a state berth last week at Lake Travis, but a deflected pass on the final play of their semifinals contest landed in the hands of a Round Rock McNeil receiver for the winning touchdown in a 41-36 Brownwood loss.
Aside from the final play, the Lions looked very solid in their first outing with the complete roster intact. Seven players were missing at the Round Rock qualifier as they were competing with the rest of the Brownwood baseball team in the Region II-4A baseball playoffs.
The Lions, who are 5-2 this summer, rolled to pool play victories over Mission (41-18) and Round Rock (37-22) — which had ended Brownwood’s string of 30 straight state qualifying tournament victories in pool play at the Round Rock qualifier. Brownwood also handed state tournament qualifier and tournament host Lake Travis (26-21) its first loss of the summer.
“Now that everybody has at least one tournament under their belt, I think you’re going to see a big difference this week,” Moore said. “We’re just now getting to the point where we usually are when we start 7-on-7 at the end of the school year. Due to different reasons we didn’t get off to the fastest start, but I fully expect us to qualify.”
Brownwood chalked up 35 points per game at Lake Travis, up significantly from the 20.7 points per game it put on the board in Round Rock. Defensively, the Lions are giving up 23.7 points per game this summer, though the 41 points scored by McNeil was a season high for the opposition.
Moore would like both aspects of the Lions’ game to show continued improvement again this week against an untested pool that includes the Wichita Falls Coyotes, the Midland Lee Rebels and the San Angelo Central Bobcats.
“One of the things we need to do is when we have an opportunity to go up by a couple of scores, we need to take advantage of that,” Moore said. “If we get a defensive stop, we need to turn around and get points out of it so we don’t have any more games that are up for grabs and could be decided by a lucky, or unlucky play.”
The Lions’ seven qualifying tournament games this summer are more than twice as many as the rest of the pool has combined to play. Wichita Falls is the only other team in the pool to take part in a tournament this summer.
The Coyotes posted an 0-3 record in their first tournament of the summer at Southlake Carroll last week, losing pool games to state-bound Stephenville (41-12) and Southlake Carroll (38-13), along with Sherman (27-20). Both Midland Lee and San Angelo Central are making their 7-on-7 summer debuts.
In the fall of 2006, Wichita Falls posted a 5-6 mark and advanced to the Division II-4A bi-district round of the playoffs; the Rebels were 5A Division II area finalists with a 5-7 overall mark; and the Bobcats went 6-6 and reached the area round in 5A Division I playoff action.
“Wichita Falls, we saw them last year in a scrimmage and with their spread offense, it’s like 7-on-7 for them year-round,” Moore said. “Midland Lee has a history of being a good program and we expect a tough game from them. Central, we played them a few years back but I haven’t really followed them as close the last couple of years.”
The Bangs Dragons’ summer debut is essentially an award for the work the players have put forth during the offseason, according to head coach Eddie Pettit.
“Our program really doesn’t focus a lot on 7-on-7, but it’s something the kids wanted to do and we think it could be fun,” Pettit said.
Among the teams in the Dragons’ pool is Brownwood’s 16-4A rival and the preseason No. 1 team in the state — according to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine — Copperas Cove. Odessa Permian and Big Spring are also included in the pool.
Cove — which has never failed to qualify for the 7-on-7 state tournament — went 0-3 at the Burnet tournament two weeks ago, but was without its full roster. The Bulldawgs were also rained out at Granbury. Permian and Big Spring will playing in their first qualifying tournament this year.
Bangs is coming off a 4-6 year in which it missed the playoffs, but the Dragons won four of their last five to cap Pettit’s first year as head coach.
The Bulldawgs posted a 12-3 record en route to reaching the 4A Division I state championship game, while Permian (9-4) was a 5A Division I regional semifinalist and Big Spring made the 4A Division II playoffs despite a 3-8 overall record.
“We really haven’t given much thought to what happens if we were to qualify for state,” Pettit said. “We really want to see them in the weight room over the summer, but this is an added bonus.”
Of the remaining eight teams in the tournament, Abilene High, Odessa High, San Angelo Lake View and Coleman comprise one pool, while Abilene Cooper, Saginaw Boswell, Lampasas and Brady make up the other.