Central’s 7-on-7 football league a big hit with local teams

Bill Hall

WOODSTOCK – High school football season may not officially start until July 26, but most of the local teams have been coming together at Central this month to get a head start.

Central has been hosting a 7-on-7 football league each Tuesday night in June. It is a six-team league, featuring Central, East Rockingham, Sherando, Skyline, Stonewall Jackson, and Strasburg.

Central coach Mike Yew said that in the past he usually held a one-day 7-on-7 tournament on Saturdays, but decided to change things up this year. He said a big reason he changed things is because so many colleges are now hosting high school 7-on-7’s so that they can get a look at the players to evaluate them as possible recruits.

“Now a lot of the colleges have gone to doing it on Saturdays,” Yew said after Tuesday’s games. “Colleges used to not do this very much and now they’re doing it with an opportunity to bring a lot of schools in and evaluate kids. So we were losing teams doing it on Saturdays. So I sent an e-mail out to about 10 schools that I have a good relationship with and coaches that I know and have a good relationship with. And I said I’m taking the first six schools that want to come down and play a little bit.”

The games have been held each Tuesday in June from 7-9:30 p.m. Each game is 30 minutes long and each team plays three times each week. Yew said that last week’s game was postponed due to the rain, so they are planning on making it up on July 17. Each of the teams play each other over the course of a couple of weeks except Stonewall Jackson and Sherando will not play each other due to the difference in the size of the two schools.

Heath Gilbert

With 7-on-7’s every team’s offense has a center, a quarterback, and five receivers/running backs. Teams are only allowed to pass and they try to move the ball 40 yards for a touchdown. There is no tackling, they use one-hand touch instead and players aren’t allowed to wear pads or helmets. On Tuesday each team had about 10-25 players show up for the 7-on-7 and were able to sub different players in and out throughout the games.

Two games are played at the same time, with two other teams sitting out every 30 minutes. Skyline coach Heath Gilbert said he is a big fan of 7-on-7’s and tries to take his team to as many of them as he can.

“We’ve been doing 7 on 7’s ever since I’ve been here,” Gilbert said. “It’s something I did when I was in high school and I liked it a lot. It’s just great preparation and we do try to throw the football around a little bit. So to get these guys out here, and they can get so many throws in during these 7-on-7 leagues compared to what they might get during the year even though we throw it probably about 22, 23 times a game. Still, this work is so good.”

On Tuesday, Central started off playing Skyline while Sherando played East Rockingham in front of about 200 fans. In the next set of games, Central played Stonewall Jackson and East Rockingham played Strasburg.

Stonewall Jackson runs the triple-option and doesn’t throw the ball often, but head coach Pete Lampman said there was still plenty his players could work on.

Pete Lampman

“We’re working on our defense, our drops, where they need to get to,” Lampman said. “It gives them a chance to compete, throw the ball around a little bit this summer, get the kids together. They’re competing hard and that’s really the best thing we’ve gotten out of it – working on defense and competing.”

Strasburg assistant coach Joe Bauserman, who was filling in for a vacationing head coach Mark Roller said that one of the biggest things they can get out of 7-on-7’s is to help the quarterbacks and receivers get a start on the season.

“It’s good to just get the timing down between the quarterback and receivers, getting a head start on the lingo and the terminology and just kind of getting ready for the season,” Bauserman said.

Sherando coach Bill Hall said he enjoys 7-on-7’s and feels his team can get a lot out of it.

“For us, it’s just a way to practice and compete against other people than yourself,” Hall said. “It’s on a regular schedule type of thing. It’s a lot of bang for your buck here for the cost of it. Usually, when you go play a 7-on-7 on Saturdays it’s a lot of money for not so many games whereas here we get to play three or four games every single week for a whole month. We’re all out here just with the perspective just to get better. I mean, they’re competing out here, but also everyone’s trying to get better. So it’s a good setting.”

Joe Bauserman Rich Cooley/Daily

Hall said the games are a great opportunity for some of the younger guys to get some playing time. Sherando rising senior Hunter Entsminger didn’t play in the 7-on-7 on Tuesday but was at Central with the team. Instead, Sherando used rising sophomore quarterback Chacai Campbell and gave him some experience.

“Hunter (Entsminger) hasn’t played at all and it’s allowed Chacai (Campbell) to play,” Hall said. “So you’re talking 20 games of where a young guy can get reps and it still gives Hunter some mental reps, which he really needs. It gives a young guy like Chacai a lot of reps. So new guys coming up from (junior varsity) it gives them the opportunity for us to coach them, again not that you can’t do it at school but it’s different when you get to compete against other people and other teams.”

Gilbert said that one of the big advantages to the 7-on-7’s is that it gives coaches a chance to see the players and work with them and fix any mistakes they might see.

“Those mistakes now are so important so that we’re not making them hopefully on Friday nights when it’s going to cost us a touchdown and lose us a football game,” Gilbert said.

Yew said that he’s always enjoyed 7-on-7’s and he was very happy with how the league has turned out this season.

He said it’s been a good opportunity for him to learn more about his team that he will have this season.

“It gives you a good head start on your season, Yew said. “We lost (2018 Central graduate) Varsey (Bright) in the secondary so we got to find somebody to take Varsey’s spot. We’ve played with moving (Central rising senior) Kyle (Clanton) to safety, or leaving him at corner or doing a little bit of both. At linebacker, we lost (2018 Central graduate) Bryan Davis and Zach (Abrams) is still recovering from an ACL tear. So for us, we’ve got to throw bodies in there where we’re learning a little bit. A lot of times it’s young kids and it gives us a head start not only on this year but years to come.”