COLLEGE STATION — It was not Gatesville’s season opener, but it felt like it.
After dispatching a familiar foe in McGregor in the first round of the state 7-on-7 tournament’s Division II championship bracket, the Hornets encountered a team they will spend the next couple months studying.
In an ironic twist, Gatesville advanced to face Midlothian Heritage, creating a preview of the Hornets’ first game of the upcoming season, and while the Jaguars emerged with a double-digit victory, Anthony Costas believes his team departed with an advantage.
“This let us know the competition that we’re going to be playing against,” Gatesville’s senior receiver said. “They beat us up and down the field today, so we have to be prepared come Aug. 30 to play a team like that.
“After this, I feel like we can.”
Hornets quarterback Seth Trotter agreed the experience was beneficial.
“We have to execute better,” he said, “and we have to keep hitting the weights hard and getting into better shape.
“If we get a little stronger and improve our execution, then I think we can come out on top in the season opener.”
Heritage simply overwhelmed Gatesville early, scoring 14 unanswered points to begin the contest before Hornets quarterback Preston Preciado found Tyler Lewis for touchdown to chop the deficit in half.
But it would not last.
The Jaguars recorded a touchdown moments before halftime and responded to a second-half scoring connection between Trotter and
Lewis by crossing the goal line twice, culminating with a interception return for a touchdown to open a 15-point advantage at 39-14.
Preciado threw a touchdown to Tyler Godfrey and teammate Hunter Schiff hauled in the extra point, but Gatesville could not get any closer and lost 39-21.
“Heritage has a lot of great athletes,” Costas said, “but we’ll be ready next time.”
In the opening round, the Hornets had little trouble dispatching the Bulldogs after the squads spent all of May competing in the same weekly passing league.
After taking a narrow 7-0 advantage into halftime, Gatesville embarked on a 25-2 run to take complete control en route to a 32-10 win. Along the way, Trotter and Costas combined for a pair of touchdowns, senior Parker Floyd accounted for another and Lewis added a defensive score with his interception return for a touchdown.
“When we start running our schemes correctly,” Trotter said, “and our players start getting hot and making plays, it is hard to stop us.
“So, those are the things we have got to be able to rely on moving forward into the actual football season.”
Now, with the Hornets’ second consecutive trip to state complete, the players turn their attention toward two-a-days, scrimmages and undoubtedly their season opener against Heritage.
“We learned the Jaguars like to go over the top a bunch,” Trotter said, “and we know we’re going to have to keep up.
“We have to be able to maintain with their high level of performance, but we know we can, and that’s what we plan on doing next time we play.”
Heritage continued dominating on the way to capturing the championship with routs of Tuscola Jim Ned (48-6), Mexia (40-13) and Texarkana Pleasant Grove (39-20).
The Jaguars’ toughest test Friday was a 41-34 victory over Hitchcock in the first round.
BELTON GOES 2-1 IN POOL PLAY
The Tigers opened their stay at the state tournament by placing second in their pool and securing a berth in today’s Division I championship bracket.
Belton easily won its first contest, defeating El Paso Franklin 41-14 before suffering a 40-28 loss to Rockwall. In their final game, the Tigers beat Fort Bent Travis to conclude the day with a 2-1 record.
Belton will look to carry the momentum into its first-round contest against Friendswood at 9 a.m. today. Should the Tigers win, they would play the Clear Brook-Georgetown winner at 10:15 a.m.
The championship game is scheduled for 3 p.m.
7-ON-7 STATE TOURNEY
DIV. II CHAMPIONSHIP BRACKET
- Gatesville 32, McGregor 10
- Midlothian Heritage 39, Gatesville 21
DIV. I POOL PLAY
- Belton 41, El Paso Franklin 14
- Rockwall 40, Belton 28
- Belton 33, Fort Bend Travis 25