One was a state semifinalist in Class 3A last fall. Another was a state semifinalist in Class 2A. And yet another is expected to be a 3A state semifinalist this season.
Gatesville’s 7-on-7 football team faces all three today on the first day of the 7-on-7 state tournament in Leander.
“That’s a pretty tough pool,” Gatesville head football coach Kyle Cooper said — three times.
The Hornets open their sixth straight state tournament appearance at 2 p.m. today against 3A preseason No. 1 Carthage at the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park in Leander. The Hornets then play 2A No. 5 Sonora at 4 p.m. and finish their day with 3A No. 19 La Grange at 6 p.m.
“This game is what it is. It’s not the end-all, but it’s great to go down and compete, and see our kids compete,” Cooper said. “I just want to see their attitudes when they’re up; I want to see their attitudes when they’re down. Just continue to watch them react ... how they’re going to handle those types of situations.”
Salado is also competing today in the Division II, or small school, portion of the state tournament. The Eagles, who are making their second appearance in three years, play a trio of 3A teams beginning with Somerset at 1 p.m. Salado then plays No. 8 Abilene Wylie at 3 p.m. and finishes with No. 11 Celina at 5 p.m.
Belton and Temple will both compete Friday afternoon in Division I pool games.
The top two teams from each pool will advance to the championship bracket, while the other two teams go into the consolation bracket. Division II consolation games begin 8 a.m. Friday morning with championship games beginning an hour later at 9. The Division I tournament games start at the same times on Saturday morning. Tournaments are single-elimination after the first-day pool games.
Gatesville won the Division II consolation championship in 2011, but lost in the first round of the championship bracket last year.
The Hornets’ pool play opponents enjoyed regular season success, but so did Gatesville. The Hornets won their first district championship since 2000 in the fall and reached the state quarterfinals before losing their only game of the season. But, they’ll have to replace a bevy of senior standouts that keyed the team’s success. That, Cooper said, 7-on-7 can help with.
“I think the bonding part (is important), as much as any (thing else), because we are kind of forming a new team with the loss of several key guys,” Coopers said. “We’ll go down and we’ll compete, we’ll give our very best and see how it goes.”
For the first time in 15 years, Texas A&M will not host the tournament. Rule changes by the NCAA and Southeastern Conference disallowed the school from hosting the tournament because it could be seen as a recruiting advantage for the Aggies’ athletic department.
Instead, they’ll play at the nearly 800-acre Southwest Williamson County Regional Park off County Road 175 in Leander, roughly an hour a half drive away from Bell and Coryell counties.
“For us, it’ll be a day-trip,” said Belton 7-on-7 sponsor Mike Morgan. “Our kids will go down and play and come back home and then get up and go back the next day. I think that’ll have its benefits, not having to stay overnight and kids not having to manage that part of it — being in a hotel and all those types of things.”
The Tigers, coming off a loss in the consolation semifinals last year, play Arlington at 2 p.m., Mission Sharyland at 4 p.m. and Pasadena Memorial at 6 p.m. Friday. Temple, making is second straight state appearance and fifth since 2007, plays Spring Westfield at 1 p.m., Arlington Bowie at 3 p.m. and Mercedes at 5 p.m., also Friday.
“I think it’s an interesting pool,” Morgan said, “just because it’s spread out all over the state.”
Morgan said the Tigers have a working knowledge of Arlington, having played the Colts in a consolation game in 2008, at a the Under Armour Sevens tournament in Cedar Hill last year.
They know a little about Sharyland because of a track meet earlier this year, but know absolutely nothing about Pasadena Memorial.