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June 15, 2011
Shootout of the South 7-on-7 features top talent
The Shootout of the South 7-on-7 Football Tournament has become one of the more prestigious tournaments in the region. This year's tournament attracts top 7-on-7 teams in Arkansas as well as teams from Texas, Oklahoma, and Alabama.
Each of the twenty-four teams will compete in five pool play games on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. at the Mighty Bluebird Complex at 6800 Pinnacle Valley Road in Little Rock. The last pool play games will begin at 5:25 p.m. Pool play results will seed Saturday's tournament, which is a guaranteed-two game format, beginning at 10 a.m. The finals for the championship and consolation brackets will be at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The tournament champion will qualify for the 7-on-7 National Championship on July 21-23 in Hoover, Alabama.
Seven teams will travel across state lines to compete highlighted by Allen High School and Belton High School in Texas, and Heritage Hall from Oklahoma City. Allen won the tournament in 2006 and finished runner-up in 2007, 2008, and 2010. Belton won the Belton 7-on-7 Texas State Qualifying Tournament on Saturday, and Heritage Hall, the 2007 Shootout Champions, won the Kansas State 7-on-7 last week, a tournament that featured over 30 teams. Other out of state teams includes Prattville Christian Academy out of Prattville, Alabama and three other Oklahoma schools - Afton, Hilldale, and Stigler.
The Arkansas teams participating will be 7A schools Bryant, Conway, Fayetteville, and Rogers Heritage; 6A State Champion, El Dorado, along with other 6A members Lake Hamilton, Parkview, and Russellville; 5A teams Central Arkansas Christian, Hot Springs Lakeside, Magnolia, and Watson Chapel; and 4A Dumas, Nashville, Pulaski Academy, and Warren. Three of those teams are former Shootout winners - Lake Hamilton (2008), Fayetteville (2009), and Pulaski Academy (2010). Pulaski Academy won the Sonic Air Raid in Searcy on June 4 and the ASPC 7-on-7 Summer Showdown on June 9, Lake Hamilton won the Ouachita Baptist 7-on-7 Tournament on June 9, and Central Arkansas Christian won the Auburn Passing Camp Tournament last week.
Although this year's tournament isn't laced with as many BCS quarterback commitments as 2010, there are several who can wing it in their own right. Allen senior Alec Morris has offers from Wake Forest and North Texas. Three of the top senior quarterbacks in Arkansas this year will be on display in Neal Burcham of Greenbrier, Fredi Knighten of Pulaski Academy, and Levi Runyan of Lake Hamilton.
Two interesting juniors to watch will be Austin Allen of Fayetteville and Lucas Reed of El Dorado. Allen is filling the shoes of brother Brandon, who signed with the University of Arkansas, and Reed is stepping into the starting role that was occupied by his brother, Taylor, who inked with the University of Memphis.
Another junior, Bryant's Hayden Lessenberry, should soon be on the radar of college coaches. He may remind some Arkansans of former Razorback and Russellville Cyclone, Landon Leach, as Lessenberry was the starting catcher for Bryant's state championship team. Rogers Heritage sophomore Josh Qualls will look to make a splash out of the gate as he is projected as one of the top quarterbacks in the 2014 class.
No bigger name, and likely no bigger recruit, will be at the Shootout than Heritage Hall's running back, Barry Sanders, Jr. Sanders has at least 14 BCS offers, including Arkansas, Alabama, Auburn, Notre Dame, and Florida State. Other running backs to watch for are Russellville's Kendall Bond, Conway's Cordarius Irby, Fayetteville's Brice Gahagans, and Watson Chapel's Marquis Handley.
Heritage Hall boasts another player with NFL bloodlines in wide receiver, Sterling Shepard, son of the late Derrick Shepard, who played five seasons as a receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Shepard is committed to Oklahoma. Highlighting this year's receiving class in Arkansas is Warren's Jalen Cobb, who has committed to play for the Hogs. The most electric player at the tournament may be Bryant's Dillon Winfrey, who will play both receiver and cornerback. Winfrey ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at Arkansas State's camp and is starting to receive some attention from colleges. Other receivers to keep an eye on will be Afton's Sam Shepard, Lakeside's Ajalen Holley, Nashville's Tasean Green, Conway's Brandon Cox and Corven Alexander, El Dorado's Wendell Thompson, Lake Hamilton's Dre Bennett, Magnolia's James Gaines, Allen's Andrew Rodriguez and Oliver Pierce, and Pulaski Academy juniors L.J. Wallace and Hunter Henry. Henry is projected as a tight end at the next level, and has offers from Arkansas, Arkansas State, Auburn, and Ole Miss.
Watson Chapel's Cedric Burnett and Allen's L.B. Bates lead the list of top defensive backs for this year's tournament. Pulaski Academy will make it difficult for quarterbacks to go deep with Jeremy Brady and Aum'Arie Wallace roaming at the two safety spots. Bryant's Caleb Thomas, along with Winfrey, Belton's Tramaine Rose, El Dorado's Quincy Hardwell, Dumas' Trey Winchester, Fayetteville's Brooks Ellis, Lake Hamilton's Dante Ransom, and Afton's Dusty Henry all look to impress in the secondary this weekend. Henry had 10 interceptions in 11 games in 2010, 6 of those were brought back for touchdowns.
Although linebackers don't get to show their strengths in 7-on-7, they can still show off their skills in their pass defense. Allen's Thaddeus LaGrone, who committed to Baylor last week, will likely be the top linebacker in attendance. Other linebackers to watch will be a pair from Lakeside, Houston Hunter and Harlen Jones, Warren's Austin Thompson, Tyler Lindsey from Lake Hamilton, and Pulaski Academy sophomore Tyler Colquitt.
Mighty Bluebird Complex is off Highway 10 West on Pinnacle Valley Road. Admission to the tournament is $5 per car each day. Concessions will be available.
The tournament is sponsored by Baptist Health Orthopedic Center, Chenal Heights Nursing and Rehab, SportStop, Latitude Solutions, The Val Hansen Real Estate Team, Moggle Inc., Hatcher Insurance Agency, Nike, Gatorade, and Roller Chenal Funeral Home.
List of all 24 teams:
Afton HS (OK)
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