For the second year in a row at the Texas 7-on-7 State Championships, 32 schools in the 3A classification or below will compete in a separate small school tournament. Today marks the first day of action as the teams hit the Texas A&M campus in College Station and take the field for pool play at 1 p.m.
The field consists of eight four-team pools. Everybody will play all three other teams in their pool in a round robin format with the results going toward seeding the teams once bracket play begins Friday afternoon. Every team will play at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. with an hour break before the first round of the single elimination tournament at 5 p.m. The 16 remaining teams will return Friday morning at 9 a.m.
The pools, labeled A through H, are as follows.
Pool A: 1. Giddings, 2. Paradise, 3. Longview Spring Hill, 4. Hitchcock Pool B: 1. Gatesville, 2. Crockett, 3. Houston Second Baptist, 4. Lovejoy Pool C: 1. Diboll, 2. Iraan, 3. Prosper, 4. Hardin Pool D: 1. Glen Rose, 2. Wellington, 3. Waco Reicher, 4. Navasota Pool E: 1. Melissa, 2. Carthage, 3. Normangee, 4. Rice Consolidated Pool F: 1. New Waverly, 2. Marion, 3. West, 4. Childress Pool G: 1. Brownwood, 2. Kirbyville, 3. Jasper, 4. Bandera Pool H: 1. Rockdale, 2. Celina, 3. La Villa, 4. Crane
Waco Reicher vs. Navasota: Navasota features two of the top recruits in the entire field in Texas A&M wide receiver commit Brandal Jackson as well as LSU running back commit Dexter Pratt. Both will also see plenty of action on defense for the Rattlers. That should be an imposing site for Reicher quarterback Kenneth Cluley. However, the Cougars are the reigning TAPPS Division III state champs for a reason. Ross Rasner will be Cluley's go-to receiver on offense as well as the top defender for Reicher.
Brownwood vs. Kirbyville: Brownwood comes into the tournament with high expectations after dropping down from Class 4A in the latest realignment. The Lions will feature quite a bit of offense firepower with four-star TCU quarterback commit Casey Pachall and receiver Parker Taylor usually in sync with each other. There is some doubt, though, as to whether Lion safety and Texas commit Kenny Vaccaro will play. Kirbyville features perhaps the top defense in the field, led by safety Broderick Jackson and sophomore linebacker Stefan Jackson. Josh Hughey is also one of the better cornerbacks in the field.
2 p.m. Must-see Matchups:
Celina vs. Crane: While seemingly one-sided as Celina is a perennial power both in 7-on-7 and during the season, there is more drama here than one might expect. In an odd twist of luck, these two teams met in the championship game a year ago. Not many people expected a strong showing from the Golden Eagles, but they marched through bracket play, defeating much larger teams. They eventually fell to Celina in the final and you have to think the game is still fresh on their minds.
Glen Rose vs. Waco Reicher: Reicher just can't seem to get a break as they are in one of the toughest pools in the tournament. The Cougar defense will again be tested, this time by Glen Rose quarterback Derek Thompson. The 6-foot-3 signal-caller could provide problems for Reicher but they will look to Rasner as a stopper once again.
3 p.m. Must-see Matchups:
Crockett vs. Houston Second Baptist: Second Baptist qualified on the last weekend possible, but don't count out the Eagles. They have one of the country's top junior quarterbacks in Connor Wood and managed to hold their own in many large school tournaments this summer. Wood's favorite target is wide receiver Brian Franshaw, who is very elusive after the catch. Crockett features two Division I recruits in running back Tyler Tabor and linebacker Ja'Gared Davis. The Bulldogs are likely to be one of the fastest teams that Second Baptist has seen this summer.
Normangee vs. Carthage: Normangee is one of the smallest schools in the tournament and its most famous alum is Texas A&M power forward Joseph Jones. However, the 1A school is led by twins Jordan Mullinix and Justin Mullinix, sons of the Panther head coach. Justin plays quarterback and his brother is his favorite target. Carthage is a traditional power in 3A but the Bulldogs could have their hands full chasing the Mullinix brothers around.
Small Schools, Big Talent:
Despite the low number of students in the schools, several programs feature multiple Division I caliber players. These teams are usually fun to watch as you can see a lot of talent at the same time. Some of the more loaded teams include