CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – In high school football, 7-on-7 tournaments have become a summertime staple.
The benefits of such events, which places emphasis on speed and athleticism with its major focus being the passing game, can be debated. But for second-year Clarksville High coach Isaac Shelby, his take on the matter is simple:
“I would never not do it,” said Shelby, whose Wildcats are hosting this week’s National Select 7-on-7 Mid-South Regional.
“It’s beneficial because it teaches kids to be competitors in a society that is getting less and less competitive every day,” he added. “It’s like playing third and long all the time. I tell my kids that in June we get ready to play third and long. When we put the helmets and shoulder pads on we’ll get ready for third and short.”
The 12-team tournament field featured four area schools, including Clarksville, Northwest, Northeast and Montgomery Central, along with other Midstate squads Hillsboro, Mt. Juliet and Creek Wood.
Last year’s Class 6A semifinalists Whitehaven made the more than three-hour trip from Memphis for the two-day event – the region qualifier for the upcoming National Select 7-on-7 Championship in Hoover, Ala. (July 16-18) – while Hazel Green (Ala.) and Civic Memorial (Ill.) traveled from out of state.
“I thought it went really well,” said Shelby, whose squad posted a 3-3-1 record in Wednesday’s pool play portion, capturing wins over Montgomery Central (30-2) and Northwest (14-10), along with a forfeit victory over Brooks (Ala.). “It’s the first time our city has really hosted something like this and I was really proud of it. There were a lot of good teams here and I thought our kids got better – I thought everyone got better.
“We kind of go by the ‘iron sharpens iron’ mentality; you get better every time you snap the ball against quality opponents.”
Defending Class 5A runner-up Hillsboro, the top seed heading into Thursday’s double-elimination tournament, finish the day unbeaten, claiming wins over Hazel Green, Clarksville, Northeast, Whitehaven, Mt. Juliet, Creek Wood and Montgomery Central by an average of 25 points.
“We’re trying to get back to Hoover for the national championships like we did last year,” Burros coach Craig Clayton said. “It is good competition, and I think we got better. That’s what we’re looking for.”
No. 7 seed Northeast posted a 3-4 record on Wednesday, No. 9 Montgomery Central went 2-5, and No. 11 Northwest struggled to a 1-6 finish.
“Anytime we can get our kids out there and there is a winner and a loser and five minutes to talk at the end, you have a chance to teach kids,” Shelby said. “It’s a chance to get to know your kids and a chance to spend time with them in a competitive environment.”
Reach Michael Murphy at 615-259-8262 and on Twitter @Murph_TNsports.