mostlycloudy
Thursday May 28th, 2015 2:20PM

Football: Area teams make full use of FCA 7-on-7 camp at Johnson

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
OAKWOOD -- There are no pads, and it is essentially a skeleton version of the real game -- but coaches and players alike know that 7-on-7 is as vital to preseason as conditioning and film study.

Just ask Malcolm Young.

The Riverside Military Academy junior trekked all the way from Miami (yes, the one in Florida) to attend Thursday's Fellowship of Christian Athletes 7-on-7 camp at Johnson High in Oakwood.

"This is my first (full) year at Riverside, so I wanted to get up here and spend some time with my teammates," Young, a tight end, said.

Time spent together on the field -- in any fashion -- is as good as gold for prep football squads, maybe even more so for the Eagles, who joined Banks County, Chestatee, Gainesville, Gilmer, Johnson and Rabun County at the camp.



With most of their athletes scattered around the nation and globe during the summer, Riverside -- a military-style boarding-school in Gainesville -- does not get the same luxury as most high school programs, spending much of the summer at various tournaments and camps. Yet second-year head coach Gary Downs knew that it was important to get even a handful of players together over the summer weeks, so he opted to take his team to its first-ever 7-on-7 camp on June 7 at the University of Georgia in Athens.

"The dark period for us in June and July is tough; I knew we would have some kids show up to lift in the weight room through the summer, but I also knew that we wouldn't get everybody driving an hour, hour-and-a-half just to lift weights, so I decided to see if I could get some kids interested in 7-on-7," Downs said.

The plan worked. And players that call Douglas County, Jonesboro and other state locales permanent home, joined up to compete in the 7-on-7 tournaments -- competition that features backs and receivers taking on linebackers and defensive backs on shortened fields in what is essentially two-hand touch.

"It's great because we've had different groups of kids for different camps, but you can see them and their families getting committed -- and that's a big part of what it takes to build a program," said Downs, who is hoping to turn around a 2-8 record from 2012. "The biggest thing is just that they're getting to compete and learn each other and the systems we use."

The story is just the same for defending state champions.

Thursday's FCA camp was the last in a long list of competitions for Gainesville High this summer, and the 2012 Class AAAAA title winners were just as happy for yet another chance to test themselves.

"It's a big part of what we do; it's like summer workouts," Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller said.

And while there has been a bit more attention following Gainesville this offseason, the Red Elephants have been doing their best to keep the summer -- which is already winding toward the real preseason -- much the same as in years past.

"Oh yeah, it's the same as we've been doing," Miller said. "Now, we've had a ton more phone calls from ESPN, Rivals, etc., wanting to talk and see what's going on, but what we're doing in the weight room and in the 7-on-7 camps is just the same."

While the spotlight may not be quite as intense for the other teams at Thursday's camp, there were plenty that came with higher expectations after impressive 2012 campaigns.

That certainly included Johnson and Rabun County, which put up their best campaigns in years in 2012, each under new head coaches. The Knights -- led by Jason Roquemore -- went 6-4 just one season after going winless, posting their first winning record since 2004. Rabun, meanwhile, went 6-5 under former Flowery Branch coach and Rabun alumni Lee Shaw, reaching the state playoffs for first time since 1998.

"I would rather have high expectations than no expectations at all," said Shaw, who said that he ended spring practice with 72 players. "High expectations are what drives you to greatness.

"It's exciting for us right now, because we've got a lot of guys back and on the same page. And camps like today just give us another chance to compete."

Roquemore said that opportunity is what drives his Knights.

"It's tough going 70-80 days against just yourself, and getting out here and going against someone else -- even if it's not a real game -- is big for the kids," Roquemore said.

The Knights also completed spring practice with 72 players and Roquemore said that momentum is building around the program -- though he says that momentum will only be as good as what lies ahead.

"The school, the faculty, the administration have all been fantastic, but last year is last year," Roquemore said. "We've got to prepare for what's in front of us and try and get better."

It's a sentiment shared by every program around the state this summer -- and it's a summer that is getting shorter by the day. August 1 is the earliest date for practice in pads and most teams will open the 2013 campaign on Aug. 30 -- and Thursday's work is an integral step in that process.
© Copyright 2015 AccessNorthGa.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 1 year ago )
Sports
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 1 year ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 1 year ago )
High School Sports
Snelling to make curtain call at East-West Classic (Video)
Ask Walt Snelling about Gainesville football and you will be supplied with a litany of great players and games from a program with an illustrious history.
7:33PM ( 1 year ago )
High School football 2013: Superlatives abound after another special season
After letting it soak in for a few days we
7:42PM ( 1 year ago )
Friday Game Night
Opinion: Gainesville's heroic effort a worthy cap to an astounding prep season
Any coach, athlete, parent or booster that follows prep sports witnessed some amazing moments over the last few weeks -- from championships (some historic), to heartbreak and everything in between, as area teams and individuals provided us with a stunning finish to the 2014-15 high school sports campaign.
6:13PM ( 3 hours from now )
Baseball: GHS falls to Greenbrier in Game 3 (VIDEO)
In the end, it wasn’t worth the wait...
2:45PM ( 24 minutes from now )
Georgia-Vandy game picked up by CBS Sports
CBS Sports, the exclusive national network broadcaster of SEC home football games, has expanded its "SEC on CBS" schedule with the addition of two early-season match-ups for the 2015 season -- including Vanderbilt at Georgia.
By AccessWDUN Staff
2:41PM ( 20 minutes from now )
Johnson takes Limited Late Model win No. 5 at Hartwell
Jimmy Johnson has made victory lane his frequent destination this year at Hartwell Speedway in Hartwell, Ga.
2:00PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Frankie Beard scores FASTRAK PLM victory at Toccoa
Frankie Beard outdistanced Adam Smith Saturday night to take the FASTRAK Pro Late Model feature victory at Toccoa Raceway in Toccoa, Ga.
12:00PM ( 2 hours ago )