State football titles are won in December, but there are some bragging rights on the line this week when squads convene in College Station for the Texas 7-on-7 Championships.
Carroll will look to defend the title it won a year ago. The Dragons have won all nine of their 7-on-7 games this summer, and as much as winning is a tradition at Carroll, players and coaches will tell you it’s not the most important thing about 7-on-7.
“It’s not a significant thing to us,” Carroll football coach Hal Wasson said. “All we want to do is try to get better each and every time throwing and catching the football. We want our defense to improve their fundamentals, but we don’t orchestrate a 7-on-7 offense, nor do we have a 7-on-7 defense. We just do what we do. We approach it from the perspective that we’re just trying to make ourselves better. We don’t focus on being a great 7-on-7 team.”
Wasson, like all high school coaches, cannot oversee the 7-on-7 program. Many schools have a volunteer that acts as a coach of the team, but the Dragons leave all the X’s and O’s to the players.
“We believe leadership is a learned behavior,” he explained. “Our players go into it with the attitude that we’re going to let our quarterback call the plays and our defense calls the signals. We don’t have anybody out there calling it except for those players because at the end of the day we want them to be better leaders and better students of the game. The key word in all this is trust. We trust the players are going to work to be better students of the game. We trust our kids are going to work and be better leaders because it is a learned behavior. I think that’s a big key to success.”
Phil Barber has coordinated the Dragons’ 7-on-7 program for about a half-dozen years, handling logistics and standing by in case of emergency, but confesses he plays little part in their success.
“I just sit in my chair and behave myself,” he joked. “They do all the substitutions; they call all the plays. The kids do it. If they asked me to call a play, I wouldn’t know what to do.”
Calling plays fall on the shoulders of quarterback Ryan Agnew, the unquestioned leader of the Dragons offense. Compting in 7-on-7 gives him and other players an opportunity to develop that leadership.
“That’s where all our leadership comes from, is through the summer in 7-on-7,” he said. “It’s a big thing for skill players. On defense, who are they going to look to to make the calls? So it does help with leadership. That’s when we develop the most, I think, when the coaches aren’t there.”
And of course, there are physical benefits gained from 7-on-7.
“It benefits me most by just throwing every day to my receivers, trying to get used to them, get the timing down, running their routes and trying to get that as crisp as we can,” Agnew said. “Overall, just learning the plays better and going out there and perfecting our craft to the best of our abilities.”
Even if the Dragons do capture a second consecutive 7-on-7 title, you likely won’t be seeing it displayed on the billboard outside the school. Players and coaches are more interested in player growth than summer championships.
“All summer we’re just trying to get better for August,” Agnew said. “It’s going to be for fun when we go down [to College Station] because it’ll be like a mini-vacation with the team, but as soon as we step between the lines it’s all business. We’re not going to take this like it’s life-or-death, but we’re going to compete as hard as we can. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. It’s not going to affect us at the end of the day.
“We’re going to give it all we have and all we have is pretty much winning to us,” he added. “If we don’t win we feel like we failed. So we’re going to do our best to win and do everything in our power, but there’s not going to be any tears at the end. There’s not going to be anything like going through the end of a 13 or 14-game football season during the school year with that emotion.”
The Texas 7-on-7 Championships take place Thursday through Saturday at Veterans Park and Athletic Complex in College Station.