BURNET — Gabe Retana has a goal.
Playing in the program’s third 7-on-7 state qualifying tournament of the season, Gatesville’s senior looked to help the young squad capture the event’s lone state berth.
But it did not happen.
The Hornets’ day ended after posting a 1-2 record in pool play at the Burnet State Qualifying Tournament, temporarily curbing the team’s hopes of advancing to the Texas 7-on-7 Championships.
Retana, however, has a goal, and it has little to do with playing for a title in College Station later this summer.
“7-on-7 is really important for us,” he said, “because we get to know each other as teammates, how we play and where we are going to be. Our quarterbacks
are young, so we need to help them mature and get ready for this season.
“We want to win more games than we did last season.”
Gatesville went 3-7 last year and lost 29 seniors from its roster to graduation, leaving a group of inexperienced players to inherit the program.
Hornets head coach Kyle Cooper intends to use the 7-on-7 season as a means of accelerating the learning curve, though.
“The big picture is to be ready for Midlothian Heritage on Aug. 30,” he said. “We want to compete to our utmost every time we step on the field, but we’re looking to prepare ourselves for the fall.
“7-on-7 provides a lot of great stuff, just as a far as being a team, being together, riding in a car together and figuring things out together. All those things are vital.”
Gatesville was overwhelmed in its opener against China Spring, falling into a 13-0 hole before Hornets sophomore Wesley Brown connected with Retana for a touchdown, but the score did not get any closer. The Cougars dominated the duration of the contest en route to a 47-7 victory.
In its second contest, Gatesville trailed the host Bulldogs 21-12 at halftime but pulled within a point after Brennen Mata hauled in a touchdown pass from Brown and Carson Brizendine caught a two-point conversion.
The Hornets were unable to cross the goal line again, though, and Burnet recorded 28 unanswered points en route to a 49-20 win.
Then, facing Jarrell in the finale, Gatesville finally found its rhythm.
Brown threw a pair of touchdowns to Jacob Bakes and connected with Retana, Mata and Logan Edwards for scores in a 31-12 victory.
“We found some good things on the short side of the field and along the sidelines,” Brown said.
The performance was exactly what Cooper is looking for from his players.
“We have to know how to beat the other team,” Cooper said. “I can’t put them in that position. They have to know how to position themselves for success and adjust.
“Against Jarrell, they realized some things, and they did it by themselves, which is big.”
Now, the Hornets will take the experience gained and make another attempt at reaching state Friday, when they travel to the eight-team Wimberley State Qualifying Tournament, where one team will earn a state berth.
The game plan for advancing is simple, according to Retana.
“We just can’t fall apart when things don’t go our way,” he said. “We just have to all stay involved and keep playing hard.”
- China Spring 47, Gatesville 7
- Burnet 49, Gatesville 20
- Gatesville 31, Jarrell 12