TUSCOLA - The Ballinger Bearcat 7 on 7 football squad traveled to the Jim Ned Big Country State Qualifying Tournament Friday, July 16 to try and punch their ticket to the state tournament in College Station June 29-30.

TUSCOLA - The Ballinger Bearcat 7 on 7 football squad traveled to the Jim Ned Big Country State Qualifying Tournament Friday, July 16 to try and punch their ticket to the state tournament in College Station June 29-30.

Graduating their top two running backs from a year ago along with multiple major contributors on both sides of the ball Ballinger only returned four experienced players from last summer’s 7on7 team, which failed to qualify for the state tournament after qualifying in 2015.

Youth is apparent across the board, but with that youth is a hunger that might not have been present last season after tasting some success previously.

At Jim Ned their youth was most apparent in their first game of the day against Breckinridge. Ballinger would ultimately lose the game on a TD pass over two defenders in the back of the end zone. An extra point by the Buckaroos would give Breckinridge a 13-7 lead with one minute left. Ballinger was not able to muster a scoring drive and the game would end with the same score. The game was a learning point for Ballinger, however, as they had three touchdowns dropped in the end zone, which if caught would have been more than enough to get the Bearcats the victory. Instead with the drops the Bearcats were stuck wondering what might have been.

For their second game Ballinger would play tournament host Jim Ned. Both teams came into the game 0-1 after Jim Ned was defeated by Wink 25-15. Ballinger seemingly had the deck stacked against them, a young team, playing the host team needing a victory.

The game would come down to the wire. With Ballinger down 19-18 Hagen Garvin would complete every pass in the drive to Junior Jayden Rivera in route to the game leading score. Ty Sensabaugh caught the extra point to give Ballinger the 25-19 lead that Ballinger would hold onto in the final seconds despite a ferocious attempt by Jim Ned to get one last touchdown. Ballinger was victorious 25-19.

Going into the final game of pool play Wink led the pool at 2-0 with a second game shootout win against Breckinridge 34-33. Ballinger would have to defeat Wink and receive help from the home team to defeat Breckinridge in order to advance to the Pool Championship game.

Facing a tough, talented and undefeated Wink team Ballinger played their best football of the day. The teams would go score for score in the first half of the game and it looked like there would be no stopping either team. The turning point would come in the game when Ty Sensabaugh was able to dive and snag a deflected ball for an interception allowing the Bearcats to go up by two scores. Their defense would continue to hold and the Bearcats defeated Wink 35-21. It isn’t clear which team needed Jim Ned to win more, the Bearcats or the Indians, but Jim Ned would defeat Breckinridge 33-26 and give Ballinger the head to head tiebreaker over Wink that would send them to the finals against Dublin.

Dublin came into the game with victories over Anson 47-19, Clyde 39-33 and Coleman 34-20. Ballinger was able to hang with Dublin for most of the game, but eventually came up short 35-29 as Dublin punched their ticket into the state tournament. Ballinger will have one last chance to make their way into the state tournament as they travel to Brownwood Friday June 23 to attempt one last time to qualify. Pools have not been released, but it is safe to assume that Brownwood will be one of the final two favorites as they have been to every state tournament since 2008 winning the Division 2 championship in 2010.

Ballinger Bearcat 7on7 is being coached by Chad McDuffee and Ken Manley.