Foot­ball teams prep with 7-on-7’s.

Walker County Messenger - - Front Page - By Scott Herpst

Manda­tory con­di­tion­ing drills will be­gin for high school foot­ball teams around the state of Ge­or­gia this Mon­day and teams can of­fi­cially start pre­sea­son prac­tice for the start of the 2017 sea­son one week later.

But as ev­ery high school foot­ball player and coach knows, there is still plenty of work to be done in the dog days of sum­mer. And one the most pop­u­lar parts of the sum­mer, for play­ers and fans alike, are 7-on7 pass­ing games.

The 7-on-7’s have ex­ploded in pop­u­lar­ity all over the coun­try in re­cent years. There are now count­less tour­na­ments and leagues in vir­tu­ally ev­ery state. Some are spon­sored by ath­letic shoe and ap­parel com­pa­nies and some are hosted by NFL su­per­stars, who bring in top prep teams, and even travel teams, from around the coun­try for a chance to com­pete for tro­phies, pride and glory.

But here lo­cally, a fan can to go to just about any high school foot­ball sta­dium on any given week­day morn­ing dur­ing the sum­mer and get their fill of 7-on-7 grid­iron ac­tion - quar­ter­backs, re­ceivers and (pass­catch­ing) run­ning backs against lineback­ers and de­fen­sive backs.

Some teams will just bring in an­other school for a morn­ing ses­sion, while some schools will host mul­ti­ple teams for a big event over the course of a day. The for­mat is dif­fer­ent at each event. Some will give of­fenses 10 con­sec­u­tive plays per se­ries, re­gard­less whether they score or not, while some events will ac­tu­ally con­sist of mini-games with scores be­ing kept.

But no mat­ter the for­mat, lo­cal coaches say the main pur­pose is for their play­ers to get bet­ter.

“This is a great op­por­tu­nity for us to com­pete against other teams in­stead just go­ing against our­selves ev­ery day,” said LFO head coach Bo Camp­bell, whose War­riors went against Notre Dame and Chat­tanooga Chris­tian at home last week. “I think a lot of Coach (Charles) Fant and Coach (Mark) Mari­akis. I re­spect them a lot as coaches and they al­ways have great teams and they give us great looks.

“With­out pads right now, it’s hard to work on the run­ning game. But (7-on-7) is a great op­por­tu­nity for our re­ceivers and quar­ter­backs to work on their routes, and for our de­fen­sive guys, it gives the cor­ners a chance to work on their tim­ing and for the lineback­ers to work on their lever­age. Of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively, when it comes down to third and long in a game, we ex­pect to win that bat­tle.”

Ridge­land hosted Ring­gold, Dal­ton, Red Bank, Chris­tian Her­itage and Oolte­wah on Bowers and Painter Field last Tues­day be­fore bring­ing in Dade County two days later. The Pan­thers have par­tic­i­pated in 7-on-7’s since sum­mer work­outs be­gan.

“Early on, it was just get­ting rep­e­ti­tions throw­ing and catch­ing the ball and things

like that with the first group,” head coach Wes­ley Tanker­s­ley ex­plained. “Now we’re started to get more of our twos in there to try and cre­ate some depth. The main thing, though, is just try­ing to be more ef­fec­tive with our pass­ing game.

“De­fen­sively, you get to work on your cov­er­age by go­ing against some­body else, and you can get in some con­di­tion­ing, while also do­ing some­thing fun at the same time. It’s the best thing we can do with­out putting shoul­der pads on.”

Last Tues­day marked the first 7-on-7 ac­tion of the off-sea­son for Ring­gold, who hosted their own multi-team ses­sion this past Thurs­day and was sched­uled to take part in a multi-team event at Knoxville Ful­ton this Tues­day.

“The main thing is tim­ing and mak­ing sure your kids com­pete, have fun and get bet­ter,” Tigers head coach Robert Akins said. “But we also have a new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor (Hous­ton White), so we want to make sure our kids can de­fend and cover teams with speed like Ridge­land, Red Bank and Oolte­wah have. We think if we can get bet­ter de­fen­sively, we feel like our of­fense will be on track to get bet­ter as well.”

An­other team get­ting used to a new de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor is Gor­don Lee, who has brought for­mer co­or­di­na­tor Josh Groce back to Chicka­mauga af­ter a re­cent stint at Trion.

“For us, get­ting Coach Groce back, we’re here mainly work­ing on our de­fen­sive schemes,” said head coach Greg El­lis, whose team was at Bay­lor for a six-team event this past Fri­day. “We want to make sure the kids know their po­si­tions and know what to ex­pect. A lot of this is for tim­ing. It re­ally doesn’t mat­ter as far as win­ning and los­ing these (7-on-7 games), it’s about get­ting bet­ter and get­ting the guys to be com­pet­i­tive.

Her­itage was also on hand at Bay­lor, wrap­ping up a long week of 7-on-7’s. The Gen­er­als have more 7-on-7’s sched­uled for this week, in­clud­ing a big eight-team ses­sion at home on Thurs­day. These pass­ing games are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for the Navyand-Red this sum­mer as the team is look­ing for a new quar­ter­back.

“It’s good for our guys just to learn some foot­ball,” Gen­er­als head coach E.K. Slaugh­ter said. “It’s gives our quar­ter­backs and our de­fend­ers a chance to learn their reads and see dif­fer­ent looks. It’s not real foot­ball, but it is a part of foot­ball and a part of foot­ball we try to ex­cel at so it’s im­por­tant to us.”

LaFayette did not have any 7-on-7’s listed on their foot­ball cal­en­dar for July, but was slated to be one of the par­tic­i­pants in a full-team camp at Ridge­land on Mon­day of this week.

(Top) Ridge­land’s Jor­dan Blackwell makes a nice grab on a tipped pass dur­ing a 7-on-7 ses­sion ver­sus Dade County this past Thurs­day. (Bot­tom) Ring­gold quar­ter­back Cole Ki­bler fires a pass down the field dur­ing a six-team 7-on-7 event at Ridge­land last Tues­day. (Mes­sen­ger photos/Scott Herpst)

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