MISSION — Twenty-four teams entered the Sharyland Snakepit 7-on-7 State Qualifying Tournament on Saturday with three spots at the 2021 7-on-7 State Tournament up for grabs.

Two of them went to Rio Grande Valley squads as Mercedes and Mission Veterans punched their tickets to state, which is scheduled for June 24-26 at Veterans Park in College Station.

AT MISSION VETERANS

The Patriots protected their home turf by going 3-0 in pool play with wins over Del Rio, Harlingen High and Weslaco High. That gave the Patriots a spot in the state qualifying game against McAllen Rowe, which handled its business with three pool wins against McAllen Memorial, San Benito and Weslaco East.

With a trip to state on the line, the Patriots’ pulled out a 27-14 victory over the Warriors.

Junior defensive back Pedro Salinas made a key pass breakup in the end zone during the second half which allowed his team to create separation on the scoreboard.

“They say big players make big plays, so I had to do what I had to do to help my team out. We’ve been trying to go to state, we missed it last year which sucked, but we came out with a win and that’s all that matters,” he said.

Mission Veterans senior quarterback Ricky Reyna and a new receiving corps were on point as they connected for big plays in the end zone. Senior receiver Dylan Velasquez closed the door with an acrobatic toe-tapping touchdown grab during the final minute.

“Ricky saw me, threw it and it was a perfect pass and I brought it in,” Velasquez said. “We’re coming, baby. We’re going to state and we’re excited.”

Mission Veterans quarterback Ricky Reyna prepares to throw against McAllen Rowe during a 7-on-7 State Qualifying Tournament on Saturday at Mission Veterans High School – Photo by Brittany Marvin

Reyna, who is entering his third year as a starter for Mission Veterans, quarterbacked the Patriots’ 2019 state qualifying 7-on-7 team.

“We have a bunch of young guys who want to play, and if the ball goes to them, they’re going to come down with it,” Reyna said.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing last year’s state tournament to be canceled, this is the Patriots’ second consecutive season heading to state.

“Advancing to the state tournament is huge because they’re going to spend that time together, hanging together, eating together, competing together, crying together if we have to, and at the end of the day, those bonds start to build and it makes you an awful tough out on a Friday night,” Mission Veterans football head coach David Gilpin said.

AT SHARYLAND HIGH

The Tigers ran past Laredo United South 32-20 in the state qualifying game to punch their ticket to state for the first time since 2018.

In pool play, Mercedes cruised past PSJA North and Sharyland High and won a close game against Mission to advance to the final.

“It was exciting having these guys come out here after the layoff we had last year. These guys were hungry and have been working on this throughout the spring. It was exciting to get that blood flowing, that competitiveness and getting out here and working together,” Mercedes head coach Roger Adame said.

During the state qualifying game against Laredo United, Mercedes took a 13-7 lead into the half and received a boost from its defense to start the second.

Interceptions from Allan Gonzalez and Austin Davila swung all momentum in Mercedes’ favor.

“I’m proud of our defense. It’s super easy winning a 7-on-7 game when your defense is getting picks left and right — it gets us motivated and gets us all the momentum to go and score,” Mercedes quarterback Mike Cisneros said.

Cisneros kept the Tigers in control from start to finish with four touchdown tosses on the day.

“I’m very proud of my team. I expected nothing less from our team,” he said. “We’ve been putting in the work every day and I feel relieved we came out here and won the first tournament, now it’s time to get ready to go up there to College Station.”

AT SHARYLAND PIONEER

The Laredo United South Panthers earned the berth to the state tournament by topping crosstown rival Laredo Alexander 26-13.

The next 7-on-7 SQT action in the RGV is slated for June 19 in Weslaco. Sixteen teams will compete for two bids to the state tournament.

bramos@themonitor.com