JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
DALLAS — The Faith Academy of Marble Falls 7-on-7 football team finished second in its division of the state tournament of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools on June 25.
The Flames posted a 3-1 record and lost to Plano John Paul II in the championship.
What made the outcome even more impressive, said offensive coordinator and 7-on-7 coach Stephen Shipley, is the Flames had only 11 players to play in the two-day event. On the first day, Faith competed in pool play against opponents with larger enrollments. Most of those teams had 30 players, enough for two offensive and two defensive units.
“Our kids played both ways,” he said. “It was tough on the kids.”
Senior Braden McBryde was the quarterback, and his teammates are Cab Booth, Garrett Henderson, Jarad Gastino, Preston Richardson, Michael Hall, Garrett Hall, brothers Isaac and Eli Oliver and Luke Martin. Other coaches are Jim Richardson and Trevor McBride.
This tournament didn’t require a qualifying tournament berth. Still, Shipley said he conducted practices on Mondays and Fridays to help the players get ready for the state tournament in addition to the players lifting weights several times a week. That’s where he taught them such skills as how to read the defensive backs and what to do to get open. It also served as a way to work on timing between the quarterback and the receivers and allowed the defensive backs to work on their coverages.
“For some kids, it was their first time to play 7-on-7,” Shipley said. “Some of these kids haven’t played football since the seventh grade. You go back to basics and start from ground zero. They responded well. They’ve come so far.”
The coach, who is the father of former standout Hanner Shipley and the brother of former Burnet High School head football coach Bob Shipley, said by playing 7-on-7, the Flames are further along for the fall because those passing plays happen to be the same ones in the playbook the offense will use this season.
“I think it was good momentum to build off of and to have success,” he said. “I’ve been in 7-on-7 and coaches know this — you can take your offense and help install part of it. Kids know our routes and terminology. We can signal plays right now.”
Shipley still has to install the running plays, but the Flames will use a spread offense with four receivers and a running back or five receivers and no running back, depending on the situation.
The key, he said, will be putting players in position to help them succeed.
“Braden is smart enough to pick it up and learn it,” the coach said. “We had a core group that did this. We feel we can build a great team around them.”
And since TAPPS allows coaches to work with their players year-round, Shipley said he hopes to set up practice times with the linemen in July.
“As far as skill positions, I feel we’re going to be in a good position,” he said.
After finishing 1-9 last season, he noted few people expect much from the 2016 Flames, which he loves.
“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to do some great things, some fun things,” he said. “We’re trying to change a culture. It’s a buy-in.”