Virtually every team sport has some sort of club and/or select program through which athletes can work on their skills while not playing for their high school teams. An exception, however, is football.
So years ago, the sport of 7-on-7 football was created. Its popularity has risen steadily over the past several years.
Count first-year L.D. Bell Blue Raiders head coach Mike Glaze among its advocates.
“I think anyone who is ever played 7-on-7 would tell you that they love it. It is loads of fun and also very competitive,” Glaze said.
Since 1998, the sport has crowned a state champion in Texas. Area champions include Southlake (1998, 2013), Colleyville Heritage (2006) and Richland (2008).
The Blue Raiders will attempt for a second time to qualify for state Saturday at the Arlington Bowie Tournament. They also play in a league with Flower Mound Marcus, Grapevine and Lewisville Hebron on Mondays.
“Any time you are able to go out and throw with the wide receivers and get the highest level of high school competition, you become a closer and better team because of it,” said Bell senior quarterback Dominique Lawson, adding that his favorite part of the game is “making a good throw, then watching the wide receiver make a good play on the ball.”
Clearly, 7-on-7 is beneficial to a team’s passing game, but there’s more to it, Glaze said.
“It is a huge benefit for us just getting reps at throwing and catching the ball on offense and working on our different coverages on defense,” he said. “Most people see 7-on-7 as being more beneficial for the offensive side, but I see it being equally beneficial on both sides of the ball.
“We play with our defensive backs and we keep our linebackers in as well, so linebackers are getting used to playing the same coverages that they will play in the fall. We run our base pass plays and we run our base coverages. We don’t do anything on either side of the ball just for 7-on-7.”
The games may not have the same win-loss impact as the ones in the fall, but make no mistake, players want to win nonetheless.
“7-on-7 does not really effect me as much as a season game would, but the win-loss ratio is all pride. That’s what will take the hit of a loss is your pride,” Lawson said.
However, 7-on-7 is only part of the summer workout program for his team, Glaze said. He said the “summer dedication” program is made up of strength and conditioning, Quarterback Ranch training for the signal callers and receivers, Grind House training for linemen and defensive backs and at least one “linemen challenge, in which offensive and defensive linemen compete in feats of strength.
“We want our kids not only training in the summer, but we also want them competing,” Glaze said. “Our Summer Dedication doesn’t just focus on training, it also incorporates football specific skills with our 7-on-7 and outside training groups.
“The greatest benefit, in my opinion, is the team camaraderie you get from competing in the summer when you don’t have to be up here.”