The second annual Benton High 7-on-7 Football Tournament starts Friday at Freedom Fields.
Benton, Haughton, Airline and Parkway are among the 15 teams that will be competing starting with pool play at 1 p.m. Other teams competing are Booker T. Washington, Huntington, Northwood, Captain Shreve, Lake Cormorant (Miss.), North Caddo, Pineville, Green Oaks, Mansfield, Minden and St. Mary’s.
The tournament concludes Saturday with a double-elimination tournament starting at 8 a.m. The championship round is set for 1 p.m.
The tournament differs from last year’s Benton event and the recently completed Airline tournament in that it is spread over two days.
Benton head coach Reynolds Moore said one of the reasons is that he wanted to attract some out-of-town teams and give them a chance to spend a night in the area.
The Shreveport-Bossier Sports Commission is one of the event’s sponsors.
“They’re trying to get some stuff like this going in our area,” Moore said.
Moore also got some feedback from coaches last year about the length of a one-day event.
“Last year we had several coaches with several teams that played eight or nine games in that one day and they were like, ‘It’s just too much, too hot,’ ” he said. “We had several suggest that we move to two days.”
Each team will play four games in pool play Friday. After the first two rounds, Moore said the teams will take a break to hear an inspirational message from Sam Caston of the Louisiana-based non-profit Wounded War Heroes.
According to a mission statement on its website, “Wounded War Heroes was founded to show our appreciation to the men and women who have been wounded while in combat, by providing them therapeutic outdoor experiences upon their return home from fighting for our country. Our sole purpose is to show these veterans that they have not been forgotten for their courageous service to our country.”
Moore said Caston is an Air Force veteran who lost a hand fighting in Iraq.
Benton competed in the Arkansas 7-on-7 Classic last Thursday and Friday in Little Rock.
The Tigers went 3-2 in pool play Thursday and 1-2 in the double-elimination tournament Friday.
That was a far cry from a year ago, when Benton failed to win a game in seven tries in the tournament.
Benton goes to one out-of-town event each summer, and Moore said he let’s his seniors help decide where.
“I pulled my seniors in and said, ‘OK, where do ya’ll want to go? Any college you have in mind?’ ” Moore said. “They said, ‘Coach, if it’s all the same to you we’d just rather go to Little Rock again. We let ya’ll down (last year). We let each other down. We just didn’t represent well. We want to go back up there and play better. ’ ”
In the double-elimination tournament, Benton led Ouachita Christian, the only other Louisiana school competing, 17-2 in the first round but OCS rallied to win 28-25.
After defeating the Little Rock Christian JV 29-8, the Tigers faced Fayetteville High School, which won the Arkansas 7A state title last season.
“We went toe to toe with them,” Moore said. “For 16 minutes we were either tied or up one or down one the whole time.”
Fayetteville turned a late interception into a touchdown and went on to win 46-34.
Moore was pleased with the play of his younger players. The Tigers had only one player who is projected to start in the secondary this season with them. For much of the day, there was only one senior playing defense.
“The biggest thing we asked them is just whatever it is you’re playing just go out and compete and they did every single snap,” he said. “We had a lot of sophomores out there who haven’t seen the field, haven’t seen any 7 on 7, anything like that. They stepped up and competed. I was real pleased. It was a much better tournament than last year.”
— Russell Hedges, email@example.com