By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
No pads, no coaches, no problem.
That’s life in the high-flying land of 7-on-7 football, where high school teams play pass-and-catch in the summer to develop their skills and lay out the blueprints for the upcoming season.
At least three teams from the Golden Circle area — Corsicana, Mildred and Wortham — are playing 7-on-7 this summer in hopes that the extra time on the field will pay off down the road.
The Corsicana Tigers plan to throw the ball a lot more under new coach Steve Hoffman, who believes in balance and putting the ball in the air.
That’s one reason the Tigers are playing 7-on-7 football this summer. Corsicana hasn’t played in recent years but Hoffman believes in the 7-on-7 game and he also knows he’s playing catch-up.
“I’ve only been here six weeks and we only had the kids five weeks this spring,’’ said Hoffman, who was hired in April. “We’re still trying to put in our offense and the 7-on-7 will help a lot. It’s very beneficial. For us it’s big.’’
Corsicana, Mildred and Wortham are all competing in an eight-team 7-on-7 league that plays in Teague. The teams play two games one night a week and will complete a 12-game schedule before playing in a Teague state-qualifying tournament on June 28.
It’s a big month for Hoffman’s team — and for Devontay Bell, Corsicana’s electric quarterback who is coming back from an ACL injury.
“He can run and throw,’’ Hoffman said of Bell, who is expected to be the catalyst of the offense. “We’ve got some athletic guys and getting the ball to them will take the pressure off of Devontay.’’
That’s the plan, to use every weapon and run a multiple offense that keeps opponents guessing and allows the Tigers to take advantage of an attack that features a land and air game.
The 7-on-7 game has changed the landscape of high school football in Texas and Hoffman hopes the extra time on the field this month will help his kids next fall. High school coaches aren’t allowed to coach the players, but the end result of a summer of 7-on-7 can’t help but benefit Corsicana, which has a new coach and a new system.
And the kids love it.
“The kids are real excited about 7-on-7,’’ Hoffman said. “They’re here and they’re playing. They were excited to know we are going to be putting the ball up a little more.’’
Corsicana lost its first two games, but both games were close, a fact that Hoffman felt was a positive.
“We were right there in both games,’’ Hoffman said. “We’re getting better. Our goal is by the end of 7-on-7 to be night and day from the beginning.’’
Wortham, which has been playing 7-on-7 for two years, and Mildred, which has played for four years, both joined the Teague league that has teams from Waco High, Groesbeck, Mart, Mexia and Teague as well as GC teams Corsicana, Wortham and Mildred.
“This is our second year of 7-on-7,’’ said Wortham coach Shane Doege, who loves the spread offense. “When I took over I wanted the kids to get involved with 7-on-7. The biggest sell for me at Teague is the level of competition. The wins and losses don’t mean as much in the summer as the growth of your team.’’
Witty Busby played quarterback at Wortham for about half of the season last year, and Doege knows how much a summer of 7-on-7 can do for Busby.
“I think it’s great for the receivers to learn routes and for the quarterback to learn reads,’’ Doege said. “There’s a four-second clock for the quarterback to get rid of the ball. It’s helping him a lot. I’ve already see his growth. It’s been great. Our kids are doing a better job of catching the ball in traffic and the quarterback is making better reads. He sees what the offense is designed to do and sees it more clearly.’’
Doege knows the 7-on-7 game can make an impact. He can’t predict what kind of fall Busby will have, but said that a 2,000-yard season “is not out of reach.’’
Mildred, which reached the Class 2A state final last year, will have to find a new quarterback with the graduation of four-year starter Nic Shimonek, and new coach Billy Dan Chambliess said that battle will be fought out during two-a-days.
“Right now we’re not sure who the quarterback will be until we put the pads on,’’ Chambliess said. “It will be tough to replace a kid like Nic. When the receivers turned around the ball was right there.’’
Two Mildred quarterbacks — sophomore Will Burnham and senior Mikey Muncy — are playing in the 7-on-7 league, which provides more than just a chance for quarterbacks to hone their skills.
“It keeps the kids active and helps them get in shape,’’ Chambliess said. “They get a workout without even knowing it. And our kids are competitive. They like to compete.’’