Wildcats hosting 7-on-7 tournament this summer
By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor
May 18, 2007 - The term "Boys of Summer" is used to describe baseball players. But, it increasingly can be used for football players as well.
For the second year, Sulphur Springs will host a 7-on-7 touch football league for varsity and JV teams from neighboring high schools.
Games will be played every Thursday in June at the SSHS practice fields. There are seven varsity and five JV teams participating from Sulphur Springs, Paris, Mount Vernon, Mineola, Commerce, Lone Oak, Winnsboro and Alba-Golden.
The 7-on-7 concept is all-pass, no-block, no-pads, touch football game. It is used to help quarterbacks, receivers and backs get more repetitions while also giving defensive backs and linebackers an opportunity to practice their coverage skills.
The concept was approved about 10 years ago by the UIL. The only hitch is that high school coaches cannot coach the summer teams.
SSHS hosted a league last year and has added teams this summer.
"We've expanded it. We'll play on three fields at the high school. Two fields will be varsity and one field will be JV," said SSHS head football coach and athletic director Greg Owens. "I'm excited about it. We're a good location to get people to come, and there are a lot of schools interested and want to do it."
The benefits of participating are multiple, he explained.
"I think it's great for the kids - it worked out well for us last year," Owens said. "It gives kids more reps, gives them a chance to get out and compete. They get to call their own plays, call their own defenses - if it doesn't work, then they have to fix it.
"It gives them a chance to show their character and leadership. It's all on them. I'm excited about the class we've got coming. I think we've got some great leaders in that class."
For the Wildcats, it also gives them an opportunity to work on some new wrinkles being installed in the offensive scheme. While the Wildcats didn't have spring practice this year, they did work on the offense during the athletic period.
"We're exploring some options of a new offense right now. It's similar stuff to what we've been doing, it's just how we're packaging it and putting it together," Owens said. "I think it's better for the kids, I think it's better for everybody. It really exploits a lot of things.
"It's some of what Texas Tech is doing, but it's just packaged a little differently. Our kids have really caught on to it, so I'm excited about that. Our defense is catching on to it also. I'm interested to see how it looks against someone that doesn't see it every day."
The Wildcats will get their first test on Saturday when they travel to Gilmer to participate in a 7-on-7 tournament there. Last year, SSHS went to the championship game but lost to Gilmer.
While they're working on 7-on-7 moves, the Wildcats will also be pumping iron and running four days a week as part of the summer conditioning program. They will meet from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday.
The Edge, as the conditioning program is called, is open to all SSHS athletes, including girls.
"The kids are responding well," Owens said. "They're fired up, they're lifting and running and getting ready for the summer even though we're closing the year.
"There's some excitement here as we start the summer conditioning program. If the kids are excited and fired up about it, then they're going to be working hard."