By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
Spring football games wrapped up last week, but don't worry.
There's still plenty of area football to keep fans captivated through the summer in the form of the Cen-Tex Passing League's 7-on-7 competition along with both linemen and kicking challenges.
The area league, which features all three competitions, starts tonight at the Copperas Cove High practice fields. The kicking challenge begins at 5 p.m. with 7-on-7 games and the linemen challenge set to start 30 minutes later.
Schools participating include District 12-5A rivals Copperas Cove, Ellison, Belton, Temple and Shoemaker, while Killeen High, Waco University and Salado round out the eight-team league.
"It's good for everybody, just to get out there and keep the kids active," said Cove 7-on-7 coordinator Jeremy Shannon. "That's the big things we're trying to do. Keep the kids active and keep them competing."
The league, which runs for four weeks, continues June 10 at Belton, with games continuing at the Killeen High and Ellison campuses, respectively, in the weeks following.
Like spring practice, 7-on-7 competition allows teams to continuing building chemistry and timing until the season begins in August. For teams like Killeen High and Belton, both schools return starting quarterbacks, but will use the time to bound with new receiving targets.
The Kangaroos and two-year starting quarterback Michael Cummings lost three of their top four wide receivers. Belton's David Ash, who is committed to play at the University of Texas, will also be looking at many new faces as three of the Tigers' top four wideouts from a year ago graduated.
"We took Mike out of the (spring game) for precautionary reasons. Now he'll get to go on in 7-on-7 and learn his recievers a lot more," said Killeen High coordinator Richard Daniels.
"Being there for spring ball and now getting to go through 7-on-7, hopefully (Cummings) can get his timing down with receivers again and being able to read different defenses and just maturing as a quarterback."
It's the other way around at Cove, where juniors-to-be Johnny Sirmans (district newcomer of the year) and Orlando Thomas (first-team wide receiver) both return this coming season. Austin Greene, however, steps in at quarterback to lead the Bulldawgs' offense.
In the kicking challenge, each participant gets six attempts from 25, 40 and 55 yards out. They receive two attempts from the left, middle and right at each distance. The event is timed, with the 18 attempts to be completed in four minutes or less.
Line challenge events include the tire flip, tennis-ball shuttle run, 400-meter relay, bench press and sled push.
Already advancing to state
In addition to the league, teams have already started competing in 7-on-7 state qualifying tournaments with hopes of advancing to the state tournament in July.
Belton, Cove and Harker Heights all were at the Round Rock SQT on Saturday, though none earned one of the two state berths.
The area did get one team qualified, with Gatesville earning its third consecutive trip. The Hornets and Brownwood were the two state qualifiers at Gatesville's SQT on Saturday. The Hornets won their pool and advanced to the SQT finals before falling to Brownwood.
Gatesville went 3-0 last year during pool play at the state Division II (1A-3A) tournament before falling to Cameron Yoe in the first round of the championship bracket.
Cove also made it to state a year ago, which was the program's 10th appearance but first since 2006. The Dawgs lost their three pool-play games before reeling off three straight wins and reaching the Division I (4A-5A) consolation bracket semifinals.
Kevin Posival contributed to this report.