Though the UIL sanctioned two-a-day drills are still a month away, the East Bernard Brahmas “began” the 2019 season with its eighth appearance in the Texas 7 on 7 State Championship Tournament in the last nine years. There were 20 members of the Brahmas making the trip to College Station for the two-day tournament June 27-28. 

Under UIL rules, EBHS football coach Wade Bosse and his staff weren’t eligible to coach their own players. Instead, voluntary family members, usually a dad, did the coaching. For the third year in a row, Britt Whitley was the head coach. His son, Blake, assisted him with the offense. Coaching the defense was Pat Peloquin and Mark Bosse.

Whitley and Peloquin had their sons, Reagan Whitley and Brennan Peloquin on the Brahmas 7 on 7 roster. Speaking of the experience of filling this early summer role and bonding with Reagan and his Brahmas teammates, Britt Whitley quipped, “It’s a lot of fun. I enjoy getting to do this.”

Joining Reagan and Brennan on the Brahmas roster were Ryan Morse, Kameron Matthews, Douglas Grymes, Carson Little, Colby Jedlicka, Trey Steffens, Ethan Hlavinka, Tanner Baggett, Shane Hlavinka, Andrew Schmidt, Kaleb Marek, Niklas Schatz, Devin Chapman, Brody Reinecke, Andrew Dirba, Cole Polak, Boone Lee and Dallas Novicke.

Two players who were being watched with more than just normal interest were Chapman and Novicke. Chapman was returning from some serious injuries that knocked him out of the final two playoff games of the 2018 season. He had a right ankle fracture and dislocation. Looking at the rally that the Brahmas staged on eventual state Class 3A Division 2 champion Newton in the state semifinal, falling only 21-14 to a team that had obliterated every other team before that game, the speculation ran high, ‘What if Devin had been able to play?’ For Newton had run up scores in the playoffs of 69-0, 59-5, 69-14 and 79-12 before the Brahmas defense even without their outside linebacker Chapman finally corralled them in an ever so close game to determine one of the state finalist.

In the case of Novicke, he is a 6-foot, 150-pound sophomore who is the heir apparent to the quarterback slot vacated by Hunter Goudeau. His youthfulness will only fade away with his game experience; so taking most of the snaps in the 7 on 7 games to work on plays that will only be utilized about 10 percent of the time max during the regular season (basically when the slot T offense isn’t being as effective as usual) was a start to turning him into the leader of the Texas Football Magazine preseason third-ranked Brahmas. One of the first lessons Novicke learned was to not hold on to the ball too long waiting for a play to develop. A basic rule in 7 on 7 is that a pass must be thrown within four seconds of the quarterback receiving the snap from the center. Twice in the first half of the pool game against Crane on Thursday, June 27 two touchdowns were called back because his tosses were made past the four second window. Afterwards, Novicke said, “I was nervous starting off, but feel more comfortable for the second half.” He followed that remark with, “I will be making shorter throws more in the second half.”

The results of the 7 on 7 tournament for East Bernard might not have seemed too exciting for the fans looking for the Brahmas to play for their first-ever championship appearance there, but what the Brahmas picked up for the regular season was invaluable. In pool play on Thursday, they lost all three games. Crane beat them 31-14 followed by Tenaha 14-12 followed by Rogers 20-19. The three games didn't go by that fast because a fast-moving thunderstorm replete with all the thunder and lightning blew in just before the Tenaha game was to begin. Everyone, players, coaches and fans were ordered to leave the field and get to the safety of their vehicles in light of the heavy lightning strikes. Some two and a half hours later when the sun came out, play was resumed with the officials having cut the length of the games down to finish pool play and determine championship and consolation brackets for Friday's schedule.

Despite their three losses in pool play, the Brahmas qualified for the Division 3 championship bracket. Joining them in that bracket were their District 14-3A, Division 2 rivals Tidehaven and Ganado. The first game Friday started off well for the Brahmas. They rolled past Brady, 46-13.  Then they met Palmer and fell, 41-26, ending their College Station stay. They went home with a 1-4 record, but still made themselves a better team for the beginning of the August drills and first game. By contrast, Tidehaven, which is picked second in its district and 10th in the state preseason poll, won four and lost two. The Tigers bowed out in the quarterfinals to Hearne, 39-20. The Ganado Indians were 2-2, dropping out in the first round of the championship games to Palmer 26-14, right before Palmer beat the Brahmas in the second round.

Though the numbers of other districts in 3A having three or more teams in the 7 on 7 tournament wasn't calculated, it's doubtful that there are any at all. That fact along with the comment in the 2019 Texas Football magazine of three districts in Texas especially to watch for the season has 14-3A, Division 2 in it specifically mentioning, “East Bernard, often the champs, has some tough company in Tidehaven and Van Vleck.”

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