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File / The Outlook Benjamin Russell coach Kevin Smith said the hardest part about not having 7-on-7s this summer will be not developing timing and relationships between the receivers and the quarterback.

Every football coach treats summer a little differently. Some want to focus solely on their squads while others like to get out there and test the waters with 7-on-7s and OTAs.

However, that’s not an option this year as the AHSAA announced Thursday there would be no summer competition allowed. That means coaches can work out, condition and practice with only their own players this year.

“For us personally, it’s all relative,” Benjamin Russell coach Kevin Smith said. “We’re going to develop with whatever we’re given and we’re going to put our work in. That’s not going to take the place of 7-on-7s and OTAs, but if everyone is abiding by the same rules and doing the same things, which I’m sure they are, it’ll just be about how well we utilize what time we get with our kids.”

Smith is one of the coaches who really enjoys 7-on-7s. The Wildcats participate in multiple throughout the summer, usually in Auburn as well as at a tournament in Wetumpka. Because Benjamin Russell tends to be a more pass-heavy team, the 7-on-7s are really beneficial for getting work in for the quarterbacks and the receivers.

Now, and likely even when practices and workouts can begin, there’s going to be very little throwing early on, which could negatively affect BRHS.

“The quarterback needs to throw as much as he can, and the discipline in our routes was something we really needed to work on this summer anyway,” Smith said. “To be able to throw against air is one thing, which we can’t do right now anyway, but even if we could, you don’t have a defense out there. The timing and relationships between the quarterbacks and the receivers, that’s going to be a big thing.”

As for Reeltown coach Matt Johnson, he’s not a big fan of 7-on-7s anyway. The Rebels have never been known for their air attack. Although they did get much better in that area last season and became a more balanced offense, the Rebels are more of a ground-and-pound style offense.

However, what Johnson is a big fan of are OTAs. Not only do OTAs break up the monotony of regular practice, they also get the competitive juices flowing as teams set out to prove they are ahead of other squads in the area.

Johnson wasn’t surprised by the lack of summer competition this season just based on the way things have been going with the coronavirus pandemic, but he said it’s going to come with its pros and cons.

“The good thing is I think everybody as a whole is just really focused on getting their kids back and getting their kids ready strength and conditioning wise,” Johnson said. “Not only that, but we want to start building a team chemistry and getting everybody on the same page. But it’s going to be the first time in a long time that we’re not doing any competition so it’ll change how we have to plan.”

One small silver lining of the coronavirus is everyone is ready to go so there should be less threat of players getting bored with practice.

“You don’t want to get monotonous,” Johnson said. “Everybody is going to have an edge and chip on their shoulder and the last thing you want to do is ruin that and dull that out.”

Smith said, “Whether you’re in this situation or not, you have to have something to break up that monotony. Last year, we went out to a farm and had a practice day there. You always need to do something to that effect, but we’ve also been away so long; I don’t know if anyone is going to want to take that. Every time I talk to our kids, they’re raring to get back out there.”

The good news for Dadeville’s football team is the Tigers weren’t planning on any OTAs or 7-on-7s this year. Dadeville is under the direction of new head coach Roger McDonald, and he said things like that just aren’t his style.

“I’ve never been a big 7-on-7 guy; it just doesn’t fit what we do on either side of the ball,” McDonald said. “I always kinda like the old theory from the Oakland Raiders in the 1970s and ’80s; they didn’t want to be friends and hang out with the other teams. The other team is the enemy; that’s the way I coach.”

For McDonald, having that excitement of competing against another team is something he wants to save until the season.

“It’s their edge and I like having that,” McDonald said. “I want them to be excited when they put all the pads on. I don’t want them to be excited to play touch football in the summer. I think it gives our kids an edge to have that little bit of mystique.”

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