Football teams prep with 7-on-7’s.
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)