Seven-on-seven tourney starts today

Kyle Riviere
St. Amant performed very well in last year's tournament, reaching the quarterfinals. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

It may be the offseason, but this week, St. Amant and East Ascension will both be competing for a state championship.

Florida-based Airo Sports Management is bringing their 7v7 Adidas Championship Series tournament back to Ascension Parish to crown a Louisiana seven-on-seven champion.

The tournament was founded by Airo President Dave Menard and creator of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl Richard McGuiness. When the event first started, only two states were participating—Florida and Georgia.

Last year, the series branched out to Louisiana when it was hosted by East Ascension. With a field of 30 teams, the tournament was a huge success.

"Last year was awesome. It was a great experience for us," St. Amant head coach David Oliver said. "Our kids loved it, our coaches loved it and I believe our community loved it. We're excited that they asked us to keep this function in Ascension Parish."

The Gators performed well—reaching the quarterfinals.

McDonough 35 took home the state championship. Afterward, they, along with semifinalists John Ehret, Landry Walker and West St. John, went to Valdosta, Ga., to compete against Florida and Georgia’s top teams for the regional championship.

This summer, the tournament is right back in Ascension with an expanded field of 64 teams competing. Lafayette has been added as a tournament site.

The event has also expanded when it comes to the states competing.

"We love this area. We believe this is a great home for the event," Menard said. "We're excited to get a new location in Lafayette, and we're already looking for another location in 2017. It's exciting times. We're expanding. We started off with just three states, and now we're in 11 states. We went after all the football states, and some of the best football is being played right here in Louisiana."

With the field being more than doubled from last season, games will be played at two separate locations: St. Amant and St. Thomas More in Lafayette. Each school will host 31 teams.

On Friday, the top four Lafayette teams will travel to St. Amant to compete against their top four teams. It will all culminate in a seven-on-seven state champion being crowned at the end of the day.

The Gators will return most of the weapons from last year’s run to the quarterfinals. All-district standout Hayden Mallory returns at quarterback, along with all-district receivers Briggs Bourgeois, Larson Fontenot and Jacob Cheatwood. Mark Darby will take over at running back.

East Ascension is hoping to perform better this year under first-year head coach Darnell Lee. After losing an all-district player and two-year starter in Nicholls State signee Kyran Irvin, they’ll have to break in a new quarterback with Keenen Dunn.

Dunn will have viable targets in all-district performer Ira Washington, Noah Gray and Raekwon Mackyon.

Coach Oliver said that he’s a big fan of how the tournament works.

"What we really like about it is the format," Oliver said. "You can run the ball and really keep the defenses honest. Secondly, it allows our defensive players a chance to score. Any time someone has the ball, they have a chance to score points. Offense gets 6 for a touchdown, and the defense will get 2 for a stop and 3 for a turnover. It keeps the game competitive and keeps the defensive guys engaged."