Last weekend’s Adidas championship tournament signaled the end of the 7on7 season for most of the state’s teams.
John Tyler missed out on competing in College Station.
That only gave the Lions an extra week of practice and motivation for this weekend in the USA Football 7on7 National Championships.
The event is by invitation only and will take place this Friday and Saturday in Frisco. It is comprised of 16 teams, each grouped into an eight-team pool. JT is in Pool B along with Bryant (Arkansas), Evangel Christian (Louisiana), Mill Valley (Kansas) and Union (Oklahoma). Rounding out the pool are fellow Texas representatives: Cedar Hill, Frisco Lone Star and Houston Westbury.
Pool play will be on Friday with bracket play on Saturday. All games will take place at Frisco’s B.F. Phillips Park.
“This is a USA national 7on7 tournament and it’s a privilege and an honor to represent East Texas and Texas in general,” said Vertrick Jordan, JT’s 7on7 coach.
Jordan said he told the team shortly after they found out they had not qualified for the state tournament last month at the Tyler State Qualifier.
“They started working even harder,” Jordan said.
Lions quarterback Devlen Woods said the team immediately began to get excited about representing the state in what is arguably a much tougher and more prestigious competition.
“This is a once in a lifetime chance,” Woods said. “We are looking to go in there and compete. That’s all we can do is go there and compete.”
Added running back Cameron Grant: “When you go to nationals, it’s the whole country and everyone gets to see what we’re about and we get to put Texas and East Texas on the map.”
JT will begin pool play at 9:30 a.m. against Cedar Hill. The Lions and Longhorns are slated to meet in 11-man football to begin the 2018 season, so Jordan said the players are excited about that first matchup.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Jordan said. “If we can make a statement, it will have them thinking for a year (until we play in 2018).”
That first game begins a seven-game gauntlet as the temperatures rise. JT’s final Pool A game is against Evangel at 4 p.m.
Grant said the players are not leery of the expected conditions, but rather are embracing them.
“We have 7 a.m. workout, so we’re up lifting weights before the sun (rises) and then we come out here and condition and run,” Grant continued. “We have 7on7 practice after all of this and then we just have to hydrate. It keeps up our shape … we are built for this. It’s what we do.”
Jordan said every team in each pool will go into Saturday’s national championship bracket. The seeding for that bracket is determined by Friday’s pool play.
“We could end up being the 13th or 14th seed, and then you play from there until you lose,” Jordan said. “You would rather be the No. 1 seed going against (one of those higher seeds) to maybe assure you a chance to maybe move on.”
Jordan said each team is guaranteed two games. Losing teams drop down into a consolation pool for one final consolation game.
The Lions would like to emulate five years ago when JT never experienced a consolation game. Quarterback Greg Ward (now a receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles) led the JT to a national championship in the Red Bull Game Breakers.
“We have one national title under our belt and we are going to try now on Friday and Saturday to add another one,” Grant said.
Notes: Pool A is comprised of Barbers Hill, Derby (Kansas), Dickinson, Independence, Landry Walker (Louisiana), Mesquite Poteet, Oologah (Oklahoma) and Pulaski Academy (Arkansas). This is one of three invitation-only events 7on7 USA Football hosts as part of its National Championship Series. The first one was July 8-9 in Orange County, California, and the second one is July 13-15 in Hoover, Alabama. …The complete schedule of teams and more information of the event can be found at 7on7.usafootball.com