By BRAD KEITH
COLLEGE STATION (June 30, 2017) — They say it’s just touch football, and indeed it is.
But it’s competition, says Bob Cervetto, and when you are trying to put behind you a 1-9 season like his Dublin Lions endured in 2016 and restore the feeling of reaching the playoffs and winning a bi-district contest, as they did in 2014 and 2015, it’s a chance to take a step back in the right direction.
That chance for Dublin came in the Texas 7-on-7 Championships Thursday and Friday at Veterans Park & Athletic Complex, and Cervetto felt his Lions took full advantage.
“We got better, no doubt about that. I know it’s just touch football, but we were out there competing against some good teams and taking them right down to the wire,” said Cervetto. “I’ve always said all you can ask for in life is a chance, and we had chances every game. We had to fight for those chances, they weren’t given to us. In the end, seven-on-seven won’t have a lot to do with how you do in the real season with the pads on, but I saw our mental psyche improve so much the last two days.
We played and carried ourselves like we belonged, and we do belong. But it’s not about me seeing or believing that, it’s about the kids believing it. When we walked off the field Thursday evening after all those close games, I think our kids believed we belonged on the field against tough competition, with a chance to win.”
Dublin opened Pool F competition with a 20-19 win over Liberty, giving the Lions a win in each of their three state tournament appearances. They never reached state before Cervetto, a former Stephenville assistant, was hired to lead the Lions. They have sine reached state three times, also qualifying in 2013 and 2014.
“I know it’s just touch football, we aren’t trying to pretend it’s more than it is,” said Cervetto. “But it’s competition, and there is no replacement for the experience of tough competition. For us to go out and get involved in games like that and be in them right to the end, it’s the mental toughness you develop in those situations that make you better.”
Dublin took a late lead over Rockdale before falling in the final seconds, 27-21, and was also in it until the end in a 27-22 loss to San Augustine, which reached the quarterfinals in the championship bracket. A San Augustine interception in the final minute thwarted the Lions’ efforts to pull off a big upset and reach the championship bracket themselves.
“We were right there, just the smallest of margins,” said Cervetto. “I mean we get a late lead against Rockdale, and then we throw the pick in the last minute against San Augustine. You’re two plays away over the course of three games. And really, you’re one play away, because if we make just one of those plays, we’re in the championship bracket.”
Senior Tyshon Hopkins scored two touchdowns – including the game winner – and intercepted a pass in the win over Liberty. He then scored twice more against Rockdale, giving the Lions a 21-20 edge before falling at the end. Tim Teten had a big interception in the win over Liberty, and set up Hopkins’ winning touchdown with a long reception for the Lions’ initial first down of the second half.
Dublin also got to see both its quarterback candidates go at it in Josh Hanes and Jacob Owen. Hanes will be a senior and Owen a sophomore.
“We kind of know where we’re at with quarterback, but we kind of know where we’re at with a lot of things,” Cervetto said. “But we’ve got to get the pads again and see how they do then.”
Cervetto wouldn’t single anyone out, saying he was impressed with all the kids.
“i think all of them stepped it up one notch, looked a little better here or there than they had before,” he said. “That’s all you can ask for, is to get a little better every day you go to work.”
The next time the Lions take the field to compete, the pads will be on, there will be blocking and tackling and many people won’t remember much about who did what in 7-on-7.
“You’ve got to do it when the pads are on,” he said. “That’s the next step is seeing our kids go out and fight like that with pads on. And then we get to see if we can do it under the lights on Friday night.
“So it is what it is,” he concluded. “But I like what it is right now, and if we can keep building momentum I think I’ll like what it is even more.”