Chapel Hill, Gilmer, Carthage + Crockett Still Alive In Quest For Division II State 7-on-7 Championship
COLLEGE STATION -- East Texas sent eight teams to the Texas State 7-on-7 Championships' Division II tournament. And after one day of action, four of them remain alive for the title following Thursday's action at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex.
Chapel Hill, Gilmer, Carthage, and Crockett all claimed at least a second-place finish in their respective pool to qualify for Friday's 32-team, single-elimination championship bracket. None of the four escaped pool play unscathed, but Chapel Hill was awarded a No. 1 seed from its pool after a 2-1 performance. Gilmer, Carthage, and Crockett all finished 2-1 as well, but will enter the championship bracket as the No. 2 seed from their respective pool.
CHAPEL HILL CAPTURES POOL DESPITE GAME 3 LOSS
Chapel Hill came within a two-point conversion in the waning seconds of its final game of Day 1 from becoming East Texas' only school to run through pool play unbeaten.
But it wasn't to be. Giddings broke up the two-point try and held on for a 47-46 victory over the Bulldogs in the final game for both teams in Pool M.
Despite the loss, Chapel Hill secured the No. 1 seed from the pool by virtue of its two earlier wins -- 31-13 over Albany and 36-33 over Houston Lutheran South.
"We kind of started off a little bit rough, but the second game we played pretty well I thought," said Chapel Hill senior quarterback Konnor Hitchcock. "Really, we've just got to get our execution down on offense a little better. We're just a little rusty right now, but we'll be alright. We've been doing a lot of scrimmages with a lot of teams around East Texas, so I think we'll be alright the second day."
With temperatures reaching the mid-to-upper 90's and the heat index in excess of 100 degrees, fatigue began to rear its head, especially on the defensive side for each team.
"Not many stops to go around because the DB's just can't cut anymore; they're pretty tired," Hitchcock said of the heat's effect. "But they're doing their best, and we're doing our best on offense."
Giddings took a 41-32 lead midway through the second half, but Chapel Hill rapidly responded with touchdown from Hitchcock to Deundre Phillips -- the duo's second of the game. The Bulldogs' Reggie King caught the ensuing two-point conversion, which cut Chapel Hill's deficit to 41-40.
Chapel Hill's defense attempted to get a stop, but on fourth-and-goal, Giddings found the end zone once more. However, the extra point try was unsuccessful, leaving Giddings in front, 47-40.
Hitchcock hit Jaylen Redwine for a Chapel HIll touchdown with about one minute remaining, but the Bulldogs' two-point attempt for the win was knocked away.
Chapel Hill meets Hamshire-Fannett at 9 a.m. Friday on Field 6B in the Round of 32.
DEFENSE SPURS GILMER PAST WEST
In a game that featured very few defensive stops, perhaps the two biggest plays of Gilmer's 48-47 win over West came courtesy of the Buckeyes' defense.
Jacob Butler intercepted a potential game-winning, two-point conversion in the end zone to lift the Buckeyes past West and to 2-0 in Pool L.
Kollin Hurt returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown, which gave Gilmer a 26-14 lead midway through the opening half.
"It's great," said Gilmer quarterback Zac Spears after his team's win over West. "Defense wins games, and the defense was big for us in the state championship game last year, so it was good to see our guys stepping up."
Despite the two big plays on the defensive side of the ball, Gilmer did showcase its many talents on offense.
Spears delivered on-time and accurate passes to a plethora of targets, including two-way standout and Texas commit Demarco Boyd.
Boyd, the younger brother of 2015 Longhorns signee Kris Boyd, caught three touchdown passes -- two of which came in the second half, with both giving Gilmer the lead. His 5-yard scoring reception pushed the Buckeyes' lead to 48-41 with a little more than two minutes remaining.
"Demarco's an animal; he can do anything -- defense, offense," Spears said. "I knew if I was going to throw it to him, he was going to get open."
West traveled the length of the field on the ensuing possession, and pulled to win a point. Opting to go for the win, the Trojans elected to attempt a two-point conversion, but the pass was tipped and intercepted by Butler as time expired.
Gilmer, which lost the bulk of its receiving weapons from last season's Class 4A Division II title team, got solid offensive performances from senior wideout Zod Heath and sophomore slot receiver Red Jones.
Snyder earned a 33-32 win over Gilmer in the final pool play game of the day to deny the Buckeyes the top seed.
Gilmer faces Houston Worthing at 9 a.m. Friday on Field 5A in the Round of 32.
CARTHAGE SETS TONE WITH OPENING-GAME VICTORY
Carthage began the afternoon with a 27-14 victory over Brownwood in the Pool O opener.
And while the Bulldogs supplied plenty of offensive highlights, it was Carthage's defense that carried the day.
Brownwood failed to score on its first four drives of the first half, scoring on its final possession before halftime after Carthage jumped out to a 20-0 lead.
"We've got a couple sophomores playing (on defense), and a couple juniors," said Carthage senior quarterback Jarod Blissett after his team's win over Brownwood. "But we have great senior leadership this year, and that really helps us. It makes it easier for the offense to get going, and makes us feel more confident."
Carthage's offense found the end zone on its first two drives, scoring first on a 32-yard crossing route from Jarod Blissett to wide receiver/tight end Marquise Guinn, before a 15-yard scoring strike from Blissett to slot receiver Hunter Townsend.
The Bulldogs built a three-touchdown lead on their fourth drive when, on the first play, Blissett delivered a perfect downfield strike to a streaking Jakeldric Jackson for a 45-yard score.
"I asked him, 'are you up for this play?' and he said, 'yeah, throw it,'" Blissett said. "That could've been an underneath play, or it could've been over the top. And with what the defense gave us, it was over the top, and we just took advantage of it."
Carthage nearly scored on its next series, but the first-half buzzer sounded with the ball resting inside the 15-yard line.
The second half, which featured several of Carthage's reserves on both sides of the ball, was again controlled by the Bulldogs' defense, which did not allow Brownwood to score until there was less than two minutes remaining.
"We have so many playmakers this year," Blissett said. "I can just spread the ball to any of them, and they can all make plays for me. They can't press in this, and it makes everything easier. There were holes in the defense, and we just beat them."
Carthage succumbed to Taylor, 48-33, in its next game, but advanced to the championship bracket with a 48-46 shootout victory over La Feria in its pool-play finale.
The Bulldogs will face Kountze at 9 a.m. Friday on Field 10A in the Round of 32.
CROCKETT OVERCOMES SLOW START TO ADVANCE
The day may not have begun well for Crockett, but the Bulldogs finished strong to advance to Friday's championship bracket with consecutive victories.
China Spring edged Crockett, 33-28, in the Pool J opener before the Bulldogs recovered with wins over Levelland (34-26) and Hidalgo (32-8).
Crockett finished second behind China Spring (3-0) in the pool, and will play Pilot Point at 9 a.m. Friday on Field 3A in the Round of 32.
For complete results from Thursday, and a schedule of Friday's action, click here.