AUSTIN — Khalen Wilkerson knew the team had to move on.
Playing at the Abilene state qualifying tournament over the weekend, Ellison’s hopes of returning to the Texas 7-on-7 Championships were crushed when District 12-6A rival Temple recorded a last-second touchdown in the semifinal round, claiming a state berth with a 31-26 victory.
While the outcome was disappointing, the Eagles’ senior cornerback knew the team could not dwell on narrowly failing to qualify for state for the first time since 2016.
“It was really important for us to bounce back,” Wilkerson said. “We had to get some positive momentum flowing back in our direction.
“We want everything to transition positively into the season.”
Just days after Temple ruined Ellison’s impressive showing at Abilene that included a trio of victories in pool play by a combined 65 points, the Eagles rebounded by producing a pair of wins in their weekly passing league.
Like Wilkerson, Ellison offensive coordinator Jared Shaw believes it was important for the players to quickly move on mentally from the Abilene SQT.
“It’s definitely reassuring to see them play like this,” he said. “Going through these kinds of adversities and facing things like that is huge for us, because it is going to be like that throughout the season.
“There are going to be highs, and there are going to be lows, especially in a high-caliber district like we are in.”
The Eagles encountered little resistance as they controlled both contests at Round Rock Westwood.
With junior Faleifa Mauga engineering the offense, Ellison never trailed during the pair of 40-minute contests, defeating Austin Anderson 39-26 in the opener before concluding with a 33-7 victory against the host Warriors.
Led by senior receiver Isaiah Grant, who accounted for two of the Eagles’ first three touchdowns, Ellison held a 20-12 halftime advantage against the Trojans before the teams swapped scored in the second half.
Then, against Westwood, the Eagles were never challenged, posting the game’s first 14 points before closing with 19 unanswered points. Traelen Williams (2), Khalid Mendez, Christopher Woods and Grant caught touchdowns in the win.
“We started playing pretty aggressive,” Wilkerson said. “We have a pretty solid secondary, and once we started coming up, they really couldn’t do anything against our speed.
“They couldn’t beat us over the top.”
After withdrawing from its final state qualifying tournament at New Caney this weekend, Ellison is no longer concerned with advancing to play for a title, but the Eagles still have one final week of league play.
Ellison concludes its 7-on-7 schedule Monday at Leander Rouse, where it will play the host Raiders and Westwood.
Although the Eagles will attempt to earn a pair of victories, they have other goals as well.
“We just want to come out and run our offense and defense,” Shaw said. “We want to be crisp and execute successfully.
“Offensively, my mentality is that you can never do enough pitching and catching, so this is huge for us.”
WEEKLY 7-ON-7 LEAGUE
- Ellison 39, Austin Anderson 26
- Ellison 33, Round Rock Westwood 7