The first official day of high school football practice is less than three weeks away and the first regular season contest is set for Aug. 20.
However, teams are getting in early work with upcoming 7-on-7 drills.
The 7-on-7 competition, which is growing in popularity, places emphasis on speed and athleticism, with its major focus on the passing game — both offensively and defensively. There are no linemen or special teams play involved. Teams play without pads and receivers are down when touched.
The games are played on a 40-yard field with typically a 30-minute running clock, and the quarterback is allowed just four seconds to get rid of the ball or the play is blown dead. No running plays are allowed, and each series only has the opportunity for one first down — when the offense reaches the 20-yard line within four downs.
“Basically on defense you’re playing with linebackers and (defensive backs) and on offense it’s running backs, receivers and a quarterback,” said Craig Clayton, Hillsboro football coach. “Really it’s 7-on-5 because offensively you’ve got five receivers, a center and a quarterback. So you’re putting five receivers on their seven (defensive backs) and it’s still really hard to stop.”
Clayton and the Burros are preparing for the Select 7-on-7 Mid-South Regional, which begins Wednesday in Clarksville. The Mid-South Regional is a chance for Hillsboro and other area teams to qualify for the National Select 7-on-7 Championship July 16-18 in Hoover, Ala.
The clock for the Mid-South Regional and the National Select Championship will be 21 minutes (20 minutes consecutively running, stoppages in the final minute).
Clayton said when watching a 7-on-7 matchup fans can expect to see a shootout and a different style of football.
“Generally, if you can get one or two stops on defense you have a legitimate chance to win that game,” Clayton said. “If you’re a defensive coordinator who can’t handle giving up a lot of points, then I’d suggest not doing it because there’s a lot of guys who can’t stand giving up that many points.”
Other Midstate teams joining Hillsboro at the Mid-South Regional include Clarksville High School, Creek Wood, Montgomery Central, Mt. Juliet, Northeast and Northwest.
Mt. Juliet Christian Academy is hosting its inaugural 7-on-7 tournament beginning Thursday, and Ravenwood is hosting its third annual 7-on-7 invitational on Saturday.
Joining the Raptors on Saturday will be Athens (Alabama), Brentwood Academy, Beech, Battle Ground Academy, Blackman, Brentwood High School. Community, Fairview, Independence, Lincoln County, Marshall County, Montgomery Bell Academy, Oakland, Overton, Page, Siegel, Stratford, Summit, Tullahoma and Wilson Central.
“This is huge for everyone’s pass game and defending the pass game,” said Will Hester, Ravenwood coach. “It gives us a chance to play speed on speed and good on good against other teams. You can’t simulate that in practice. It kind of gives you enough time to get everything done.”
Added Clayton, “It’s not going to make a difference on our win-loss record next fall, but it does allow us to get our coverages and a lot of our routes in. It’s fast, it’s furious and we like it because it’s just good competition.”
Both the Tennessee Titans and Middle Tennessee State University will also be hosting 7-on-7 events. The Titans’ event is slated to take place on July 15 with MTSU’s on July 18. Both events have yet to announce teams participating.
Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.
Games are played on a 40-yard field with a 30-minute running clock.*
No running plays are allowed, and the quarterback has just four seconds to get rid of the ball before the play is blown dead.
Tackling is not allowed and players are marked down by one-hand touch.
Defense consists of a mixture of linebackers and defensive backs. Offense consists of a quarterback, a snapper and five receivers.
* This is the most common game time. Some tournaments differ.