A broadcaster for the National Federation of State High School Associations Network said Shenendehowa’s varsity football team did not pass the eye test when it showed up for the July 17-19 National Select 7on7 Championship Tournament in Alabama.
Looks proved to be deceiving.
“We wanted to represent Shenendehowa, Section II and the state, and we did that very well. I’m very proud of our effort and our execution,” said Plainsmen coach Brian Clawson. “No one expected us to do much.”
Shenendehowa not only advanced from pool competition to the playoff round, but won a game there in a tournament full of big-time college recruits.
The 13th annual event with six reigning state champions and three state runner-up teams from 2013 took place at Hoover High School, with pool games on the July 18 and the double-elimination playoffs July 19.
“Most of the 32 teams were from the Southeast; Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi,” said Shenendehowa superintendent L. Oliver Robinson, whose son, Oliver, was among the 17 Plainsmen who competed. “Every team had three or four kids going to SEC [Southeastern Conference] schools.
“It’s the best competition our kids will see in their high school careers, and our kids competed well. We were a team everyone was talking about.”
Shenendehowa was the first team to represent New York state at the national event, and qualified by winning the Select 7on7 Northeast Regional Tournament last year in New Canaan, Conn. The Plainsmen did not go to the 2013 national tournament because a small window after the regional didn’t allow enough time for fundraising by the school’s booster club and players.
“It’s unfortunate that the 12 seniors on that team couldn’t go, but they gave us an opportunity, and we took full advantage of that,” said Clawson. “We wanted to go to see the best competition we could.”
Shenendehowa’s group of 12 seniors and five juniors went 3-3-1 in their pool, and afterward were described as a “pleasant surprise” by a NFSHSA network broadcaster. Another commented that the Plainsmen “came down ready to play.”
In the playoffs, the Plainsmen lost to Oxford, Miss., bounced back to beat Hope, Ark., and ended their stay with a setback against Spain Park, Ala.
“Seven-on-seven is a place to improve your passing game and improve your defense against the passing game,” said Clawson. “There are so many spread offenses these days and you’ve got to defend those. It was a great experience.”
“I think it will pay off,” said Robinson. “The kids will go into the season with a high level of confidence because of the way they held their own. It was football in New York against football in the southeast states. Our kids competed on every play, left it all on the field.”
There is no tackling or blocking in the 7-on-7 game. The offense has a snapper, a quarterback and five skill players matched against seven defenders.
“Seven-on-seven is kind of a misnomer,” said Robinson. “It’s six against seven, and moving the ball is very challenging.”
Warren Easton became the second Louisiana team to win the national title, going 6-1 in pool play and 6-0 in the playoffs, capped by a 28-19 triumph over Spanish Fort, Ala. Shenendehowa had tied Spanish Fort in pool play.
“It was a memorable experience for the kids, an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Clawson. “They’ll be watching pro football in the future and see players they played against.”