COLLEGE STATION-- It's been said that there are two things that a person can count on in life, death and taxes. You can also add gripping heat in July to that and this weekend, 64 teams will battle it out under the hot Texas sun for the right to be named the 7-on-7 champions.
For that reason, depth, endurance and experience are held at a premium and if nothing else, this weekend we'll find out who's in shape. Last year the Richland Rebels came out of nowhere to take the honors, thanks to a bevy of receivers who never seemed to run out of energy and a quarterback (Tyler Cotton) who was deadly accurate. So who will it be this season? Here's a look at what to expect this weekend.
Garland Lakeview Centennial
El Paso Bel Air
Klein and Lake Travis are the class of this pool. In fact both are arguably good enough to win the tournament outright. Having to play each other right off the bat will be interesting as both of these teams should advance to the winner's bracket and a win would all but guarantee it.
Pool A favorite - Lake Travis
El Paso Chapin
Houston Langham Creek
Langham Creek is the clear favorite to win this pool. The Lobos return many of the players who helped guide them to the runner-up spot in the consolation game last season. Twin brothers Mitchell and Garrett Juergens caught everything in sight last year and quarterback Will Bryant is back as the trigger-man. Last season the Lobos went 0-3 on Day one but this season they could go undefeated thanks to a favorable draw.
Pool B Favorite - Langham Creek
No shortage of talent in this pool as each of these teams feature playmakers on both sides of the ball. Mansfield Legacy is a young team with a lot of talent, led by senior receiver Rodney Whitmore. Quarterbacks Quentin Hasten and Andreus Jones have both impressed and played their best ball in the Rockwall tournament when they outscored their opponents by a combined total of 148-76, however the competition in this pool will be fierce. Lufkin receiver Quinn Trimble is arguably the most gifted athlete in the tournament, while Texas commit Carrington Byndom anchors a secondary that is traditionally very strong. This pool likely comes down to the winner between Lufkin and Klein Forest, with both standing a good chance to advance to the winners bracket.
Pool C Favorite - Lufkin
New Braunfels Canyon
Beaumont West Brook
This pool will likely be decided in the first game as traditional powerhouses Katy and Plano square off with the winner moving immediately into the driver's seat for the winner's bracket. The loser could also get in with a relatively week schedule behind the first game. Plano receiver Robert Robinson may well be the quickest player in the tournament and is a dangerous weapon for the Wildcat offense. Holt Hoetger gives the Plano quarterbacks a big target but Katy has too much depth. New Braunels Canyon is making their first appearance ever in College Station and Beaumont West Brook is rebuilding with a young team. This is clearly a two team race and Katy is the team to beat.
Pool D Favorite - Katy
Pool E is quite possibly the most balanced from top to bottom. Not a lot of separation here as Alamo Heights is traditionally pretty strong in 7-on-7 and known for having a prolific aerial attack in the regular season. Arlington Bowie is loaded with athletes, led by Oklahoma state commit Montra Nelson. Senior quarterback Derric Davis has impressed in the state qualifying tournaments but it's the Vols defense that will likely be the difference in this pool. They seem to be able to get the stops when they need them the most and that gives them a slight edge over the rest of the field. Keep an eye on Tyler Lee. The Raiders have been missing some key starters this summer but if they're healthy, they could make a nice run. Pearland has never won a game at the state tournament but has improved this season.
Pool E Favorite - Arlington Bowie
Plano East went just 1-9 a year ago but the Panthers look to be much improved with a young team that has gained confidence through strong 7-on-7 play this summer. PESH defeated Southlake Carroll in their own tournament (actually they tied but advanced on a tie-breaker) and have looked impressive throughout the summer. Anderson is back for the first time in years, while Cy-Fair and Whitehouse each have enough talent to be a threat but Plano East is the team to beat in this pool.
Pool F Favorite - Plano East
Conroe Oak Ridge
Bastrop and Oak Ridge are two teams that have not fared too well over the years in 7-on-7 play so this appears to be a two team race between the Arlington Colts and the Chavez Lobos. Most of the experts agree that Arlington is a team capable of winning the whole thing with Texas A&M commit Matt Joeckel at quarterback, throwing to a host of talented receivers led by junior Miles Onyegbule. The Colt defense led by Keighen Thetford has also shown it can get key stops when needed. Chavez has showed well in qualifying tournaments and will be a tough out.
The Lamar Vikings bring in quite possibly the deepest team in the tournament. With senior tailback Ja'Terian Douglas, they also have a dynamic playmaker who can help keep the chains moving. On the defensive side of the ball, senior cornerback Clif Nyagesiba has been one of the most impressive defenders in state qualifying tournaments. Cedar Park brings in a good defense but lacks the firepower needed to keep up with Lamar. Pearland Dawson and Houston Stratford are two teams that can be successful but on paper at least, look to be a little bit overmatched.
Few teams in this tournament have the luxury of two effective quarterbacks, but Southlake Carroll can make that claim. Seniors David Piland and Kyle Williamson have both impressed in state qualifying tournaments. The Dragons also have a deep group of receivers, complimented by senior Tommy Avers out of the backfield. The defense has been suspect at times but should be good enough to get the job done against this group. Copperas Cove is the most likely team to challenge here. Each of the other teams has done better than expected in the tournaments leading up to this weekend, but Carroll is the class of this bunch.
Pool I Favorite - Southlake Carroll
The Birdville Hawks are one of 17 teams from Class 4A that is "playing up". That said, they are also a good darkhorse to keep an eye on with senior quarterback Josh Dorman leading the charge. Dorman makes good decisions in the pocket and almost pulled the upset over Southlake Carroll earlier this summer. Though they may lack the athletes to win it all, they have enough to get by this group and should do so. Temple's Lache Seastrunk is the tournament's highest profile player but the Owls don't have enough to go with him to win this pool. Hebron is breaking in a lot of new players and traditionally fares pretty well at the state tournament, and will likely join Birdville in the winner's bracket.
Katy Seven Lakes
This could be the most evenly matched group of teams in the tournament. Each one is capable of winning this pool, so throw a dart. Tomball features one of the best athletes in senior receiver Jordan Leslie, however the lack of a good quarterback will hold the Cougars back. Seven Lakes puts a heavy emphasis on 7-on-7 and could make some noise. Each team has some big question marks going into the season but Coppell has been the most consistent of the bunch. Keep an eye on Stephenville, though they've lacked good results this summer, they have a lot of upside and quite possibly the best athlete you've never heard of in James Miles.
Pool K Favorite - Coppell
Round Rock Stony Point
Colleyville Heritage is one of just two teams to qualify for all 12 of the state tournaments since its inception in 1998 (Arlington Lamar is the other), but the Panthers don't appear to be as much of a threat this year. Inconsistent play has been the norm and the three teams they're matched with all are better, at least on paper. Round Rock Stony Point has dynamic playmakers on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Aaron Sharp will have his pick of Division 1 athletes to throw the ball to. Tight end Gerard Shillow is considered by many to be the best player at his position in the state. Tailback Stephen Williams will give opposing teams fits with his speed. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Desmond Martin, Kevin White and linebacker P.L. Lindley are all considered top prospects at their respective positions. Houston Lamar has performed as well as any team in Houston in 7-on-7 and will be the top challenger here. The Woodlands has always put a strong emphasis on 7-on-7 and with Arizona commit Randy Knust on the outside and junior tailback Daniel Lasco working the middle, the Highlanders will be a tough out.
Pool L Favorite - Round Rock Stony Point
Fort Bend Bush
Buda Hays Consolidated
With several key players returning from last season's state finalist team, it's hard to pick against the Wylie Pirates. Ft. Bend Bush is in the tournament for the first time in school history, and Hays Consolidated arguably had one of the easier roads, winning their own tournament. Spring has a fair amount of firepower on offense but Wylie is the most balanced team in this group. Seniors Nick Knott (tailback) and Colby Harper (receiver) are a couple of players to keep an eye on.
Pool M Favorite - Wylie
Cedar Park Vista Ridge
Cedar Hill and Denton Guyer are the class of this pool. Vista Ridge is making its first state tournament appearance and Bellaire is back for the first time since 2006. Cedar Hill and Denton Guyer are both considered to be two of the top teams in the metroplex. Guyer quarterback J.W. Walsh has a strong arm and is very polished, while Cedar Hill has as much talent as anyone in the state. It's also their first ever appearance in College Station, so it will be interesting to see how they handle it. That said, the Longhorns should advance to the winner's bracket and are the favorite to win the pool. A&M fans can catch a glimpse of one of their top recruits in senior tailback Ben Malena.
Pool N Favorite - Cedar Hill
Fort Bend Elkins
This has already been dubbed the pool of death. Without question it's the toughest pool in the bunch. DeSoto has a Division I athlete at every position and Richland returns as the defending state champion. Abilene Cooper returns several key contributors from a year ago, including quarterback Ryan Heslip. Fort Bend Elkins is one of the better 7-on-7 teams from the Houston area, so who wins? Very hard to pick the winner out of this group, as any one of them is capable of doing it. There's something to be said for experience and Richland knows how to win and until someone knocks them off, they're still the champions but any of these four is good enough to do it.
Pool 0 Favorite - Richland
Fort Bend Dulles
Abilene is the clear-cut favorite of this group. Junior tailback Herschel Sims is one of the state's most exciting young players and the Eagles are experienced. Last season they lost just one game in the tournament en route to the consolation championship.
News and Notes
* The Division II state tournament (Sub 5A/4A teams) gets underway on Thursday at 1 PM.
* 13 teams are making their first ever appearance at the state tournament in College Station.
* 17 4A teams in the field of 64.
* 4 teams that are former state champions - Richland (2008), Colleyville Heritage (2002, 2006), Tyler Lee (2004 Champs), Austin Anderson (2002 Champs).
* The Division I state tournament will get underway Friday at 1 PM with the championship game taking place at 5 PM at Kyle Field.