Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

June 17, 2014

Jackets split pair of 7-on-7 games Tuesday night

CLEBURNE — The Cleburne Yellow Jackets went 1-1 in week 3 of their 7-on-7 league on Tuesday night with a win over Stephenville and a loss against Burleson.

It was the third week in a row for several teams in the area to compete in 7-on-7 competition, and Cleburne Head Football Coach Jeff Merket said it’s important for the team to compete during the summer.

“We like to see them compete and just get together,” Merket said. “It’s good for our team chemistry.”

Merket said he liked some of the things he saw on Tuesday night, not only from the varsity perspective but from the junior varsity level and the junior high level the night prior.

“We’re playing well,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of kids who haven’t played much 7-on-7. Getting to play seventh grade through varsity level is really going to pay off for us. Since this is the first year we’re playing the sub-varsity levels, we’re still trying to get kids to come out and play. They’re used to playing basketball and baseball during the summer, so now we’re trying to get them used to playing football, too.”

In the first game on Tuesday against Burleson, the Jackets fell to the rival Elks, 34-27.

After turning the ball over on downs their first possession, the Elks scored five consecutive possessions to take a 34-19 lead. Two of those instances, Burleson scored on its first play from scrimmage as Elk quarterback Preston Paden connected on back-to-back deep passes for scores.

Merket said 7-on-7 is more geared towards the offense, but he said there are still things defenders can work on during the competition.

“We get a lot of footwork out of it,” he said. “Trying to read routes and trying to make plays. It’s all about making plays on defense. The game benefits the offense and kind of puts the defense at a disadvantage, so you’ve got to take chances to make plays defensively.”

Cleburne Defensive Coordinator Jason Payne said defense in 7-on-7 is all about improving on fundamentals.

“We’re looking at fundamentals on footwork and understanding the whole concept of our coverages,” Payne said. “We’re understanding that even though we’re not in pads, we can still get good work in opening our hips the right way or backpedaling the right way and breaking on the ball. Communication is huge. If we don’t communicate then we don’t know what’s going on out there.”

Cleburne quarterback Brian Baca connected with receiver Johnny Juarez for a late touchdown to pull within 34-27 after the converted two-point attempt, but time expired soon after.

Against Burleson, Baca was 16-of-28 passing for four touchdowns. Spencer Suitt and TréVon Bradley led the Jackets with five receptions apiece while Suitt added two touchdowns. Reggie Robinson II had two catches and one touchdown.

Merket said Baca has really taken on the leadership role since being dubbed the Jackets’ starter as a sophomore last season.

“He is the leader and that’s what we need,” Merket said. “He’s in that role as a quarterback and people are going to listen to him. He’s got the command of the team and he does it in a very positive manner. You can tell that he has a love for the game and understands a lot of the things that go along with being a quarterback.”

Against Stephenville, Cleburne recorded a 20-19 victory.

With the game tied at 13, Stephenville took a 19-13 lead late but failed on the extra-point conversion. Cleburne responded on its ensuing possession with a six-play drive that ended with a Baca touchdown pass to Robinson. Cleburne converted on the extra point, which proved to be the game-winning play after Stephenville turned the ball over on downs on its next possession.

Baca was 17-of-29 with three touchdowns against Stephenville. Suitt led Cleburne with six catches and a touchdown while Robinson added five catches and two touchdowns.

The 7-on-7 league continues on June 24 at Brewer High School.

“We always want to be competing at a high level,” Payne said. “A couple of teams in this league are in our district, so we kind of get to see what they’re like, our kids get a feel for them and they get a feel for us. We want to show up and give them everything we possibly can.”

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