Parish teams compete for seven-on-seven title

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
East Ascension's Josh Bates tries to score during the Spartans' day-one loss to Franklinton. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

The city of Gonzales witnessed history on Saturday evening as the first ever seven-on-seven Louisiana state champion was crowned.

At the end of the two-day Adidas State 7v7 Championship Series tournament, McDonogh #35 defeated John Ehret, 26-4, in Spartan Stadium to claim the state title.

Joining the two teams in the Final 4 were Landry Walker and West St. John. These four teams will go on to play the top four teams from Georgia and Florida in the Southeast Championship in Valdosta, Ga., on July 17.

The event brought some of the best football players in the state to Gonzales. Thirty teams competed, and more than 600 athletes took to Spartan Stadium and the adjoining soccer fields.

Two of the teams that took part were hosting East Ascension and their archrival St. Amant.

The Spartans really struggled throughout the weekend--going just 1-5.

In their opening game against Lutcher, they quickly fell down 11-0 and didn't score their first points until they came up with an interception.

However, they had no answer for quarterback Jontre Kirklin as he shredded the Spartan secondary and led the Bulldogs to a dominating 22-3 victory.

It didn't get any better for East Ascension in their next game as they faced Covington.

The Lions quickly jumped out to a 10-0 lead after a goal-line stand and eventually jumped up 16-0 when Spartan QB Kyran Irvin wasn't able to get the ball off in four seconds--prompting a safety.

East Ascension's only offense was their defense as cornerback Johnny Baker gave them three points with an athletic interception in the end zone.

But with Irvin and his receiving corps out of sync, the Spartans fell, 18-3.

After finally getting into rhythm and soaring past H.L. Bourgeois, 29-2, the Spartans struggled against Franklinton.

Franklinton took an early 13-3 lead, but Irvin hit Josh Bates for a score to cut it to 13-12 with five minutes remaining.

The Spartans needed a huge stop, but they couldn't get it. Franklinton went downfield for a score to take a 19-12 advantage. They eventually won the game, 21-12.

Things didn't get much better for the Spartans the next day as they lost to L.W. Higgins, 25-16, and St. Augustine, 19-11--eliminating them from competition.

But as East Ascension struggled, St. Amant flourished. The Gators went 5-3 throughout the two days and reached the Elite 8 before losing to West St. John.

"This bracket is tough, it's full of talent and they're all well coached," Gator head coach David Oliver said. "I like the fact that we didn't back down, we competed and played hard. There are mistakes to correct, but it's summer time, so we have to correct those by the fall. It's a nice evaluation of our team."

St. Amant opened things with a 27-12 victory over South Lafourche after falling behind 10-0 early.

The Gator offense caught fire as first-year starting QB Hayden Mallory hit Briggs Bourgeois and Nathan Taylor for touchdowns to take control of the contest.

St. Amant followed it up with a close 23-18 victory over St. James and a 26-11 win over Higgins.

They didn't taste defeat until the final game on Friday when they met West St. John.

The Rams overwhelmed them early--taking a 17-0 lead after an impressive goal-line stand.

The Gators tried to make a run late as Mallory hooked up with Bourgeois for a TD, but St. Amant eventually dropped their first game of the tournament, 23-12.

"I guess it's all about our kids getting to compete against top-notch competition from across the state," Oliver said. "Seven on seven tells you some, but it doesn't tell you everything, but this certainly helps us from the competitive standout of the summer, going against other people."

On Saturday, St. Amant began with a razor-thin 19-18 defeat to Lutcher, but they bounced back with a 23-20 win over Terrebonne and a 25-22 victory over St. Paul's to reach the Elite 8.

That's when they clashed with West St. John for the second time and once again, they were beaten--this time by a score of 25-16. The loss eliminated them from the tournament.

Overall, Coach Oliver liked what he saw from the tournament.

"I like the idea that it's a state-wide thing. We all do seven on seven, but this has some unique things that really make it competitive," Oliver said. "One of the things that they do is have officials--which keeps the competitive balance straight and another thing, there is something at risk on every play.

"In other words, the offense is going to score or the defense is going to score. You get two points for a stop and three points for a turnover, so it keeps it competitive and keeps the game moving, and our kids are getting used to that competition."