Bearcats find improvement in 7-on-7 tournament

Published 11:31 am Monday, June 26, 2023

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The Bearcat football team reached the semi-finals at a Troy University 7-on-7 tournament on Thursday. 

The team earned an 18 seed for the tournament bracket after finishing 2-2 in pool play. Head Coach Jeff Littleton said he was happy with the team’s performance, but his sights are set higher than where they finished.

“It was good work for us,” Littleton said. “We got a lot of reps and we competed at a high level. But we’ve come up short of what we expect to do. Our goal is to win championships, and we didn’t. That just tells us we got work to do.”

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The Bearcats left Thursday at 6 a.m. for their initial 9 a.m. game. The team played eight games, the final game ending at 6:30 p.m. Littleton said the long day didn’t interfere with the team’s high spirits.

“They loved it,” Littleton said. “Seven on seven is more like backyard football, it’s disorganized.” 

The team played four games in pool play. One of the teams that beat them in pool play, Carver Montgomery High School, was their opponent in the second round of the bracket. The Bearcats beat them during the rematch, and Littleton credited the win to execution.

“The good thing about this group,… they listen to coaching and respond to coaching,” Littleton said. “We corrected our mistakes and beat them like we should have in the first game.”

At 5 p.m., after seven games and eight hours of football, the Bearcats took on Thompson High School in the semi-finals. Thompson, reigning 7A state champions in Alabama, went up early on the bearcats by two touchdowns. Bainbridge scored, then secured an interception on the next drive. 

Nearing the end of a back-and-forth game, the Bearcats scored to make it 23-25. The team needed to convert the two-point conversion to tie the game. With 20 seconds on the clock, the team failed to reach the endzone. Thompson got the ball back and ran out the clock. Littleton said he was happy with how the team dealt with adversity. 

“It’s kind of what this is for, competition,” Littleton said. “Trying to react positively to an adverse situation is always a good thing.”

7-on-7 football is played like standard 11-on-11 football but without the offensive and defensive line and with altered rules. Running and lateral plays are not allowed, and interceptions and fumbles are not allowed to be returned. Teams start from the 40-yard line and are awarded first downs at the 25 and 10-yard line. Littleton said he enjoys the disorganized nature of 7-on-7 because it’s a different challenge for coaches.

“It keeps your mind fresh,” Littleton said. “You see a lot of different stuff, it’s good work for the coaches as well.”

Littleton said Thursday’s tournament showed growth in the team. The team competed in a tournament in Tallahassee two weeks ago and made it to the quarter-finals. He said it was good to see the team advance further on Thursday. The team still needs to work on fundamentals, according to Littleton, and he said that comes in embracing failure. 

“You’ve got to learn from your mistakes, and you’ve got to compete,” Littleton said, explaining what he told his players. “If you don’t compete, you don’t know what kind of situation you can be in, how good you can be. You’re not a failure until you quit.”