Summer 7-on-7 football means skill-position players making plays without the pads, or offensive and defensive linemen.
And that’s OK with the Kickapoo and Parkview football programs.
The city teams, which have big question marks with young offensive lines, fared well as Kickapoo hosted an Ozark Conference one-night tournament of 7-on-7 drills.
Camdenton won the night-ending tournament with a 14-6 finals victory against Kickapoo, winning the nine-team field, which featured every OC team except Hillcrest, which opted out for the second year.
Outside of Springfield, the biggest news from camp was the play of Camdenton quarterback Bo Dean, who moved from Osage, where he was named a third-team all-state quarterback in Class 3 by the coaches association as a junior.
Camdenton coach Jeff Shore said Dean will battle last year’s backup Tyler Cunningham for snaps this season. Cunningham recently committed to the Missouri State baseball program.
While the camp was a great offseason opportunity for teams looking to develop, staying injury-free was a bigger key.
That was not quite the case for Kickapoo, which had a scary moment in a game against Camdenton, as three defenders collided after missing a Lakers’ ballcarrier.
Senior Kelton Reeves, expected to be a big-time contributor as a linebacker/running back, was shaken up in the collision, which sounded more like something you’d hear on fall Friday nights, in full pads.
A full recovery is expected soon, but still, it wasn’t the kind of moment Kickapoo coach Joel Wells wants to see in June after a 6-5 season.
“He’s a guy who has made a lot of strides; our skill guys are going to be as good as any in our league,” Wells said. “We just have to keep them off ’em a little bit.”
Glendale already received its most devastating injury news before the school year even let out.
After leaving his team’s first-round playoff loss against Branson last October on a stretcher because of a concussion, running back Justin Starks later found out he has cervical stenosis, which makes him more susceptible to injury, and ended his football career.
“We’re going to miss Justin tremendously, not only as a player but as a person,” coach Tyler Overstreet said. “But he comes to practice every day, he’s still there being a leader, and he’s at a good spot with it. He just felt very lucky that nothing major happened at this point.”
It’s a blow to Overstreet, who in his second year hopes to lift Glendale to an improvement from a 2-8 season despite returning just six of 22 starters.
Stepping up for the Falcons in the offseason has been senior quarterback Tyler Marion, along with linemen Max Oser and David Garland.
“We’ve got a lot of competition at a lot of spots and we have a lot of guys pushing each other to see the field,” Overstreet said.
Despite the Reeves injury, Kickapoo looked strong, led by senior quarterback Anthony Cooper, who is in his second year as the starter.
“I’m much more comfortable,” Cooper said. “I know the system very well. I’ve been studying with my coach and everything is clicking.”
Cooper has been going to quarterback camps throughout the Midwest, and has also visited Southeast Missouri State, Lindenwood, and Missouri S&T in Rolla. He said he’s going to a camp this weekend at Central Missouri.
Reeves, John Fuchs, Taylor Simmons and Tony Grant should be productive two-way players for the Chiefs, and Trey Raynor and Corbin Harris will catch passes from Cooper, along with newcomers Mason Pack and Jacob Darrah.
Jayy Green is also a newcomer who could be a playmaker for Kickapoo on both sides of the ball.
For Parkview, Anthony Gilliland will take over as quarterback for the graduated Landan Ruff. Gilliland was the backup last year but will have experienced wide receivers Connor Ratcliff and Hunter Steinmetz at his disposal.
“They’re picking it up,” senior defensive back Mo Downey said of the offense. “They’ve going to be a good group. We have a couple young receivers that’ll get in there, and they’re confident. And I feel like we need confidence.”
Parkview went 8-3 last season after setting a school record by opening the season with six wins.