Despite missing its final scheduled 7-on-7 tournament of the summer due to a scheduling error Thursday, Benjamin Russell coach Kevin Smith said the Wildcats have substantially improved their communication offensively and are getting lined up more quickly.
Smith hopes the growing pains of a 6-5 finish in his first season — in which BRHS switched from the wing-T to a spread offense, had a minus-20 turnover ratio and averaged just 16.8 points per game — have been cured.
“We knew we were in a long-term transition from the wing-T to running a system similar to what they run at Troy and Middle Tennessee,” he said. “It’s called the ‘Air Raid’ offense but I don’t like that term because people think you throw the ball all the time and we don’t. We’re in a spread-based system and when you’re going fast, people don’t realize how much communication there is between the sideline and the field.
“We struggled last year getting the plays in and playing with (a fast) pace. Our goal has been to come up with a language that allows us to play at a faster pace. We don’t want to play fast all the time but we want to line up fast.”
Earlier in the week, Benjamin Russell went 3-2-2 and finished second in an FCA tournament in Childersburg in what became its final 7-on-7 event of the summer.
In pool play, BRHS tied Pell City and Sylacauga, lost to Lincoln and beat Chelsea, which had beaten the Wildcats in a tournament at Auburn University.
Benjamin Russell was seeded fifth after pool play then beat No. 1 seed Comer and Chelsea again before losing to Pell City, 2-1, in the finals. Each touchdown counted as a point.
“I was really proud of them,” Smith said. “A couple of coaches who had seen us earlier in the summer made it a point to tell us how much improvement we had made. That tells me the kids are picking it up and buying into it. The biggest thing is they competed very well. It was so hot.”
Smith said receivers Za Stowes, Ryan Willis and Elijah Spivey, quarterback Carter Smith, cornerback Gavin Edwards, safety Denzel Green and linebacker Brett Pitts all played well.
“Carter grew as the day went on,” Smith said. “I think he grew up some in that second Chelsea game.”
Smith said his offensive coaches are also getting better at signaling in plays and alignments.
“I think it’s a matter of continuing to develop consistency,” he said. “Every coach on the offensive staff has a system of calling and signaling in plays they’re having to learn and they have done a good job of picking it up. What we’ve got to do now is have the days doing it and the skills to go along with it. You can’t just practice the plays, you have to practice the communication too.”
BRHS was scheduled to compete in a 7-on-7 tournament at Samford University in Birmingham Thursday but Smith didn’t let the day go to waste, as the Wildcats began to sharpen their focus on the Aug. 23 season opener at Beauregard.
“We were missing so many guys (due to baseball), it gave us a chance to get the kids worked out, so we lifted and ran,” he said. “That would have been our fourth one this year. We got plenty in. Now we’re going to go full steam into getting prepared for Beauregard.”