7-on-7 play turns summer into football season
Football in June is kind of like Christmas in July -- neither fit, but both can produce great things.
Members of the Eudora Cardinals football team are already preparing themselves to continue the program's recent success whether it's camp attendance, 7-on-7 participation, or simply breaking a sweat in the weight room.
Football coach Gregg Webb went with 12 members of the team to Hays last week to participate in an annual football camp. Those players include: Luke Abel, Mark Abel, Josh Barr, Kyle Brouhard, Miles Cleveland, Dustin Deathe, Chris Durkin, Tim Durkin, Brendan Jackson, Austin Hoover, Joel Morrison, and Paul Smith.
"Camp is the greatest thing," Webb said. "You're scrimmaging against 10 teams in three days. You see a lot of looks and a lot of formations. There is just so much coaching going on."
The camp integrates unique perspectives within the framework of each coach's program.
"The Hays coaches do a great job of incorporating our stuff," Webb said. "It's an invaluable experience.
"The kids who went to summer camp will be miles ahead. The ones who didn't will be a little behind."
Webb feels the same about programs that aren't represented -- they're behind as well.
"I'm always saying that the teams that go to camps traditionally do well," Webb said. "And that should tell you something.
"I tell the kids all the time that those teams are successful because they're committed to put in the time it takes to win."
While Webb and his gang were in Hays, new daddy Ty Pattison stepped in back home in Eudora. Pattison led a very young crew in the first 7-on-7 game June 7 at Gardner.
Seven-on-7 is a light-contact football competition. Offensively, teams comprise of a quarterback, center and five eligible receivers. Defensively, the teams essentially consist of seven defensive backs.
Pattison's undermanned group lost to teams from De Soto and Spring Hill.
The team did have a somewhat veteran presence in Joe Kaup and Cole Massey, both of whom were unable to participate in Hays.
Webb returned with many of his campers to join the team Monday.
The unified squad crushed a team from Paola 40-0.
The group then turned its focus on a rival team from Baldwin City. Webb's boys blew a pair of two touchdown leads late in the game before losing in overtime.
The team will compete again each of the following Mondays in June.
Seven-on-7 football is also a pass-oriented competition -- a foreign philosophy for Webb. But there are significant benefits even for the Cardinals run-first approach.
"What it shows us is whether or not we have guys who can throw it and if we have guys who can catch it," Webb said. "As we're evaluating our team, our personnel and what direction we're going in, we need to know what it is we can do.
"I'd like to throw about 15 times and run about 45 times a game."
It also allows Webb an opportunity to address positions lost to graduation. And 7-on-7 football is especially beneficial for a Cardinal team that lost its quarterback, its entire receiving corps, and its entire defensive backfield for next season.
"We lost a ton of good players from last year who were very gifted physically," Webb said. "But we've got some kids who are talented coming back too.
"Like Mark Abel, who missed all of last year with a broken arm, 7-on-7 helps him get reps and reps in and helps him catch up."
It's not always easy to catch up or get ahead in football off-seasons. The opportunities just aren't there the way they are in other sports.
"That's one of the things that makes football so unique," Webb said. "Kids in all the other major sports can participate and play a lot of games during the summer.
"Although that's not always a good thing. Some of the disorganized operations that kids get into are not helping them. They can teach kids bad habits."
With opportunities for summer competition scarce, football players are often forced to compete with themselves -- in the weight room.
"Baseball guys go and play; football guys go and get in the weight room," Webb said. "They kill themselves every day to prepare themselves for the physical demands of the season."
And while 7-on-7 can provide great assistance to the skill players, it's the weight room that carries the linemen.
"For the most part it's the big hog guys that win and lose games. They help themselves and their team in the weight room," Webb said.
Webb said there were other reasons football wasn't a year-round sport.
"Football's just different because it's too physically demanding," he said. "The kids need this time to build themselves up for the season."