Van Horn prepped for state 7-on-7 run

Van Horn Eagle’s running back Luis Escajeda, 10, warms up during pregame on Friday night at Badger Stadium in McCamey.

Photo by Jacob Ford, Odessa American

By Eric Blum, Odessa American

Van Horn’s 7-on-7 football team drove almost 600 miles to Corpus Christi for a shot to compete in the state tournament.

The trip was successful for the Eagles, who qualified for the tournament on June 25, and will make a similar length trip to College Station and go up against some of the best teams in the state.

Van Horn will line up against Bay City, White Oak and Wimberley in pool play, hoping to gain experience against schools it usually wouldn’t play.

“We’re looking forward to just enjoying ourselves, competing and just showing up,” said Van Horn 7-on-7 coach Rafael Rodriguez. “We had a successful season last year, and we lost a few players, but our team stayed strong.”

Van Horn will be looking to build on an eight-win 2015 season, where they won a playoff game before being eliminated in the area round by Albany, who lost in the Class 2A Division II state championship game to Bremond.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of great things in Van Horn,” Van Horn athletic director and head football coach Brian Gibson said after the November loss to Albany. “The goal is to build a program and to continue to get better. We are hoping once we get a taste of this and having a heartbreak at the end will help us build into the future.”

And that’s why any Eagles’ player will jump at the chance to make his craft better and make the team more complete.

“We have everybody coming back, we only lost two seniors; we didn’t really lose much,” Van Horn senior wide receiver and linebacker Luis Escajeda said. “We expect to win our pool and make a run at the championship bracket on Friday. We have a lot of passing ability, we have good receivers and a quarterback who can and run and throw the ball.”

But all the summer traveling the Eagles have done isn’t abnormal, as its city sits secluded more than 150 miles west of Odessa and 120 miles southeast of El Paso.

“The kids are happy about that,” Rodriguez said about the travel. “It’s an eight-hour drive there and back.”

But once they’ve taken the field, the Eagles know their common goal — to create their part of history for their program.

“We started off pretty slow, but as we started playing more and more, we started connecting with each other and now we are rolling,” Escajeda said. “We move the ball fast, and we’re picking up right where we left off.”