MIDLOTHIAN — In the fast-paced world of 7-on-7 football, touchdowns come at breakneck speed, high scores are commonplace and scoreless games are like unicorns.
Rare and the thing of myths and legends.
On Saturday, Midlothian Heritage High School became myth busters and remained undefeated in 7-on-7 football play after qualifying for the state tournament during Saturday's State Qualifying Tournament at MHHS Turf Field.
"We've been doing the 7-on-7 program for seven years in Midlothian and three years in Midlothian Heritage," said Jay Lattimore, the assistant coach of the Jaguars' summer football team. "In 10 years and more than 60 games, it's the first time we've ever had a shut out. They're rare in tournaments geared to be offense-friendly. It really says a lot about the defense."
The fact that the defense could be better could be a scary thought to every team outside of Midlothian and every school inside of the District 8-4A boundaries.
He said it was also the earliest they've ever qualified for a tournament, noting that 7-on-7 football it's his belief that it creates timing and camaraderie that translates to the fall — when they don pads and helmets under Friday Night Lights and play for state titles.
The work, according to Lattimore, has improved Landon Ledbetter's arm strength and accuracy. Ledbetter was the UIL 4A classification's top passer with 3,235 yards passing, a 43-9 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a 64 completion percentage mark.
Outside of Argyle High School's Hayden Clearman (70 percent) and Sunnyvale High School's Caleb McDill (68 percent), there wasn't a better signal caller in regards to fitting laser-accurate passes into tight windows.
Midlothian Heritage beat Mabank High School 41-0 — the program's one and only shut out in a decade's stretch — in game one, Dublin High School 67-6 in game two, Greenville 55-20 in game three and Whitney 33-27 in the game four qualifier.
"The younger guys really stepped up," Lattimore said. "Filling Jack Ellis, Preston Smith, Rodney Richmond or any of the other seniors' shoes is no easy thing. Those are some important players the team lost. Noah, a sophomore, played well at safety and Cade (Sumbler) and Konner (Jones) are just freshmen and they made a big impact for us."
Though Sumbler, better known for his baseball acumen, and Jones, who's yet to step on a practice field, are raw and untested, they could represent a transfusion of new blood to replace the vital plasma lost in the 2017 graduating class. Both boys will be incoming sophomores when the high school year restarts in the fall.
Though the Jaguars are already qualified for the state tournament in College Station, they will play tournaments in Burnett, Euless and Hearst to prepare for the rigorous competition they will face in less than two months.
Marcus S. Marion, @MarcusMarionWNI