Football season doesn’t start for another few months, but an unofficial state championship will be on the line this weekend at the Adidas Statewide 7v7 Championship in Gonzales.
Almost 30 teams from around the state will meet at East Ascension High School’s Spartan Stadium on Friday and Saturday for the chance at becoming the first 7v7 Louisiana state champions as part of an event hosted by Florida-based Airo Sports Management.
The program has grown in Florida and Georgia over the past several years, but this weekend marks the first time the event will be played in Louisiana.
“You’re playing for a state championship,” Airo President David Menard said. “You’re playing for that second season; that championship after the championship. That means something — it already does in Texas and Florida right now.”
Almost all of the teams involved in the inaugural tournament are from the southern part of the state, including St. Amant, East Ascension, Port Allen and Woodlawn from the Baton Rouge area, among others.
Gonzales was chosen based on its location within the state, as well as for the facilities and accommodations made by the city and local businesses.
Menard said while the tournament is only at around 30 teams this year, the ultimate goal is to grow it to more than 60 teams in the next few years in order to match Airo’s other tournaments.
“It won’t look like Florida. It won’t be as spectacular, but in a couple years, that’s exactly what we want this to be,” Menard said. “This is the first year, but once we get to 60-plus teams, you’re going to see whole new environment. … We’ll have about 72 to 84 teams in Florida and Georgia, and Louisiana is probably on a three- to four-year plan of growing in the same way.”
All teams are guaranteed at least six games during the tournament, five of which will come during pool play followed by a single elimination bracket playing out Saturday. Games will be played on the Spartan Stadium field as well as the youth soccer fields next to the stadium.
The first game of the weekend kicks off at 11 a.m. Friday, with the championship game expected to start around 3 p.m. Saturday in the stadium. All events are free to the public.
The top four teams will be offered an all-expense paid trip to the regional 7v7 tournament in Valdosta, Florida, on July 17-18, when they’ll meet other top teams from Florida and Georgia.
“We’re putting the flag down in Louisiana as the future of high school football,” said Dwayne Thomassee, tournament director and St. Amant defensive coordinator. “Having a culminating event in the summer is going to give coaches another tool to get our kids ready in the fall. … I think this is the future of Louisiana high school football in the offseason.”