TURNER CENTER — There was no blocking, tackling, or even running plays. It was three downs for a first down on half a field. The players wore shorts and T-shirts, with no numbers or padding.
It was football — sort of.
“Real” football or not, more than a dozen teams traveled to Leavitt Area High School on Sunday to play 7 on 7 games. The concession stand at the main field was open, selling hot dogs, Italian sandwiches, drinks and cookies. The crowd was mostly quiet, but in a game between Cony and Oxford Hills, a long touchdown pass by Mitchell Caron got a big roar.
Caron, who played defensive end last season, was playing quarterback for Cony on Sunday. The Rams, coming off a Class B state title, need to replace Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Ben Lucas.
“He’s not going to be Ben Lucas,” Cony offensive coordinator B.L. Lippert said, “but he has some skills that Ben didn’t have, and we’re just going to try to highlight what he does best.”
In Cony’s first game of the day, Caron threw an incompletion and then an interception on his first drive. He then led the Rams to several scores.
“This is his first experience in 7 on 7 at all,” Lippert said. “It’ll be a bit of a learning curve, but you saw, within the first game, he just started to improve and see things.”
As head coach at Madison and now Skowhegan, Matt Friedman brings his team to a 7 on 7 league every summer. This year, Skowhegan is hosting its own league at the high school. Friedman said he had talked with other coaches in the area about having a league in central Maine to reduce travel, and then brought the idea to his boosters.
“My boosters were definitely on board with helping to host it,” Friedman said.
Skowhegan’s league, like Leavitt’s has three sessions. The Skowhegan league has only three teams this season, with Waterville and Madison joining the Indians.
“I was hoping to have five or six teams, but we got three, and it’s a way to start, anyway,” Friedman said. “I’d like to have six to eight teams (next summer).”
Both Friedman and Lippert said the 7 on 7 leagues are great for the players to get used to the offenses and the defenses.
“I think it give some of our younger kids a chance to learn the offense,” Lippert said. “Or the kids that haven’t experienced this before, and didn’t get a lot of Friday night experience last year, a chance to just get exposed to some of the pass routes that we have, and learn some defensive concepts as well.”
In good passing attacks, the quarterbacks and receivers often seem to be on the same unspoken wavelength. Lippert said part of that comes from passes thrown against live competition in the summer.
“You saw last year with our offense, those kids had gone through two summers, really, playing in two different leagues,” Lippert said. “Some of those completions aren’t good coaching. That’s actually them, on their own, finding their way open and having some familiarity with the defenses that they see, and sort of adapting on the fly. This helps to develop that. There’s no substitute for reps, and this is good reps, competitive reps, against other guys that are talented. So it really works out well for us.”
There are some things you wouldn’t normally associate with football — on Caron’s early interception, an Oxford Hills teammate reflexively turned and blocked a Cony player, only to have his coach yell, “You can’t block! You can’t block, Ty!” — but the idea is there, and according to Friedman, so is the competitive fire.
“The players have loved 7 on 7 from the get-go,” Friedman said. “Even though we just want to work on fundamentals and get some reps, they play this like they would during the season — they want to win.”
Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243