Horn qualifies for state 7-on-7 football tournament for the first time
Mesquite ISD football programs have fared well since 7-on-7 football exploded across the state 15 years ago.
North Mesquite won the state championship in 1999, Mesquite was the state runner-up in 2008 and West Mesquite advanced to the second round of the championship bracket in 2010.
Despite having one of the top passing attacks in the area in recent years, that has not translated into success on the 7-on-7 stage for Horn, which had never qualified for the state event.
That all changed last week, though, as the Jaguars earned one of the two qualifying berths at the Mesquite State Qualifying Tournament on Friday at Mesquite Memorial Stadium.
Horn defeated DeSoto in one semifinal, while Wylie East held off Mesquite in the other to advance to the finals. Due to the tournament running late, and the fact they had both clinched state berths, they opted not to play the final game.
Horn will be one of 64 Division I (Class 4A-5A) teams that will compete at the 2012 State 7-on-7 Tournament on July 20-21 at Texas A&M University in College Station.
"They competed well," said Horn head coach Rodney Webb, who is relegated to the role of observer due 7-on-7 rules that prohibit coaches from having active sideline roles with the teams. "Historically, our 7-on-7 teams fizzled as the tournament wore on either in that last pool game or in the elimination game, but not this time. I'm proud of the kids, they showed some backbone and played hard."
The Jaguars rolled through their first two pool games, posting a 41-6 win over Conrad and a 26-12 victory over future district rival Rockwall.
Things got tougher in the third pool game, where Horn trailed Wilmer-Hutchins late in the contest. However, the Jaguars responded in the clutch, scoring with 20 seconds left to pull out a 26-25 win to win the pool.
That set up a clash with former district rival DeSoto, who is also the defending 7-on-7 state champion. The Eagles had averaged 46.6 points per game in three blowout wins during pool play, but where held in check by the Horn defense as the Jaguars moved on to the finals.
"They showed a lot of resilience in that last pool game and then they had to go up against DeSoto, who had annihilated pretty much everybody," Webb said. "We were missing several guys and had some backups in, so to hold them to 14 points for the first time in, maybe forever, was impressive."
Quarterback play is always big during the 7-on-7 season and that plays to one of Horn's strengths. Destri White will only be a junior this fall, but after making a couple of emergency starts as a freshman and then handling the role during his sophomore year, he can be classified as a veteran, something that was on display during Friday's tournament.
"He really showed strong leadership and just set the tone for everybody else," Webb said. "His competitive side came out and the rest of the kids followed that."
White was not the only Jaguar with a strong performance. Brian O'Bannon is expected to be a big playmaker this fall and he showed off that potential on offense on Friday, as did Jarrison Stewart, who will be a sophomore this season.
On defense, linebacker Hunter Harwell had a solid effort, as did defensive back Larry Bridges, who led the team in interceptions.
But while advancing to the state tournament is a nice achievement, Horn also understands that success during the summer does not correlate to success in the fall.
"We try not to make a big deal out of it, so we don't get too excited if we win and we don't get too down if we don't do well," Webb said. "To me it is almost as if they were playing checkers. Of course, you want to win but it doesn't mean anything as far as what kind of football team we are going to be. We have had one of the most prolific passing offenses in the area in the last six years but it hasn't shown through to 7-on-7, so we don't read too much into it."
Even armed with that understanding, the Jaguars are hoping to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them. The 7-on-7 team will continue to work out during the next month and they hope to make some noise at the state tournament on July 20-21.
"The kids are really excited about it," Webb said. "It will be a nice experience as far as team building and they get to make that overnight trip to play some of the best teams across the state so the kids are excited about the weekend."