OAKWOOD -- Seven years ago summer football meant plenty of travel for area teams, as programs searched for spots around the state and southeast to compete in 7-on-7 tournaments.
Enter the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
For the past six years, the FCA has provided area programs with at least one 7-on-7 tournament in which they can compete in their own backyard.
On Thursday 10 different northeast Georgia programs sweated through the 6th Annual FCA Passing Day and Lineman's Challenge at Johnson High in Oakwood.
Athletes from Banks County, Chestatee, Commerce, East Hall, Gainesville, Gilmer, Johnson, Lakeview, North Forsyth and West Hall took turns battling each other -- and the sweltering heat -- in 7-on-7 passing competition. Meanwhile, each program's linemen also toiled toward bragging rights, heaving tires, pushing sleds and navigating obstacle courses.
"When we first started this it was one of the few tournaments like this around," FCA's Jason Lester said. "Now there's a bunch, but we're still thrilled to do it, and we're continuing to adapt to what the coaches and players need."
At this point of the summer, players are looking for as many reps as they can get -- whether that be in the weight room or against each other in the pass-only 7-on-7 leagues that have grown into a highly-competitive endeavor in their own right.
"It's an opportunity for kids to get out and get some competition -- this is much more fun for them than being in the weight room at 6:30 a.m. every day -- and it's a big help for them in the long run," Gainesville defensive coordinator Jim Pavao said. "It gives them a chance to learn some reads and responsibilities. And as coaches, you can give kids a lot of opportunities to see what they can do."
While the passing camps are a huge help in timing and understanding between quarterback and receivers -- as seven offensive players (a quarterback and six pass-eligible players) take on seven defenders (defensive backs and linebackers) -- it's just as important for defenders trying to improve their pass defense and ball-reaction skills.
"More teams throw on a consistent basis now, and even more traditional running teams have more complex pass patterns," Pavao said. "It's not like the old days where the quarterback just hands it off all the time. Even quarterbacks on running teams have great arms and timing."
As long as coaches and players continue to enjoy it, the FCA will continue to offer the camp, and its Christian-based message.
"We're blessed with Godly men coaching the kids in our area," Lester said. "We are truly lucky here, and we're glad to be part of it."