It wasn’t hard for area Johnston County football coaches to come to a consensus concerning the benefits of last week’s seven-on-seven passing league at Charles Tucker Stadium.
In fact, coaches David Lawhon of Smithfield-Selma, Derrick Minor of Princeton and first-year coach Ashley Ennis of North Johnston may have practiced the same answers as they spoke of the activity on the Spartans’ home turf.
The trio had glowing accolades as they watched their charges compete, as Lawhon put it, against people in “different colored jerseys.”
Teams across the area participate in these usually weekly scrimmages, which are non-contact. The extra work on the passing game still comes in handy, even with many high school teams using the pass more and more than in past years.
“We’re just trying to work on the connection between our quarterbacks and our receivers,” Lawhon said.
Minor, who will have the luxury of senior running back Johnny Frasier in his backfield, said most teams realize the Bulldogs will be primarily a run-first team. Frasier is ranked as the Nation’s No. 1 high school running back by 247 Sports.
“Everyone knows what we’re going to do,” Minor said. “We’re going to run the ball first.
“But if our passing game can go up top and help our running game, it will be a fantastic season.”
Minor said while the seven-on-seven competition was “not really game-like, because everyone drops into coverages,” the Princeton coaches wanted their players to execute, and for them to “give maximum effort.”
“What this league does is allow our quarterbacks to read some coverages, while defensively helps us on drops, our defensive reds, and what our guys can do,” Lawhon said. “Offensively, it is a little quicker than in practice.
“We can key on the guys we’re supposed to see.”
Ennis, taking over the Panthers’ reins this season, is incorporating the Wing-T offense, and said the league was good for his team from an offensive standpoint.
“We work on the pass quite a bit more in our offense,” Ennis said. “We’re not necessarily a spread offense, but we are able to go through our fakes we will use in the Wing-T.
“We do (in the league) what we will do during the season. That’s the only way we can get good at it.”
Ennis added the Panthers were just running their regular passing routes, particularly a quick route with the split ends.
For Minor, it gave him the opportunity to watch the development of quarterback Michael Wooten, who was “on fire” in a recent camp.
“He’s been outstanding,” Minor said, “And our tight end, Tanner Woodard, had been very consistent.”
Minor also beamed over the efforts of Nick Hare and Malcolm Best.
None of the Bulldogs avoided the eyes of the Princeton coaching staff – on either side of the ball.
“They (receivers) know the routes they need to run,” Minor said. “And they do it to the best of their ability.
“And we are getting the reads from our quarterbacks both will help our running and passing games.”
Minor, Ennis and Lawhon noted the defenses were able to switch their schemes from man defense to cover two, cover three and cover four looks throughout the sessions, which saw the team battle each other, as well as Wake Forest Heritage.
“We are getting these guys (defenders) to compete,” Minor said. “They’re dropping back into their coverages, and they are communicating with each other.
“If we can get them to talk and be in the right spots, make the right reads, that is going to help us.”