Seven-on-seven tournament returns tomorrow

Kyle Riviere
For the second straight summer, Donaldsonville will compete in the seven-on-seven tournament. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

Fall camps will not begin for the area’s football teams until July, but they’ll still see their share of competition this week.

Beginning on Thursday, the Airo Louisiana 7v7 Championship Tournament will come back to Ascension for the third straight summer, and for the second straight year, St. Amant High will host it.

Both the Gators and the Donaldsonville Tigers will be competing.

Air Sports Management brought their seven-on-seven football tournament to Louisiana three years ago. Louisiana was only the fourth state to take part in the event.

The first year, East Ascension hosted the tournament, and last season, St. Amant took over as the host.

The event was supposed to take part at the Lamar Dixon Expo Center in 2017, but it was recently decided that it would move back to St. Amant.

Gator head coach David Oliver has been a big fan of the tournament ever since it first came to Ascension. He has praised the format of the games.

“You can run the ball and really keep the defenses honest,” Oliver said. “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.”

Oliver has also said that “it’s nice to have an escape from the every-day monotony of workouts with your own team. You get a chance to compete against somebody else.”

The competition has gone well for the Gators in the past two years.

In 2016, they reached the quarterfinals. Last summer, St. Amant made it to the round of 12, but they lost a 33-32 overtime thriller to eventual semifinalist Landry Walker. Landry Walker also went on to win the Class 5A state title in the fall.

But though the venue will be the same in 2017, the crew the Gators bring to the event will be drastically different.

They lose a two-year starter at quarterback in Hayden Mallory and a plethora of talented receivers in Briggs Bourgeois, Jacob Cheatwood, Larson Fontenot and Ivan Prejean.

They’ll be looking to Halen Miller to step up at quarterback, along with receivers Hector Rodriguez, Tate Broussard and Grant Alexander, and running backs Cade Nelson and K.J. Franklin.

They will also lose talented defensive backs in Khaj Washington, Jerrick Beckwith and Patrick Wolfe.

Though, they return skilled guys in Johnny Vickers, Ben Parker and Jacolby Landry.

Donaldsonville will compete in the event for the second straight year.

Last summer, the Tigers carried themselves well, despite plenty of youth and inexperience. They went 2-2 in pool play, before being eliminated by Lake Area New Tech.

Donaldsonville could be even better this time around as they bring back most of their top players including: quarterback Jaylin Williams, running back Jemon Pleasant, receivers Ladarius Jackson and James Gipson and linebacker Tahj Brown.

The Tigers and Gators are hoping to duplicate the success of Warren Easton. They won the Louisiana state title last year.

The four semifinalists will move on to compete against the semifinalists from other states to determine a national champion.

The Airo tournament has continued to grow throughout the country. It now takes place in 11 total states. In addition to Louisiana, it is played in California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, the New England area, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

This year’s Louisiana tournament will not be as big as last year.

Last summer, 64 teams competed, forcing teams to be split between Lafayette and St. Amant over the course of three days.

This year, St. Amant will host all of the action, and the tournament will only take one day to crown a champion.

The action will begin on Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. with pool play. All teams are guaranteed five games.