WACO – Embroiled in one of the most unique offseasons in recent program history, Prestonwood Christian entered the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools 7-on-7 state tournament simply in search of more reps together.
With positional voids aplenty across the Lions’ skill positions, a two-day stay in Waco afforded the perennial private school powerhouse just the opportunity – one they made good on with a 6-3 record that culminated in a consolation finals loss in the event’s platinum bracket.
Competing in the TAPPS state 7-on-7 tournament for the first time after two consecutive years spending the last week of June in College Station against UIL competition in state 7-on-7 action, the Lions’ two days in Waco didn’t come without the peaks and valleys of a young team still honing an identity during the dog days of the offseason.
The ups came on Friday, with Prestonwood amassing a 5-1 record in pool play – only dropping a 24-20 contest to eventual tournament champion Kincaid while picking up wins over Austin St. Michaels (21-14), First Baptist (21-13), Fort Worth Nolan (21-20), Legacy (29-14) and Victoria St. Joseph (30-6). The victory over Nolan, in particular, stood out for head coach Chris Cunningham after the Vikings had previously bested the Lions earlier in the summer.
Seeing his team rebound on Friday was an encouraging sign for Cunningham, whose squad continued its audition for several of the starting spots up for grabs this fall. Chief among those openings is at quarterback, where developing chemistry is all too paramount with freshman Maguire Martin and senior Jacob Switzer competing for the starting job, according to Cunningham.
Martin took the reins during the state tournament with Switzer, a recent transfer from Norman, Oklahoma, out of town.
With several of the Lions’ pass-catchers contributing on defense as well, players like senior Riley Wilson, senior Dayton Toney, junior Randell Holmes and senior Graham Hill took turns shining for Prestonwood throughout the tournament. Wilson, in particular, was a popular target near the end zone with a bevy of highlight-reel grabs.
Although that attack propelled the Lions to victory more often than not on Friday, the other shoe dropped competing in the platinum bracket – reserved for the top two finishers in each pool – on Saturday.
Prestonwood went just 1-2 in bracket action, bookending losses to Corpus Christi John Paul II (27-21) and Houston St. Thomas (35-18) with a 53-15 throttling of Marble Falls Faith.
Despite a halftime lead, the Lions’ offense went cold in the second half until late on a deep touchdown strike from Martin to Holmes pulled the team within 27-21. After a turnover on downs by Corpus Christi, Prestonwood had a last-second Hail Mary attempt fall incomplete.
The Lions rebounded an hour later with a lopsided pasting of Marble Falls, but fell behind early on a pair of miscommunications in the secondary against St. Thomas before being outscored 21-12 in the second half.
Prestonwood also placed fourth overall in the tournament’s nine-event lineman challenge, scoring second-place marks in the tug of war and grip pull contests.