Benjamin Russell’s young skill players generated some excitement about their potential this week.
The Wildcats’ football squad won the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ 7-on-7 tournament at Childersburg High School Tuesday, with star quarterback Gabe Benton carving up opposing defenses and every single core varsity wide receiver catching at least one touchdown.
“I’d give anything for everyone to see the amount of intensity and how our kids were pulling for each other,” Benjamin Russell head coach Aubrey Blackwell said. “The excitement on our sideline. All of that stuff is invaluable, because it’s hard to get unless you’re in a football game.”
Teams in the FCA 7-on-7 tournament played four round robin games to seed themselves for an 11-team single-elimination bracket. Games were 20 minutes, running clock, and defenses could score two points if they got a stop or three points for an interception.
Offenses had three plays to get 15 yards for first downs. With no kicking, after a touchdown they could go for one from the 5-yard-line or two from the 10-yard-line.
“These games are really quick. You’re gonna get about three or four possessions each, and you better score on about every one of them,” Blackwell said.
After posting a 3-1 record in round robin play, the Wildcats received a first-round bye before beating Winterboro and B.B. Comer to meet Lincoln in the championship game.
A 26-8 victory sealed their crown. Linebacker Savon Spradley and defensive back Ty Williams each intercepted a pass to help take home the win.
“Experience is experience,” Blackwell said. “No matter what kind of experience you’re getting, competition at a high level is good experience at 6A football. So we’re trying to get as much of that as possible. It’s great for us to have success in this because we’re having success, and we haven’t had a lot of that around here lately. So for us to get those opportunities where we can compete at a high level matters.”
Benjamin Russell’s junior varsity team also participated, playing in the small school division.
While the absence of an offensive or defensive line doesn’t give players the full in-game experience at a 7-on-7 tournament, the main value for Blackwell is placing his younger players in a competitive environment against other teams.
“The biggest thing that I wanted to get out of it is to try to give our kids as much competition experience as we can get,” Blackwell said. “Because we are a very young team. We have a lot of guys that have not played a lot of varsity football.”
To be successful in such a pass-exclusive setting, a team’s quarterback obviously has to be on point.
Benton balled out Tuesday.
Across seven games and countless throws, he didn’t log a single interception.
He had a bevy of options to throw to. Asked to pick out a few main standouts at the wide receiver position, Blackwell said the stellar performances of every pass catcher that played made it impossible to single anyone out.
“As a team, we outleted the ball really well,” Blackwell said. “We spread it out, we had several guys have really good days. And any time you’ve got every kid in your core catching the ball for points, it’s critical. Even a couple guys that were fill-ins had one or two touchdown catches each.”
With Blackwell’s desire to keep accumulating competitive experience for his youthful core, Tuesday’s excursion won’t be the last training the Wildcats get against an opposing team before the season starts.
Benjamin Russell drove out to Opelika for a joint practice Wednesday, and will travel to Mountain Brook High School for another 7-on-7 tournament Thursday.