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Passing league isn’t Friday night football, but it helps

Passing league isn’t Friday night football, but it helps

Pitman High's Derek Niday runs back an interception during 7-on-7 football at Oakdale High. The camp gives teams a chance to work on their passing, throwing and defensive schemes.


POSTED July 17, 2009 10:26 p.m.
OAKDALE — It was an ideal way to start.
Hayden Baldwin, who’s likely going to be Pitman High’s starting quarterback in the fall, made a perfect toss down the right sidelines. Dominick Walker was on the other end of the 40-yard pass, as he impressed everyone with his end-zone speed.
Right behind Baldwin at the 50-yard line was coach Brandon Harris, who was expressionless.
But his heart was probably doing gymnastics.
This was what he wanted — a fast start, especially during a 7-on-7 football session that’s meant to test out the arms of quarterbacks and the speed of defensive backs and wide receivers, while working on different routes and schemes. This style of football doesn’t ultimately reveal the true status of a team, but it gives coaches everywhere an idea of the stuff they need to work on heading into the fall season.
No wonder schools across the country participate in 7-on-7 football and on Wednesday, that included Hilmar High and Pitman. They were joined by Johansen High of Modesto, West High of Tracy and Oakdale High at the Oakdale High football stadium, as dozens of people watched.
The session gave coaches and players an opportunity to glance into their future, though it didn’t possess everything they’ll see on a Friday night. This was a nice break from what the players are used to doing in the summer, like lifting weights and running constantly.
The action continues Wednesday night at Oakdale High with Pitman, Oakdale and Davis High of Modesto in attendance.
“Right now, we just have the engine running,” Harris said. “We need to tighten up the bolts here and there.”
What’s unique about 7-on-7 football is that no one keeps score. The players work out in T-shirts and shorts with no helmets or pads on. Injuries are limited, as there is no tackling allowed — only the defender placing his hands on the runner to stop the play — and the quarterback isn’t getting rushed by a big lineman.
After the shotgun snap, the quarterback is given plenty of time to throw. He can look left, right and left again before letting it go. This allows the quarterback to work on his mechanics, while receivers get familiar with different routes.
Harris was impressed with Baldwin, a senior who connected on a good chunk of his passes. Senior Patterson also earned some reps, as their favorite target seemed to be Derek Niday.
“You know, quarterbacks always look for the open guy and today, it was him,” Harris said of Niday.
Hilmar had a familiar face throwing, on the other hand. Quinton McCown was the star quarterback who guided the Yellowjackets to an unforgettable run that ended in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division V championship over powerhouse Central Catholic High of Modesto. And now, he’s back for his senior season.
Hilmar coach Frank Marques was happy with his returning starter, who looked confident and comfortable in the pocket. The Yellowjackets were one of the smaller groups — in terms of numbers — but they had some eye-popping plays thanks to McCown’s arm.
For Marques, he was relieved to see his young team improving.
“We’re making a lot less mistakes,” he said. “We’re earning our plays, we’re running our routes, we’re making progress.”
To contact Chhun Sun, e-mail csun@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2041.

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