With the month of July approaching and the previous academic school year completed, the prep football season has entered the summer phase which includes off-season training.
One aspect of summer training that has seen increased activity within the past five years have been 7-on-7 competitions. The events provide opportunities for the skill position players, particularly the quarterback, receivers and running backs on offense along with the linebackers and defensive backs on defense, to face each other in non-padded activities.
Locally, the summer phase was launched with the Corky Kell 7 on 7 Invitational on June 15 at the Roswell Areas Parks Football Complex. The event was a single-elimination competition with the field consisting of 35 programs from around the state. Blessed Trinity, Milton High School and Centennial High School also held preliminary morning contests on their campuses.
Milton dropped its first-round contest to Kell 23-21. The Eagles’ coaching staff uses the 7-on-7 events for multiple purposes. “We like to utilize it to help us install and develop our offensive and defensive passing schemes as well as give the boys a chance to compete against other teams,” Milton coach Adam Clack said. “We do not like to ‘over-do-it’ because 7 on 7 can lead to bad habits, unrealistic play and cause player burnout if done in excess.”
The Eagles reached the second round of the Class AAAAAAA playoffs last season.
“I believe summer to be an invaluable time for a team’s development and I feel really good programs use this time to separate themselves for other teams,” Clack continued. “During this time we are trying to evaluate and teach our players our base systems (offense, defense and special teams), develop our players physically in the weight room and most importantly build up their conditioning and heat tolerance to be ready to play the first quarter of the season. Another element of the summer program that cannot be overstated is the ability to build team culture during the summer months. Not only does the sheer time spent together bring the team closer, but the ‘sweat bond’ they create through our difficult running and lifting program is invaluable.”
Blessed Trinity, which won the Class AAAA state championship last season, won its first game over Centennial, a squad that was in the Class AAAAAA postseason in 2017, at the Corky Kell event. The Titans dropped its second-round match to Walton 23-13.
Roswell reached the knockout stage of the event with a win over West Forsyth but was eliminated in the next round with a 37-0 loss to eventual champion Marietta. Alpharetta, which was in the Class AAAAAA playoffs last year, fell to Monroe Area 28-19 in the first round.
While the Corky Kell event consisted of mostly Class 6A and 7A programs, local teams in lower classifications still have active plans for the summer phase of offseason training.
Wesleyan, which qualified for the Class A Private state playoffs last year, will host two 7-on-7 events this summer and its lineman participated in a camp held at St. Pius X in early June.
“We always follow a aggressive summer training schedule at Wesleyan,” Wolves’ coach Franklin Pridgen said. “We feel it builds a strong team chemistry as well as helping us get a head-start on offensive and defensive installation. We have a daily routine that includes speed and strength training plus on the field ‘skills and drills’ that are football-specific.”
The summer period also allows for new coaching regimes to install its game plans ahead of their 2018 campaigns. St. Francis has entered this phase with a new staff led by first-year coach Frank Barden.
“We had spring practice ending in a great scrimmage at Dunwoody against the host and Miller Grove,” he said. “June has been a time for our kids to play multiple sports and still get their workouts in the weight room. July will be important to continue the training and also start getting ready for upcoming season. We’re still in the process of building our team.”