Written by Matt Wixon
Wixon: DeSoto seeks state, national 7-on-7 titles
With so much offensive firepower, DeSoto is tough to beat in 7-on-7 football. That makes the Eagles one of the favorites to win this week’s Red Bull Game Breakers national tournament and next week’s Fox Sports Southwest state tournament.
But 7-on-7 games, despite how they get competitive juices flowing, are still about preparing for the fall. So for DeSoto, the defending state 7-on-7 champion, the next two weeks are more important for the defense.
“This is the fourth year that we’ve done 7-on-7, and it has helped us this year more than any other year,” DeSoto coach Claude Mathis said. “It’s helped us defensively more than anything. We have some young kids that need to get together.”
Many of those young kids play in the secondary, where DeSoto was loaded last year. The spots of cornerbacks Bryson Echols, who signed with Texas, and Jalen Mills, who signed with LSU, will be filled with inexperienced players, and 7-on-7 is helping those players grow up.
“They come out and they’re able to get reps and experience,” Mathis said. “Without 7-on-7, we can’t give them those reps, and if we didn’t have those reps, we would be behind big time.”
DeSoto will get plenty of reps over the next two weeks because it qualified for the Game Breakers tournament and the state competition. Hebron and Arlington are the other Dallas-area teams that will be playing in both tournaments. Playing in both wasn’t possible last year because the finals of each tournament were played on the same weekend.
The Game Breakers event is Thursday and Friday at Jesuit. Six area teams qualified, including defending champion Arlington Martin. Two dozen area teams will compete in next week’s state tournament, which will again be held on Texas A&M’s campus. The field includes Arlington Lamar, the only school that has qualified every year for the state tournament, which dates to 1998.
The 7-on-7 game has grown a lot, and changed a lot, since then. How much 7-on-7 competition helps a team in the fall can be debated, but in the last two years, 15 of the 16 Division I quarterfinalists at the 7-on-7 state tournament made the playoffs in full-contact, real-deal football. They averaged nearly nine wins in the fall.
On the other hand, Euless Trinity doesn’t play 7-on-7 and has won three state titles over the last seven seasons. Trinity’s offense is centered around power rushing, so the Trojans wouldn’t get as much benefit from the pass-only 7-on-7 game.
But more teams are playing 7-on-7, which led the state tournament to expand the field from 96 to 128 teams two years ago. Half of those teams are in Division II (for Classes 1A-3A), where Melissa is back to defend its title. Melissa also won a 2A state title last year in tackle football.
The target for the top teams in Division I is DeSoto, which was a semifinalist in 2009, a finalist in 2010 and the champion last year.
“They are after us this year,” Mathis said. “We’re getting everybody’s best shot.”
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Red Bull Game Breakers Finals
When: Pool play 3-9 p.m. Thursday; finals 7:30-10 p.m. Friday
Local teams: Arlington Martin, Arlington Seguin, Arlington, Cedar Hill, DeSoto, Hebron
FSSW 7-on-7 state championship
When: July 19-21
Where: Penberthy Intramural Fields, Texas A&M
Local teams (Division I): Arlington, Arlington Bowie, Arlington Lamar, Colleyville Heritage, Coppell, DeSoto, Duncanville, Frisco Centennial, Hebron, Mesquite, Mesquite Horn, Plano, Plano West, Southlake Carroll, Wylie, Wylie East
Local teams (Division II): Aubrey, Celina, Episcopal School of Dallas, Fort Worth All Saints, Frisco Lone Star, Kaufman, Melissa, Princeton