Only a drill: Area coaches use 7-on-7 football as useful tool for season prep

Published 12:01 am Saturday, July 1, 2017

RESERVE — There is no trophy up for grabs.

There are no giant rings for the winners.

Heck, half the time nobody even keeps score unless you’re in one of the big fancy tournaments, then you might get a T-shirt or a trophy.

That’s if you’re lucky — and if you’re good.

This is 7-on-7 football.

ESJH wideout Javon Antonio, left, and signal caller Dasmain ‘Duke’ Crosby, right, have formed an unorthodox but formidable receiver-quarterback combination this summer, lighting up scoreboards and opposing defenses in numerous 7-on-7 football games.

For the uninitiated, 7-on-7 is strictly passing drills, with quarterbacks and receivers on offense, linebackers and defensive backs on defense.

There are no running backs (unless they are running a route) and no linemen.

The quarterback has 3.8 seconds (some camps count to four) to throw or it’s considered a sack. There are no real ones.

It has become a useful tool for players and coaches alike.

“We’re just having fun,” said East St. John High quarterback Dasmain “Duke” Crosby.

ESJH quarterback Dasmain ‘Duke’ Crosby led the Wildcats to the finals of the Airo/Battle 7-on-7 tournament last month.
(Photo by David Folse)

St. Charles Catholic coach Frank Monica has been hosting a 7-on-7 passing league for years, inviting teams from throughout the metro area to test their skills against one another on any given Wednesday.

“The best thing about it is you get to see multiple defenses,” Monica said. “It prepares you a lot for the season. You get to see what kind of players you have. You can see who can run, who can throw the ball, who can catch the ball. You get to see speed.”

West St. John High coach Brandon Walters is using the summer sessions to test out a trio of potential quarterbacks, including D’Andre Gaudia, Alyjah Borne and Trenton Grow.

“7-on-7 is a way to an end,” Walters said. “It’s a way to get your work in and see what your kids can do, but, at the end of the day, you still have to play 11-on-11 when the season comes.”

Riverside Academy head coach Chris Lachney echoed that sentiment.

“It’s not real football,” Lachney said. “It’s a drill, not a sport.”

That is not to say there aren’t benefits, Lachney added. His team regularly competes in a small round robin league at Destrehan High School each week.

“It’s the closest thing we can get to football in June and July,” Lachney said. “It’s just a way to practice and get ready for the season. It’s a tool we use to get better. Offensively, it’s all about timing for the receivers and the quarterbacks. From a defensive standpoint, it’s putting kids in conflicting situations. You can put it on the chalkboard all day and say, ‘OK. What do you do?’ But, until you get out there, until those bullets start talking — granted, they’re still rubber bullets — you don’t really know.”

East St. John High School coach Aldon Foster sees the same benefits, but he is more about the competition.

Foster has taken the Wildcats to several tournaments and camps this summer where his team has shined.

East St. John fell just short of the title at the recent Airo/Battle tournament at St. Amant, where they did keep score.

The Wildcats defeated Covington 26-14, St. Amant 17-14, Terrebonne 31-27 and  Scotlandville 32-21 in pool play to reach the finals. There they fell to champion St. Augustine 23-14.

“If you’re going to do it, why not do it for the competition?” Foster said. “It might be a trophy, it might just be a T-shirt. It’s a little extra incentive. It gives the kids something to look forward to besides just competing against each other.

Crosby said the competition is very helpful.

“Just playing with my teammates and getting our timing down,” he said.

It helps that Crosby has an easy target in 6-foot-5 wide receiver Javon Antonio, who has been having a break-out summer.

Several recruiting writers took to social media to tout Antonio’s skills after the tournament.

Foster said Antonio’s summer rise is no surprise.

“He’s expected to do that because he’s been starting since he got to East St. John,” Foster said.

“He’s showed a lot of maturity. Duke is just Duke. He’s a little bitty fellow (5-5), but he’s calm, cool and collected. He’ll throw to anybody if you run your route.”

While most coaches agree the summer game is useful, it also can have its drawbacks Lachney said.

“It’s kind of a running joke,” he said.

“Once you put the pads on in August, the hardest thing to do is convince the linebackers they have to go forward first. They’re so used to just running backwards.”