Arlington Lamar's 7-on-7 football program goes into every summer thinking about keeping the streak alive.
But after one of their teammates suffered a traumatic head injury, their main focus became rallying around their fallen comrade.
Sophomore safety Brett Green Jr. continues to show steady improvement from his injury, which occurred during a 7-on-7 state qualifying tournament in May. And Lamar, down to its second-to-last chance to qualify, defeated rival Arlington at a tournament at Hurst L.D. Bell on June 16 to punch its ticket to the state 7-on-7 tournament in College Station on June 29-30.
It’s the 21st consecutive season that Lamar has qualified for the tournament, where they'll try to advance to the championship bracket for the 18th time.
“This streak we’ve got going on, we take a lot of pride in,” said junior quarterback Jack Dawson, who led the Vikings to the area round of the 6A Division I football playoffs last fall.
But when Green’s injury happened, the streak took a backseat to concern for their friend and teammate.
“We were winning the game when it happened,” Dawson said. “And once it happened, it all went downhill.”
Green was knocked unconscious after colliding with a receiver while defending a pass. He suffered bleeding on the brain and those close to Green wondered if he would survive the night. But the sophomore woke up the next day alert and responsive. In the weeks since, Green’s shown steady improvement. He is up and walking around. And he’s returned home from the hospital.
But he still has a long way to go on his rehab and recovery process, according to Jim Poynter, Lamar’s 7-on-7 coach. Green’s family and friends have set up a GoFundMe page to offset medical expenses.
“It just shows how strong he is and what kind of person he is,” Dawson said. “It’s still affecting us, but in a positive way.”
Jordan Polk, a senior cornerback who has offers from Southwest Oklahoma State, Southeast Oklahoma State and Northwest Oklahoma State, was in the defensive backfield with Green when the brutal injury happened. Everyone on the team was rattled by the incident, he said.
“Going into the practices, all we could think about was Brett. Whereas, before he got hurt, our focus was all about qualifying,” Polk said.
After struggling through a few games, Lamar regained its focus and set about winning for Green. And when Lamar won on June 16 to clinch the state berth, it was at L.D. Bell – the same place where Green’s injury happened.
“It brought us closer together,” sophomore tight end Colt Fuller said. “We qualified on the same field he got hurt on. And that helped.”
In the wake of Green’s injury, all of Poynter’s players are now wearing soft-shell helmets that sort of resemble the pre-1950s helmets that Sammy Baugh or Red Grange wore. Between the added precaution of the helmets and Green’s continued progress, Lamar players are easing back into their comfort zone on the field. Now, they’re preparing to impress at state before turning their attention to the upcoming fall season.
“I think this group has more heart than in the past,” Polk said. “Everybody wants to go somewhere. We don’t just want to win. We want to go further in life.”