By BRAD KEITH
COLLEGE STATION (July 7, 2016) — Clark Giddings can say something no other local coach can.
He’s reached the state tournament every year of his “career.”
For the fifth consecutive year, the fourth straight since Giddings, a local dentist, took over, Stephenville is back in the Adidas Texas 7v7 Championships, beginning with pool play at 2, 4 and 6 p.m. Thursday against La Grange, Tyler Grace Community and El Campo, respectively. Thursday’s pool play and Friday’s bracket action is all at Veterans Park & Sports Complex in College Station.
But wait. Clark Giddings? Didn’t his son graduate?
Yes, Jon Clark Giddings walked across the stage in May and will be a student walking on to the University of Oklahoma track and field team as a pole vaulter this fall.
Yet Coach Giddings continues to lead the SHS 7-on-7 program.
“I just love being around these kids,” said Giddings, who played baseball at Oklahoma back in his college days. “It does me well to see them do well.”
And the Jackets have done very well. They reached the second round of the championship bracket last summer, and quarterback Easton Jones said on Wednesday the goal is to reach the championship bracket again but go further this time around.
Giddings has directed Stephenville to an 11-4 record in state qualifier pool play and semifinal games this summer. The Jackets are also 5-3 in Tuesday night scrimmages for an overall record of 16-7.
Could Stpehenville be better during the summer if the Jackets ran plays from say, a six-man offense that translates more to the spacious 7-on-7 style of play? Most definitely. But that is not in Giddings’ plans, and it’s sure not in the plans of the Stephenville coaching staff.
“Our big thing is we want to stay true to the game. Sure, we want to compete hard and win every time we’re on the field and that’s the goal, but the big goal of 7-on-7 is to get ready for the fall when the pads are on and it’s all for real,” Giddings said. “What I want to see, first of all, is guys competing hard and playing sharp. We need to run good, sharp routes, the same we would on a Friday night with the pads on. And we need to get into our coverages and run them well, even if someone is just dumping off little 7-on-7 passes against us.”
Giddings also enjoys seeing physicality, within the framework of the rules, of course.
“What I like to see, especially on defense, is guys preparing to be physical,” Giddings said. “We can’t do it so much out here in 7-on-7, but I like to see guys hustling and getting into position to be physical with someone so that they are ready to do that and it’s just second nature when we get to the fall.”
It’s just touch football, but Giddings believes so much more can come of it.
“I think we’ve had some guys come a long way this summer. It gives the kids so many more opportunities to work on routes, work on coverages and just being together and gelling before the season,” Giddings explained. “That’s what all this is about is getting ready for when it’s real.”
And it will be real in less than a month when the Jackets and other programs all across Texas are in preseason camps preparing for the first round of scrimmages.
“I tell Coach (Greg) Winder and Coach (Jeremiah) Butchee all the time, I just want to see the kids succeed, that’s what I enjoy is helping kids,” Giddings said. “That’s what I’m here for and that’s what this is about is giving them opportunities to get better and succeed.”
Which makes everyone a winner.
Even if it is just touch football.