Meridian Star


June 18, 2014

Local squads meet for 7-on-7 competition

MERIDIAN — Local football standouts flocked to Meridian High School’s Ray Stadium to participate in 7-on-7 organized team workouts Tuesday.

The eight squads represented along with Meridian included Lamar High School, Newton High School, Newton County High School, Northeast Lauderdale High School, Quitman High School, Southeast Lauderdale High School and West Lauderdale High School.

The event featured the squads' skilled position players and back-seven defense, in addition to quarterbacks.

“Every Tuesday morning in June, all the local teams try to come out here,” Lamar coach Mac Barnes said. “You get two 25-minute sessions each, and you go against different teams.”

With eight different squads participating in the session, there is no shortage of talent on display.

“We tell our kids that we will not face any teams faster or better than what we faced in the summer,” Barnes said.

Added Northeast Lauderdale coach Curt Blackburn, “There is some unbelievable talent out here.”

Coaches are allowed the opportunity to identify particular player skillsets prior to the start of fall camp.

“As a coach, I just want to make sure the kids are where they are supposed to be in coverage,” Blackburn said. “Also, we want  to make sure our routes are crisp, but we have a long ways to go in that area.”

Added Barnes, “As much as we throw the ball on offense, it helps us out getting our passing game down.”

Additionally, the camp provided an avenue for first-year Northeast Lauderdale starting quarterback Lane Gordon to develop a rapport with his skill-position core.

“This helps us get our chemistry down,” Gordon said. “For me, it allows me to see which targets I’m going to be looking to get the ball to this season.”

In addition to team camaraderie, the 7-on-7 practices serves as the first phase of implementing a team-mindset heading into the fall.

“We’ve been talking about finishing this year,” Gordon said. “Last year we should have done better, but we didn’t finish plays. That’s what we’re focusing on here and working on out here, to make sure we finish strong.”

Not to be outdone, the event also serves as an opportunity for defensive players to harness and hone their skills leading up to the season.

“As a defense, we’re working on our main techniques,” Meridian safety Zaire Jones said. “We just want to be sound in our coverages.”

Said Barnes, “Very rarely do you get a chance to cover full-speed, so this gives you a great opportunity to work with your defensive backs on their technique and covering individual routes, and also to work on defensive schemes.”

As a leader in the secondary, Jones is looking to see who is willing to compete with him to the end as the Wildcats set their sights on the 2014 campaign.  

“I want to see our guys pursuing to the ball and never giving up on the play,” Jones said. “We have to have active hands as defensive backs when the ball is thrown our way, and also if you get beat to just competing.”

The competition provides an alternative to squaring off exclusively against teammates and the monotony of two-a-days, something the players relish.

“The kids enjoy it, and that’s the biggest thing for us,” Barnes said. “They enjoy this more than running, and you really get good conditioning in this, as well as your timing down.”

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