Passing tourney is part of offseason plan

Published 10:41 pm Thursday, June 25, 2009

This Saturday’s Peanut City Shootout at King’s Fork High School is probably the most-public piece of the offseason for high school football squads. All day Saturday, 24 teams will compete in the non-stop action of a 7-on-7 passing tournament.

All the offseason work started practically as soon as last fall’s season finished, and according to King’s Fork’s head coach, Joe Jones, nearly everyday at the high school’s weight room, fields or gym, there’s something being done to prepare for September.

“We actually started on Nov. 10. We had a week off after our last game,” said Jones.

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Throughout the winter and spring, Jones had as many as 80-90 players working out. The number fluctuates some, especially as some football players are also playing other sports.

“I’ve been pleased with the turnout,” said Jones, who expects to have upward of 100 players come out in August.

“This is about the commitment we made as a team at the end of last season. There are no excuses. If you’re not going to do it (work out), you won’t be in the passing leagues and you aren’t going to be out there. With this district (Southeastern District), we have to have that commitment in the offseason.”

Last season, the Bulldogs went from a 6-4 mark in 2007 to a 4-6 record which included losing hold of the city title when Lakeland beat them and Nansemond River.

All the offseason training is a lot of what any football fan would normally think of, but there are new ideas all the time, even at the high school level, and Jones isn’t afraid to try things to keep his guys excited and motivated.

Jones said another employee at the high school introduced him to “kettle bells” – an exercise, which combines strength and flexibility, perfected historically by Russian special forces troops.

Jones was skeptical, but tried it himself, and “in 10 minutes I was convinced…I couldn’t hardly walk for three days I was so sore.”

The varsity players work out three days a week, have King’s Fork’s in-house passing league games on Tuesday evenings, plus many weekends are dedicated to passing game tournaments. The Peanut City Shootout will be the Bulldogs’ fifth passing tournament in the last few months.

Of course the physical gains are the obvious point of all the work, but there’s more to it. All the time and energy spent builds what a team needs in addition to bigger linemen and faster 40-yard dash times.

“It’s an unwritten rule, I guess you could say, but it develops team chemistry and team unity,” said Jones. The 7-on-7 games do that too, through a chance for teams to be competitive while getting ready for the upcoming season. Jones admits, even through two decades of coaching high school teams and entering his second season coaching King’s Fork, he needs the chance to learn, too.

“Last year, during the Shootout, I was still holding up the sheets with the plays on them. Now we’re all much further along.”

Nansemond River and Lakeland will be playing in the Peanut City Shootout as well. Each school is guaranteed at least four games, with teams making it to the final playing six or seven games. The Shootout gets going at 10 a.m. with the final game set for 5:30 p.m.