Claude Mathis stood on the sideline watching his team change out of their 7-on-7 uniforms, staring at the ground and shaking his head.
“We’re not happy,” he told The Dallas Morning News.
Last summer, DeSoto tore through its 7-on-7 state tournament schedule and cruised to a title six months before winning the Class 6A Division II state title in 11-man football. But this weekend, DeSoto faced more roadblocks like a loss to College Park in pool play before an early exit in the championship bracket on a 25-21 loss to Coppell in the quarterfinals.
Even when DeSoto did win the 7-on-7 title, Mathis wasn’t fully satisfied and saw plenty of growing opportunities. Ironically, they were the same ones that he identified Saturday.
“Maturity, growing up and discipline,” Mathis said.
Clearly, the DeSoto staff was able to address those concerns last season and will seek to do the same this time around.
The reigning state champions were under a microscope all weekend.
“Everybody wants to beat DeSoto even with a ring on our finger,” quarterback DJ Bailey said.
Because of that, it’s easy to point out weaknesses or how they may be beatable. But when DeSoto was playing its best football, no opponent could keep up.
Bailey’s offensive development this offseason is apparent. Between accuracy and arm strength, he’s developed into a quarterback with the potential to lead DeSoto back to the state title game.
He even gave Mathis a sense of comfort.
“DJ has been great,” Mathis said. “He grew up. He’s got a strong arm now. He’s been leading. He had a great offseason, and I’m glad he’s on our side.”
DeSoto also returns four-star junior running back Deondrae Riden, who led the team with 1,352 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
While DeSoto graduated its top five receivers from its state championship roster, including five-star Texas signee Johntay Cook, 7-on-7 showed it has no shortage of depth at that position.
Freshman Ethan Feaster put on a show-stopping performance, proving why he is the nation’s top wide receiver in the class of 2027. Without playing a single varsity down, Feaster already has 24 college offers, including Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M and Michigan.
Bailey’s brother Tristan and junior four-star Daylon Singleton will be the senior quarterback’s other top targets throughout the season.
And if 7-on-7 is any indicator, that connection between all of them will be strong.
On the other end, Stanford-bound linebacker Brandon Booker and Nebraska commit Mario Buford lead a defense playing as aggressive as ever.
Heading back home empty handed for the first time in a while, DeSoto’s focus shifts to August and proving again that they have what it takes to go back-to-back.
“We play with a chip on our shoulders every time we’re on the field. I don’t care if we’re picked to win by 40-some points. I can promise you this. The chip will always be there with me,” Mathis said.
“This is just fuel to the fire to me. We didn’t get it done, and this just motivates me even more.”
On Twitter: @Lassimak
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