State 7v7 Championship Series coming to Gonzales

Kyle Riviere
EA head coach Paul Bourgeois, St. Amant assistant coach Dwayne Thomassee and players from both teams represented their schools at the press conference.

This summer, the first ever Louisiana seven-on-seven state champion will be crowned, and all of the action will take place right here in Gonzales.

Last week, Florida-based Airo Sports Managment announced that they are bringing their Adidas State 7v7 Championship Series to the city on June 27-28.

On Tuesday, Airo President Dave Menard came to East Ascension High to talk about the move along with Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, Spartan head football coach Paul Bourgeois, St. Amant assistant football coach and Louisiana Airo team member Dwayne Thomassee and players from some of the teams that will be competing in the tournament.

"It's an amazing opportunity to play in the state championship here in Louisiana. I know how prideful the state is and what level of athletes come out of this state," Menard said. "I see all these rivalries, and I can't wait to see the guys bring that to the field."

Menard, a former college football player at New Haven and free-agent pickup for the Cleveland Browns, created Airo as a way for coaches and players to have another opportunity to compete together as a team during the offseason.

"In Florida, all we see is all-star-style seven on seven. High school coaches don't have the opportunity to play with the kids; they don't have the platform," Menard said. "That's when Airo stepped in and drew that line in the sand and said that we were going to be dedicated to coaches and athletes competing as a team."

Ever since, both Florida and Georgia have been competing for seven-on-seven state titles during the summer. Now, the event is coming to Louisiana.

Spartan Stadium and the ajoining soccer fields will host the games in June, and Coach Bourgeois couldn't be happier for East Ascension and its community.

"This is a big day for Louisiana high school football, Ascension parish, East Ascension High School and also the city of Gonzales. I think it's going to bring a lot of people in, and it's going to be a nice deal for us," Bourgeois said.

Mayor Arceneaux thinks that it's a match made in Heaven.

"As you know, Gonzales is a sports city, always has been. I think we have the facilities we need for Airo Sports to do what they need to do for this seven-on-seven event," Arceneaux said. "It's exciting because we're going to be bringing in the top athletes in the state of Louisiana, lots of great coaches, people from the college ranks--and that excites me knowing that they're all going to be coming to the city of Gonzales."

Before the press conference even took place on Tuesday evening, there were already 10 teams that had signed up for the event. These schools included: East Ascension, St. Amant, St. James, West St. John and Covington.

When it's all said and done, 32 squads will be coming to Gonzales in late June to compete for a title.

"There aren't a lot of opportunities for football players outside of the season--unlike in basketball or these other sports--but someone was smart enough to come up with this seven-on-seven deal and now, it's huge," Bourgeois said. "It's a very big deal. We are now part of one of the bigger events, so I think it's going to be great--not just for our young men--but all the other teams that come play."

Coach Thomassee thinks that the tournament is something that was greatly needed in Louisiana.

"This thing is going to go off, and it's going to go off big. I have no doubt in my mind. I'm excited about the project," Thomassee said. "I think there's a severe need for this in the state of Louisiana and for our coaches that work so hard to get our kids ready for those Friday nights. This is a great mechanism to allow us to do that."

At the end of the tournament, the top four teams will go on to compete against the top four teams from both Georgia and Florida. Each player will be provided $350 worth of apparel by Adidas.

"We're going to revolutionize the state by allowing ourselves an additional chance to play for an additional state championship," Thomassee said. "That's the big picture--giving our guys the opportunity to play in an offseason state championship for seven on seven that will give them momentum heading into their fall camps and their 2015 seasons."

Airo is only planning on getting bigger. They plan on upping the number of competing teams in the future. By 2017, they hope to have the State 7v7 Championship Series in 30 different states--allowing them to crown a national champion.

Mayor Arceneaux is hoping the event can create a lasting tradition in Gonzales.

"This is very exciting for us. I can tell you that the people of Gonzales are going to come together and do everything they can to make this work. We have a good start right now with Coach Bourgeois and his team," Arceneaux said. "There is no doubt in my mind that this will be successful. I hope this will be something that we'll see here in Gonzales for quite some time."