While even Benjamin Russell coach Kevin Smith can admit 7-on-7s aren’t really football, it was still important for the Wildcats to hit the road to Auburn University to play in their first 7-on-7 tournament of the year. Not only did they get to play in the shadows of Jordan-Hare Stadium and take to the same practice fields as the Auburn Tigers, they also got to get some of their competitive juices flowing.

“That’s the whole reason we came here today,” Smith said. “We had several key players on offense and defense and in the secondary who are not here for different reasons, but I thought we did well. I thought we did a really good job coming out (Thursday) and competing. We saw a lot of things that we have to clean up technique-wise, read-wise and things like that, but as far as the competition went and the body language, I thought they did a pretty good job.”

Without any linemen on hand, 7-on-7s really focus on the passing game, something the Wildcats have been utilizing more and more in the last few years. That should continue on an upward trend this season especially under the director of Carter Smith, who will take over the starting quarterback position after the graduation of three-year starter Landon Cotney.

It was the first good look at Smith in his new position and how the rising junior may fare at the varsity level. But as a coach’s son, Smith is going to always have high expectations for himself.

“I felt like I could’ve done better,” Smith said. “I mean, we did all right but me personally, I could’ve done more things to better the team.”

Benjamin Russell went 3-4 on the day with wins over Greenville, 19-15; Berkmar, 29-10; and Shaw, 21-5. Its losses included against Chelsea, 33-15; Central Phenix City, 36-11, Carrollton (Georgia), 32-15; and Chapel Hill, 26-9.

“As long as he can get over me on the sideline, (Carter) is going to be just fine,” Kevin Smith said. “I really thought he had a good day for the first time seeing this kind of speed. I thought he handled himself really well. He and Ryan Willis and also Elijah (Spivey), they’re getting the feel of each other and the time, so I thought it was a good day.”

With so many missing pieces on the defense between some players being absent due to other obligations and a few injuries, the Wildcats got to get a good look at some of their younger, fresher players. Kadarious Marbury was one of the biggest standouts.

“You take Ty Brown and Brett Pitts out of the secondary and that changes things a lot,” Smith said. “But I thought Kadarious Marbury had a really good day and he’s never played a varsity down in the defensive secondary at all. Kudos to him for coming out here and competing (Thursday).”

And although the Wildcats certainly weren’t perfect, they weren’t expected to be. They’ve had just two days of summer workouts and are working under a new defensive coordinator and have yet to name their new offensive coordinator. But the point of 7-on-7s wasn’t necessarily to win but rather to pinpoint what they need to work on moving forward.

“I’m not trying to make excuses but this is not really football,” Smith said. “You’ve got teams that come out here and they’ll go man across the board then they’ll put two safeties up so in essence they’re double teaming everybody on the board, and we’re not going to do that because that’s just making this its own sport. We’re doing it for a reason and that’s just what we choose to do.”

Smith and the Wildcats did identify two major things offensively they’ll look to clean up and improve before the season starts in just nine short weeks.

“No doubt, we’ve gotta clean up our routes and running our routes and getting off of contact,” Smith said. “We tend to let the secondary reroute us, and we’ve gotta get a little bit better and stronger on that. Also, (Carter) is young but we do need to continue to get better with our reads and reading the progression through the route tree at quarterback. I think that’ll come though.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.