Summer football begins
Player turnout for the Tonganoxie High School football team's first 7-on-7 game Saturday wasn't as strong as Mark Elston would have liked.
Jacob Sledd, the 7-on-7 head coach, said he'd definitely like to see more players out next Saturday.
"If we get more guys out there, then we can start establishing who's going to be the leader of the team," Sledd said. "We were kind of out-sized. The young guys weren't really big enough to handle, but they did a good job."
This summer, the Chieftains are participating in a 7-on-7 football league, in which they play games at 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. every Saturday during June. Teams will compete in one tournament June 30 in Gardner. Saturday's game was an inaugural event. And no one from Tonganoxie has participated in the past, said Elston, Tonganoxie High School head football coach.
Only about 15 players showed up to play. Elston was expecting closer to 30.
Those who did play gained lots of experience with concept of 7-on-7. Many incoming freshmen spent plenty of time on the field getting their feet wet.
"The younger ones got quite a bit of playing time," Elston said. "They learned on the fly and improved each game. They were a little confused since they haven't had the opportunity to be a part of the offense yet."
Freshman Ross Starcher manned the quarterback position. He also played some at cornerback.
"He did a good job as quarterback for never being involved with the team as one of our quarterbacks," Elston said.
Defensively, freshman Tony Aragon did a good job, Elston said. Sophomore Justin Lacey set the tone as far as hustling and effort goes. Junior Kyle Mayse has been out for almost a year, but Elston thought he did a great job catching the football. Elston said that junior Troy Morando was able to find receivers despite the patterns not being crisp and not always accurate.
"He did a good job finding the open man," Elston said. "We were a little limited. The receivers weren't up to speed on the patterns yet, which made it more difficult on Troy."
Junior Chuck Riddle proved to be a leader for the team at Saturday's games. Ryan McWilliams was the lone senior playing. Elston said he's more of a lineman but played a lot at linebacker. Junior Josh Olsen also played away from his usual position. It's not very often that the Chieftains use the shotgun formation, but Olsen executed the snap smoothly. Sophomore Ryan Burke played just about every position.
The Chieftains played Basehor, Lansing and Bishop Ward Saturday morning.
Elston doesn't see any reason why the team's offense shouldn't improve once they get some older players in the lineup next weekend.
"The defense in the first two games did extremely well," Elston said. "I am very pleased with them, especially against Ward. They kept Ward out of the end-zone the entire half. They are a throwing team with a lot of speed."
Sledd said his team had a lot of positive things working for them.
"It was a young group, but they did a really good job," he said. "In all the underclassmen, I could really see an improvement. It's really encouraging."
7-on-7 league in a nutshell
The 7-on-7 league is an all passing league. There is no running, blocking or tackling. A two-hand touch is equivalent to a tackle. Games last 45 minutes. First downs are called at 15 yards. The quarterback has four seconds to pass the ball.
Tonganoxie is part of the north division. Games are played every Saturday during June. Eight teams are included in the north division. The south division teams play in Gardner. There are 12 teams in that division.
"It's a good summertime activity," Elston said. "It gives them a chance to hone in on their passing skills.
Some schools have one or two teams. Tonganoxie has just one. Fifteen to 30 players could participate on any given Saturday.
"Seven-on-seven gives the guys the opportunity to get skills down and participate in something competitive during the summer," Elston said.
Even though Elston attends the games and can see what his players can handle, he's watching from the bleachers, not the sidelines. High school-affiliated coaches are not allowed to coach the teams. Coaches are alumni or players.
"It's fun for them," Elston said. "It's a lot better for them to be able to play the other competition and see where they stack up. It's fantastic for us and better for the kids to see what other competition is out there. The kids get a grasp for what teams or individuals are going to be pretty good."
On June 30, the two divisions combine and compete in a tournament. Each team will play at least three games and perhaps up to nine, if they make to the championship game.