By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
COLLEGE STATION - It wasn't the top bracket at the state 7-on-7 Division II tournament.
Nor was it a regular season Friday night game at Gatesville's McKamie Stadium.
But for Cole Edmiston and his continued maturation as the Hornets' starting quarterback, this Friday morning and early afternoon were huge. The rising junior, being asked to replace the highly decorated Jake Truss, picked him and his Hornet teammates up from a 0-3 showing during pool play Thursday.
When he was done Friday, Edmiston led Gatesville to five straight wins, the consolation bracket title, a 34-15 win over Whitney in that championship, and glowing endorsements from his teammates and coaches.
"He couldn't have played better," said wide
receiver Tyler Jaynes. "He's been on varsity since he was a freshman, so he knows everything. He's just a phenomenal player."
Said Gatesville head football coach Kyle Cooper: "I felt like he made some great throws and just put the ball right where it had to be. He's exceeded expectations in the passing part of the offense moving forward."
Edmiston threw 16 touchdown passes in Gatesville wins over Anahuac (26-14), Mathis (50-32) and Lago Vista (42-34) to reach the finals. He then tossed five more to beat Whitney in the championship played at Texas A&M's Kyle Field.
Just as impressive was the fact that Edmiston didn't throw an interception Friday. The former wide receiver even recorded an interception of his own against Mathis that he returned for a score, and almost got another in the final.
It was a vast improvement from Thursday, when Gatesville went winless (0-3) in pool play before pulling out a 38-34 win over Cameron Yoe to start the consolation bracket.
"Today we got mad that we lost all those games and we said it wasn't going to happen again," Edmiston said. "We hate losing, so that plays a big factor."
Gatesville was pushed by Lago Vista in the semifinals, watching a 16-0 lead get trimmed down to two points to start the second half. Edmiston found JD Nolte to make it 36-28 and Cort Dixon followed with an interception for the defense.
The Hornets couldn't take advantage, turning the ball over just feet from the goal line. Lago Vista punched it in to make it 36-34 with four minutes to play.
Edmiston and Gatesville then showed their moxie, milking nearly all the remaining time off the clock. He found Garrett Featherston with seconds left for the score, and Lago Vista couldn't get a snap off to end the game.
Gatesville did the same in the final two minutes against Anahuac, and the final eight against Mathis.
"It's a great practice for real football," Edmiston said. "The not hurrying, the staying calm on the field. That's a big factor and it's overlooked a lot because everyone's mentality is 'go score, go score, go score.'"
Gatesville ran away from Whitney early, though the Wildcats led 7-6 at one point. Edmiston found Nolte for the lead, the defense held and Edmiston connected with Featherston for the 18-7 halftime advantage.
Two more scores made it 34-7, while Gatesville held Whitney to just one touchdown in four second-half possessions. Edmiston finished 16-of-24, with Dixon and Hunter Dean each bringing down second-half interceptions.
Belton advances to championship bracket
Peter Shelburne threw up a last-second prayer down the left side, and it was answered.
Down 31-19 with minutes to play, the Belton Tigers rallied to beat perennial power Coppell 32-31, assuring them a spot in today's Division I championship bracket.
It was also the Tigers' second last-minute rally after they beat Katy Cinco Ranch 27-24. They lost their finale to Pasadena Dobie 42-27.
Belton faces defending champion Lake Travis today at 9 a.m. in bracket play.
The Tigers got to within a score against Coppell and got the ball back with less than a minute to play. Shelburne threw a deep ball down the field; Chase Thornal jumped over two Coppell defenders and came down with the football.
Belton hurried to the line, and Shelburne found Durham Smythe for the tying touchdown. Shelburne hit Thornal for the deciding extra point, and the clock ran out on Coppell.