TYLER -- Tyler Lee earned an all expenses paid trip to the Division I state 7-on-7 tournament next month with a 46-34 win against Longview in Saturday's state qualifier tournament at Tyler's Lindsey Park.

It's free ride for the kids, anyway. Someone will have to foot the bill when the competition gets underway July 10 in College Station.

But senior quarterback Zach Hall thinks it's an investment that will pay big dividends when the Red Raiders, East Texas' only Class 6A school, run through the banner at Keller Fossil Ridge's place in August.

"I've been there the past two years," the Baylor and Texas Tech target said. "It wouldn't feel right not going in my last year of playing 7-on-7. The coaching staff has been every year they've done 7-on-7. It wouldn't be right -- it would not feel right -- that they're not going and that we stopped the tradition."

High school and college coaches alike praise Texas' 7-on-7 football system. It's a 40-minute game played on a continuous clock that is exclusively based on passing and pass defense.

Linemen are not present with exception to the center. The center's purpose is only to snap the ball, and some schools just use a spare skill player as the snapper.

High school coaching staffs are invited to watch their players compete, but they are banned from coaching 7-on-7 football. Community members, usually parents, serve as the teams' coaches.

In the Tyler State Qualifying Tournament, 16 participating programs were broken up into four pools consisting of four teams. One team in each pool had already qualified for the state tournament, however, and all prior qualifiers agreed forfeit after playing group games so other teams could get eligible to go.

The best-performing, non-qualified team advanced to the semifinal round against a counterpart from another pool. And the winners of the semifinal round automatically qualified for the state tournament without having to meet in a championship game.

Lee had to battle some strong teams in their own pool just to reach the decisive game against Longview. It opened the day with a 34-18 victory against Pine Tree, edged Jacksonville, 40-36, and closed group competition with a 46-40 win against College Station.

College Station qualified for the state tournament earlier in the 7-on-7 season.

The Lobos defeated El Paso Eastwood, 20-7, and Huntsville, 33-26. They lost to Lufkin, 27-25, but the Panthers had already qualified for the state level and forfeited afterward.

In the semifinal round, Lee took several punches from an up-and-coming Longview offense. The Red Raiders only led 21-20 at halftime.

But senior receiver Dante Johnson was just getting warmed up at that point. He scored three second half touchdowns for a total of four in the game.

Longview had no answers for the 6-foot-2, 174-pound target. A first half interception, second half interception and a second half turnover on downs did not help matters while Hall worked his way out to 338 passing yards.

"Can I tell you a story? Freshman year, he could not catch even, like, a cold," Hall said as Johnson laughed in the background. "He could not catch. He worked hard freshman year and sophomore year. He was working hard on JV, making people look crazy like he did out here today. Junior year, he got even better.

"He's a success story. For real."

Hall threw seven touchdown passes against the Lobos. Retrospectively, only the first half whistle snapped him from a perfect eight-for-eight on drives against the continuous clock.

Longview quarterback Michael Ross had a good day on the losing side. He completed 20 of 32 attempts for 243 yards and five touchdowns while responsible for the two interceptions.

"Longview is a good team and had some real good players out here," Johnson said. "We just had that mindset that we wanted it more."

John Tyler got close to making it a City of Tyler sweep. It reached the opposite semifinal game and fell, 53-32, to Humble Atascocita from the Greater Houston Area.

Whitehouse joined Jacksonville, Pine Tree, John Tyler and Longview as a team that was seeking to become qualified for the state tournament but failed to do so.

All of those teams are under the impression they will not be able to make a trip to College Station. The remaining qualifying tournaments around the state are booked solid.

But Lee is going once again. It joins Lindale and Lufkin in the chase for a Division I summer state championship.

"Last year, we were still young," Hall said. "But coming out here, we're all mostly seniors now. It's our last year and we want to go get it."

Red Raiders quarterback Zach Hall passed for 348 yards and seven touchdowns in his team's 46-34 win against Longview. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)

Tyler State Qualifier Tournament Results

Pool A

  • College Station* 41, Jacksonville 28
  • Tyler Lee 34, Pine Tree 18
  • College Station 47, Pine Tree 19
  • Tyler Lee 40, Jacksonville 34
  • Pine Tree 34, Jacksonville 7
  • Tyler Lee 46, College Station 40
Pool B
  • Lufkin* 44, Huntsville 18
  • Longview 20, El Paso Eastwood 7
  • El Paso Eastwood 39, Lufkin 20
  • Longview 33, Huntsville 26
  • El Paso Eastwood 52, Huntsville 28
  • Lufkin 27, Longview 25
Pool C
  • Atascocita 46, Whitehouse 20
  • Lindale* 33, Lancaster 27
  • Atascociata 60, Lancaster 36
  • Whitehouse 45, Lindale 20
  • Atascocita 26, Lindale 25
  • Whitehouse 37, Lancaster 20
Pool D
  • John Tyler 47, Crockett** 32
  • North Mesquite 55, Houston Magnolia 12
  • North Mesquite 33, Crockett 30
  • John Tyler 69, Houston Magnolia 20
  • Crockett 58, Magnolia 25
  • John Tyler 49, North Mesquite 28
Tournament Semifinals
  • Tyler Lee 46, Longview 34
  • Atascocita 53, John Tyler 32
*Indicates team was already qualified for the Division I State 7-on-7 Tournament
**Indicates Crockett qualified for the Division II State 7-on-7 Tournament 

 

Whatever, Odell Beckham: A Photo For The Ages

Magnolia did not have a great day in Tyler, but Robbie Smothers made the best catch of the day. A one-handed grab above a John Tyler defender in the final seconds to make the score 69-20 in favor of the Lions. (Mark Martin, ETSN.fm)