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Middle school Tigers host passing camp

Five middle school football teams participated in a 7-on-7 tournament hosted by the Greenville Middle School Tigers on Thursday.

Which meant no helmets, no pads, no tackles, no punts, and no kicks. Players wore jerseys and shorts. First downs required going 15 yards, with the quarterback working with a four-wide receiver spread and no rushing plays allowed. Only half the field is used, the clock runs without stop, and the defense can score points by stopping the offense on downs.

Who knew what is basically “two-hand touch” would become this big across the southeast in the summer?

But it has. Coaches use 7-on-7 camps as a way to fine-tune the play of their skill position athletes. Quarterbacks get reps throwing the football, and receivers get reps catching it. Defensive players have the chance to work on coverage and ball hawking skills.

And it lights a competitive fire in the players, said GMS head coach Josh Mclendon.

Case in point: Players erupted on the sidelines when Greenville’s Marlon Davison picked off a pass in the endzone to halt a Spanish Fort drive early in a game on Thursday.

“They get to compete,” said McLendon. “They get to see how they perform against other teams and with people watching them.”

Thursday’s tourney brought a smattering of fans to Tiger Stadium. Most camped out beneath tents and umbrellas, hiding from the afternoon sun.

For the teams, though, there was no escape. Every player that left the field after a series immediately sought a water bottle.

The coaches, said Greenville High School head coach Ben Blackmon, understand the importance of hydration.

“The good thing about these camps is that it gets their (the players) bodies used to the heat so when it comes August and it’s time to put on pads they’re kind of adapted to it,” said Blackmon.

Blackmon agrees with McLendon about the competition aspect of 7-on-7 tournaments. The varsity Tigers went 5-2 at the camp in Prattville earlier this month, dropping the first game against Carver.

“We got off the bus, and we weren’t ready to play,” said Blackmon. “And we explained that to them, that you have to get off the bus ready to compete in everything because that carries over into the season. I think the kids are starting to get the message.”

7-on-7 camps for middle school players are equally important to the varsity team, said Blackmon, because they “feed” into the high school.

“We run the same offense and same defense as the high school,” said McLendon. “We call the same plays and use the same terminology. For these kids, that makes them feel like they’re a part of the high school program on Friday nights.”

Greenville High School will host its own 7-on-7 football camp July 21, said Blackmon.

Teams in Greenville on Thursday included Spanish Fort, Prattville, Opelika, and Bellingrath of Montgomery.