For McDonogh 35 coach Wayne Reese, any win over district-rival Karr is “like the Super Bowl.” even if it’s 7-on-7 football.
Unfortunately for the Roneagles, their win over the Cougars on Saturday wasn’t in a championship game.
After its emotional victory over Karr, McDonogh 35 moved on to the USA Football 7-on-7 Gulf Coast regional championship game where it fell to Hattiesburg (Mississippi) High School 35-8 at the Saints’ practice facility.
“Half of the kids on their team stay on the same block as our team, so it’s always a rivalry when they get to play against each other,” Reese said. “They’ve been a thorn in our side for about 10 years now and it’s always a good game when we get to play those guys.”
After making the two-hour trip to New Orleans last year just to lose in the first round, Hattiesburg was determined to prove it could play with any of the 32 teams throughout Mississippi and Louisiana that were on hand Saturday.
“We just came out and battled, that was our real focus,” Hattiesburg quarterback Julian Conner said. “All the way down here, the only thing we talked about was competing and really showing that we can hang with any of these guys.”
The key for the Tigers’ championship run was their explosive offense, which is littered with players being recruited.
Hattiesburg scored at least 30 points in four of its five wins during the single-elimination tournament, while the other teams in the tournament combined for a total of five 30-point games.
“It’s really good because we were just looking to be highly competitive (Saturday),” Hattiesburg offensive coordinator Donovan Tate said. “We knew there were going to be some great teams out here today, and we wanted to give our guys a chance to come out and show what they have against some of the best.”
Despite playing without starting quarterback LeJohn Howard, McDonogh 35 made its way to the championship game because of the clutch play of signal caller Dedrick Clark.
McDonogh 35 and Karr, which won the Gulf Coast Regional last year, were tied at 16 at the end of regulation during the semifinal game. Karr quarterback Aldon Clark then threw a touchdown pass to Racey McMath to give his team the lead, but failed to convert on the extra-point attempt.
McDonogh 35’s Clark responded with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Lawrence Keys, then followed that up with a strike to Michael Pierce over the middle on the extra point to clinch the win, sending his team to the championship game.
“We practice more with our (backups) than we do with our (starters) a lot, and that showed today,” Reese said. “Dedrick did a heck of a job, but he knows the system, and we know if you work really hard with those (backups) that you’ll always have a good football team.”
With Saturday’s win, Hattiesburg qualifies for USA Football’s 7-on-7 national championship in Hoover, Alabama, which begins July 14.