Collinsville practice

The Collinsville 7-on-7 team is headed to the state tournament in College Station.

The UIL football season may not start until August, but one area team is already playing for a championship.

The Collinsville football team is headed to College Station for the Texas 7-on-7 Division III state tournament Thursday and Friday. The Pirates will play three games Thursday and at least one Friday at Veterans Park and Athletics Complex.

The tournament is hosted by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. Collinsville earned a spot at state at the Archer City State Qualifying Tournament (SQT) June 5. Coach Garrett Patterson said the players are excited, especially after not being considered among the favorites to qualify.

“I don’t know if it was an eye-opener, but we were a little bit surprised at how well our kids played right away,” Patterson said. “That was really, really big for us, because we’re young. We have no seniors on the 7-on-7 team at all. We’re all juniors, sophomores and a freshman. It’s just one of those deals where it gets you a lot more confident going into the season.”

The tournament is divided into three divisions. Division III consists of public schools classified as 3A-2 or smaller.

The 32 participating teams will be split into groups of four. Collinsville is in Pool G and will play Dublin, Franklin and Wink on Thursday beginning at 1 p.m. All teams advance to the championship bracket played Friday starting at 8 a.m.

The 7-on-7 style of football is a non-physical, fast-paced version of football. Tackling and blocking are not allowed. There is no punting or kicking. On offense, a team fields a snapper, a quarterback and five receivers. Only passing plays are allowed, and the quarterback is required to throw the ball in four seconds or less.

Patterson said playing 7-on-7 somewhat helps the players improve and get repetitions, but the lack of physicality limits how much players can learn.

“It helps you in your passing game,” Patterson said. “It helps you in your pass defense… There’s no real physical strain besides running. There’s no tackling technique. There’s just not a whole lot to it. There’s no blocking technique. It’s pretty much basketball on grass, score as many points as you can.”

Patterson said he and the coaches already have a good idea who is going to play a key role in the fall, but they can watch how the players perform in 7-on-7 and take mental notes on who is making plays and who needs more practice.

While they can watch, high school coaches are limited on how much they can interact with players in the offseason. As a result, the “coach” for 7-on-7 is merely a volunteer chaperone. The players call their own plays and rotations.

Patterson said he would like to see the Pirates at least advance into the winner’s bracket and play into the later rounds Friday, but the players are optimistic about winning the championship.

“It’s going to be a tall task, because there’s some really, really good programs in there,” Patterson said. “But at the same time, I think those two things, if you accomplish those things, you’ve done some really, really good stuff and built a whole lot of confidence in a whole bunch of young kids.”

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