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FDA finds offense in 7-on-7 gauntlet

A Fort Dale receiver shakes a Monroe defender during a Fort Dale-hosted 7-on-7 competition.

A Fort Dale receiver shakes a Monroe defender during a Fort Dale-hosted 7-on-7 competition.

The Fort Dale Academy Eagles braved a gauntlet this past week consisting of three 7-on-7 competitions, including one hosted on their own turf Tuesday evening.

The tournament featured a number of familiar faces, including Monroe Academy, Macon East, Lowndes, Hooper and South Montgomery—many teams that the Eagles will see throughout the regular season.

FDA head football coach James “Speed” Sampley said that he was pleased with his players’ early establishing of a sense of competitiveness for the impending fall, though he takes the week’s results with a grain of salt.

“I thought we were competitive—as long as we hustle and compete, that’s good enough,” Sampley said.

“But 7-on-7s are not real.  When you play-action fake, the linebackers have already dropped into position.  The safeties start deeper, and the corners play out wider because they know you’re going to run out.  None of that part is real.  It’s good for conditioning, it’s good for your quarterback to try to find the guy that’s open, and it’s good for your defensive people to work on not covering grass but the people in their zone.

“As far as real life goes, it’s nothing like football, especially for a play-action passing team like us.  What happens is you get a lot of teams who play 7-on-7s to win 7-on-7s, but we don’t do that.  We run our regular offense and defense, and we don’t change anything just because it’s 7-on-7.”

Despite that fact, and a number of injuries that have plagued the Eagles’ team—including a pair of shoulder surgeries that have removed Jason Little and Zach Winters, both starting cornerbacks and wide receivers, for the entire season—the week was a promising step in the right direction.

“Luke (Taylor)’s arm is stronger,” Sampley said. “Obviously, he had an arm problem last summer and wasn’t able to participate in 7-on-7s, and so that is a plus.  Of course, we’ve already lost two players for the season from shoulder surgeries this summer, so we’re trying to find some wide-outs and I saw some promising things there.  We’ve got to do a lot of work still, but I thought we got a lot out of it.”

Less impressive was his team’s final 7-on-7 competition at Lowndes Academy on Thursday night.

“For us to try to play three 7-on-7s in a weeks’ time—and I’m not talking about three games, but three sets of games—they know that I don’t look at that like other people do, and I think that started to reflect last night,” Sampley said.

“We just kind of went through the motions.  We weren’t God-awful, but we didn’t look nearly as good as we did in the other two.”

For Sampley and the Eagles, there isn’t much time remaining.  FDA begins fall practice Thursday.

“When I say we’re starting practice, we’re going to lift weights and probably do some 7-on-7s on Thursday and Friday morning,” Sampley said.

“The first real football practice will be Aug. 1 when two-a-days start.”