Summer football is heating up

Published 12:01 am Sunday, June 26, 2011

For many students, the summer months include family vacations, a summer job, summer camp or staying indoors to keep cool.

But area teams are doing anything but staying in the air conditioning these days — unless that air conditioning is in the weight room.

For prep football players, summer is the time to focus on getting into playing shape and competing with each other in 7-on-7 drills. The workouts are voluntary, but all the local coaches said they’ve been pleased with participation so far.

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That’s a good sign, because many games are won and lost the spring and summer before the season starts. If players don’t dedicate themselves during those months, they’ll have a hard time competing with players that did put in the time and effort.

In fact, if competing for conference and state championships is your goal, then football almost has to become a year-round activity. I remember visiting Trinity Episcopal a few weeks after the Saints won their 2009 MAIS state title in football. I needed to speak with head coach David King about a different story, and was told to find him in the school’s field house.

When I walked in, the first thing I saw was several football players lifting weights in preparation for next year. I expressed my surprise to assistant coach Bill James that they were focusing on the 2010 season already — keep in mind, it was still 2009 at the time. He simply informed me that football was a constant at Trinity.

“It doesn’t stop,” James said that day.

And schools don’t really have a choice in the matter if they’re serious about winning. A number of techniques are used to get the players in shape, both in the weight room and on the practice field. One of those newer “techniques,” if you will, are the 7-on-7 drills.

These drills pit a quarterback and his skill players against seven linebackers and defensive backs. There’s no pass rush, so the drills focus solely on developing a team’s passing game and working on defensive coverages.

Natchez High School has hosted several 7-on-7 events where local teams can compete against each other in these drills. At the one I attended June 14, Cathedral School, Jefferson County High School and Ferriday High School were on the field.

Some coaches like 7-on-7 events because they allow teams to develop their passing game and evaluate their defensive backfield. Others find them useful simply because their players can practice against someone other than each other.

Still others don’t like the events as much, pointing out that without a pass rush, the drills do a poor job simulating an in-game atmosphere. But I’ve yet to speak to a local coach that simply refuses to have his team attend 7-on-7 events. It would seem that they’re here to stay.

Soon, the dog days of summer will give way to August, and high school football will be upon the Miss-Lou again. All the stories about summer workouts certainly have me eager for another season of Friday night lights.