Junior High 7-on-7 wraps up season
By Keith Sparks
Sixty-plus Liberty Hill Junior High football players finished up their 7-on-7 season Monday at Georgetown High School as the high school seven-on-seven program prepares to get started. The junior high program had 60 athletes this year, split between five teams, one for sixth-graders, two for seventh-graders, and two for eighth-graders.
Shawn Lapuszynski, who has coordinated Liberty Hill’s seven-on-seven program for eight years, said his teams continued to improve throughout the season, holding their own against talented pass-first programs.
“They got better and better as they went,” Lapuszynski said of his seventh-grade Black team. “One of the teams they beat tonight, they had lost to and tied the last two games, so that just shows how much better they got as the season went.”
Lapuszynski said the ultimate goal for the seven-on-seven program is to get the athletes “to compete at their absolute maximum ability” by encouraging intensity and 100-percent investment in the game of football.
“I want them to invest everything they have, heart and soul, into every play and learn how to compete as a team like that,” Lapuszynski said. “It’s amazing what happens. We’re beating these passing teams at their own game, just because of the level of intensity these kids play with and the level of investment they’re willing to make as a team.”
Another objective of the program is to make sure Liberty Hill athletes are continuing to get better during the offseason. Lapuszynski said he encourages all of the seven-on-seven participants to attend the high school’s offseason weight training program, PAC, explaining that offseason workouts pay dividends when football season picks up in the fall.
“Everything we do, we also point back to their school,” Lapuszynski said. “One of the last things I told them tonight is to make sure they attend PAC this summer. The hard work they put in now is how they’re going to win games in the fall, by doing this hard work right here during seven-on-seven and especially PAC.”
Those that aren’t familiar with seven-on-seven may not understand how a pass-heavy game without linemen can translate to the football field in the fall, but Lapuszynski said to look no further than the 2018 Panthers’ offensive line that took them to a State Championship.
Although there are no lineman positions in seven-on-seven, a handful of Panther linemen participate each year, regardless, continuing to compete and improve their skills at new positions.
“We usually have about four to six linemen that’ll play seven-on-seven, and that’s offensive and defensive linemen, guys that there’s really not a position in seven-on-seven for,” Lapuszynski said. “I had four or five of them on my seventh-grade team play. The kids that played back in junior high that are seniors this year, my son Josh Lapuszynski, Justin Montgomery, Lakota Lawrence, they played seven-on-seven all the years.”
Lapuszynski said he often uses the high school’s success as a motivator for the junior high seven-on-seven athletes, pointing to a number of varsity Panthers that started playing seven-on-seven as sixth-graders.
“It’s fantastic to see that, and I use that as a reference with these youngsters all the time to let them know what their hard work will turn into down the road,” Lapuszynski said of the Panthers’ success at the varsity level. “Those guys that are seniors are actually the ones I started the seven-on-seven program with.”
This year’s sixth-graders were coached by Gerald Lorance and Jeff Lingeran, the seventh-graders were coached by Mike Carter, Pete Montes, and varsity football player Matthew Montes, and the eighth-graders were coached by Richard Schirpik, John Martin, and varsity football players Jacob Cearley and Lakota Lawrence.
The eighth-grade Black team finished 5-5, the eighth-grade Purple team finished 1-7-1, the seventh-grade Black team finished 4-2-3, the seventh-grade Purple team finished 7-2, and the sixth-grade team finished 4-3-2.