GRAHAM, TX (KAUZ) - The Graham Steers will once again compete at the Texas State 7-on-7 Football Tournament, scheduled for this Thursday and Friday in College Station.
It's the 9th visit to state for the Steers, who won the Division II championship in 2013 and 2014. Now they have a new crop of players ready to carry on the tradition.
"This means everything," said senior linebacker Joel Jones. "I mean, obviously every time I put on a jersey with my brothers and put cleats on and step on the field, it's down to business."
"Growing up watching those guys compete in the tournament was a big deal," said senior quarterback Tucker Horn. "It was a lot of fun to be a part of a school that won that. So for us to get a chance to do that, it really is, it really is cool. These guys are looking forward to it. They have been working hard every day, and they are extremely happy to be in this situation."
Horn's father, Jeff Horn, is the volunteer coach for the Steers, since the Graham HS coaches aren't allowed to coach the team under 7-on-7 rules.
"Graham has a unique culture with 7-on-7," the elder Horn said. "It is a really big deal in this community. Our high school coaches do a great job of promoting it, and they really have a player-led program. So we are really excited about that."
The Steers feel that 7-on-7 is a perfect place to practice and get better during the summer months on offense and defense.
"We came out here starting spring, and started seven on seven to get our routes down," said the younger Horn. "And everybody could work together so they would know how one person ran a route and how another could get open. So I think that will help us a lot, since that's basically what we run is a seven on seven offense for the fall. We don't change up our playbook. We run it just how we do in the seven on seven tournament, so that will be good."
"It's a lot different than 11-man, obviously," said Jones. "There is no running and the physical side of that is taken out quite a bit. But as far as coverages and passing goes, it's great practice to get out there and work the zones and work on passing off and communication and work on man coverage."
Aside from getting better at the X's and O's, the players and coaches know getting to spend this time together will help them become a stronger and closer group of teammates, and a better overall team in the fall.
"I think hanging around each other is a big part of it," said Tucker Horn. "We spend weeks and weeks and weeks together during the summer going down to this trip we are going. It's going to be great for our composure and camaraderie, and we're going to come together and we are going to have a lot of fun. And by the time we get to the fall it's just going to be, we'd better be having fun. It had better not seem like a job. We'd better be just hanging around each other, with our brothers. And I think that's the major part that will really help us come the fall."
"I think 7-on-7 promotes a sense of being able to work together, being able to come together as a team to work hard," his father said. "Obviously it's skill position and you know it helps with your throwing and your catching and with your back seven on defense and how to cover people and things along those lines. Get used to playing together with people that you might not get unless you were doing 7-on-7 in the spring. So I think what it is, is a great way to build a strong foundation heading into the fall for real football."
"My teammates are awesome," Jones said. "I wouldn't trade anything in the world to play with any other group of kids. I mean they are all my brothers and I love them all, and it's going to be a great season."
The Steers are in a pool with Brock, Mexia and Sweeny, and according to Dave Campbell's Texas Football, they are expected to win their pool.
Pool J Schedule (Thursday):
Brock vs Graham, 2 p.m., Field 3A
Graham vs Sweeny, 4 p.m., Field 3A
Mexia vs Graham, 6 p.m., Field 3B
The top 2 teams from the pool move on to the Championship bracket on Friday, while the bottom 2 play in the Consolation bracket.