The digs are different, but the stakes are not.
The state 7-on-7 tournament will not be played in the shadow of Texas A&M’s Kyle Field for the first time since the tournament’s inception 15 years ago, but 128 teams from across the state will converge on the Southwest Williamson County Regional Park in Leander next weekend with the same goal in mind: winning 7-on-7 state titles.
“In the end, that’s what makes the event special,” said Gatesville head football Kyle Cooper, who serves on the 7-on-7 state board. “It’s not the venue and I think as a board, we’ve looked high and low to find a nice venue that we can look at and experiment with. We feel good about the venue there at Southwest Regional Park, but at the same time, it’s about the competition that makes it so special.”
Belton, Gatesville, Salado and Temple will be among the teams competing in the state tournament July 11-13.
Gatesville and Salado will compete in the small-school Division II next Thursday and Friday, while Belton and Temple will play in the large-school Division I next Friday and Saturday.
The tournament is a showcase for some of the state’s best quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs. But, for the first time, it will not be held on the Texas A&M campus. Rule changes by the NCAA and Southeastern Conference disallowed Texas A&M from hosting the tournament, which could be seen as a recruiting advantage for the Aggies’ athletic department.
Texas A&M had hosted the state tournament during its first 15 years. The high-profile event will return to the Bryan-College Station area in 2014, though not to A&M’s intramural fields.
“Obviously, playing on the Penberthy (Intramural) Fields and Kyle Field looming over there in the air and just knowing that’s what you’re trying to work for, that was a great atmosphere. That’ll certainly be missed, but, at the end, this thing is about competition and it’s not about any one venue,” Cooper said. “It’s about kids coming from all over the state to try and be the very best. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing that on a sandlot or at Kyle Field; the bottom line is you’re going to compete.”
Gatesville is in Pool N with Class 3A preseason No. 1 Carthage as well as Sonora and La Grange. Salado is in Pool F with four-time 7-on-7 state champion Celina, 3A No. 8 Abilene Wylie and Somerset.
The top two teams in each pool advance to the championship bracket, while the bottom two teams head to the consolation bracket.
Division II pool games are Thursday, while bracket games begin Friday morning, beginning at 8 a.m. Division I pool games will follow Friday, beginning at 1 p.m. with bracket games starting Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
Belton is in Pool K with Arlington, Mission Sharyland and Pasadena Memorial. Temple is in Pool B with Spring Westfield, Arlington Bowie and Mercedes.
Gatesville is making its sixth straight appearance at the state tournament. The Hornets lost in the first round of the championship bracket to eventual Division II title winner Celina.
Belton is making its fourth straight tournament appearance. The Tigers lost in the consolation semifinals last season. Rival Temple is in the tournament for the second straight year and for the fifth time since 2007.
Salado, making just its second-ever tournament appearance, is among four teams from District 13-2A-Division I. Joining Salado is defending Division I-2A state champion Cameron Yoe, as well as McGregor and Little River-Academy.