Tournament always a learning experience

Competition important for new quarterback

LEANDER—It seems that every year, you can find a reason why the 7-on-7 competition is of the utmost importance.

While Rockdale was breaking in some new receivers last season, this time around, the team will be under the guidance of a brand new signal caller who would benefit from all the reps he can get.

The 15th annual 7- on- 7 state championship will be played at Southwest Williamson County Park in Leander beginning Thursday.

Rockdale is included in Pool J with Gilmer, LaMarque and Wellington.

Play begins at 2 p.m. when Rockdale takes on Wellington. Games will follow at 4 and 6 p.m.

Should Rockdale win its pool, it would move on to the championship round. If not, the team is guaranteed at least one game Friday in the consolation bracket.

In the 15-year history of the 7-on-7 competition, Rockdale has made six straight trips to the state tournament (they did not field a team in 2010) and seven overall since 2005.

Rockdale produced its most successful run at the state tournament in 2012, making it to the final eight. It took four-time champion Celina to brush them out in the quarterfinals.

Af ter dropping its opener, Rockdale reeled off four straight wins.

The 7- on- 7 competition is important to the Tiger team because the Tigers will be breaking in a new quarterback this season in senior Clayton Gibbs, who is taking over for three-year starter Ethan Brinkley.

“Over the years, 7- on-7 has been very beneficial to us,” said Rockdale football coach Jeff Miller. “ The new people to the varsity get a great opportunity to see what the offense is all about, although it is not a true indicator of real football.”

Gibbs is a talented athlete (he was first-team all-district both ways last season), but hasn’t seen any significant time under center since junior high.

He started one game last season when Brinkley was injured.

“It gives him an opportunity to work on timing, reads and running routes,” Miller said.

Gibbs can count on a corps of experienced receivers led by Austin Caffey and Pearce Loth.

“ We don’t approach this as winning or losing—although we want to win,” said Miller. “We look at it as going and doing what we taught them and using 7-on-7 to imrove ourselves.”

Rockdale qualified for the tournament in Navasota way back on May 25 and have been keeping sharp by playing in a league in Thorndale on Monday nights.

The 7- on- 7 state tournament consists of 64 teams from throughout the state that can earn a trip to state through 31 qualifying tournaments held at various high school sites in May, June and July.

There are two divisions: I (Class 4 A- 5 A) and II (Class 1A-3A).

The tournament has moved twice since it was forced to leave Texas A&M this year. The Southeastern Conference has a rule where member schools cannot host any high school events.

The tournament was originally scheduled to be played at Old Settler’s Park in Round Rock, but was then moved to Southwest Williamson County Regional Park.

There are plans to move the tournament back to College Station on an off-campus site next year at Veteran’s Park.

Adidas will provide each player with their official 7-on-7 uni- form which they will wear while participating in the State Tournament. Players may keep these uniforms.

The Rockdale squad is comprised of Gibbs, Caffey, Loth, Darius Ford, Devante Burgess, Ladontice Coats, Hayden Offield, Elijah Brooks, Dailynn Ramey, James Castilleja, Drevonne Walton, Billy Harris, Marco Hernandez and Pete Heintze.

The team is coached by Derek Caffey and Scott Heintze.

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