The seven-on-seven season has come and gone for El Campo and it has left them on the outside of the State tournament. In El Campo’s final State Qualifying Tournament in Cuero, they came out of their pool 3-0. In the State Qualifying game, the El Campo boys were nine points away from punching their ticket to state.
“We started off hot,” incoming senior Tanner Oldag said. “The first drive we scored, it was good and mostly we had a lot of fun. We play a lot better when we’re having fun and nothing (gets to us). We played as a team, we played really good.”
In the State Qualifying game, they played Jourdanton, who they played recently during the Rockport SQT. Jourdanton during Saturday’s SQT averaged 45.6 points a game, El Campo’s defense came up strong, but the offense got going a little too late and they fell 28-20.
“We were down by two scores,” said incoming junior Charles Shorter, who sat out the game with an injury. “They came back after halftime. They came back on the field working hard.”
With time running off the clock, El Campo nearly tied the game. Incoming junior Cullen Braden, the only quarterback Saturday afternoon, threw a pass to incoming freshman Ruben Owens in the end zone. Owens had the ball, but a Jourdanton defender ripped it away.
“He had it,” Shorter said. “But before he had it, (they) grabbed his arm, the ball fell out of the end zone. No flag or nothing, end of the game. (We) tried hard.”
During some of the SQTs and the Monday seven-on-seven league in Ganado, El Campo used the time to get some of the younger Birds involved. Mixed in with varsity has been a handful of players from freshmen and junior varsity football, including a few young Birds who’ll be entering high school this season.
“It’s a lot of experience and exposure to the game. It’s faster,” Owens said.
Owens, like the other younger Birds, is getting a small taste of what it’s like to play on the varsity level.
“You’ve got to backpedal a lot on defense because they’re fast,” Owens said. “You’ve got to keep your ground. Don’t let people push you around, even though they’re bigger than you.”
Overall, El Campo had six weeks of seven-on-seven. While it’s not the same as Friday night lights in the final week, they showed improvement and nearly stole a spot at state.
“We all got better as a team,” Oldag said. “Everybody learned some things and they got some experience. We came out and we had a lot of fun.”