ROSWELL — Every high school football team expects a little adversity from time to time, even during offseason events like 7-on-7 passing tournaments.
However, the bit of adversity both Brookwood and Creekside had to deal with during first-round bracket play at the Corky Kell Classic 7-on-7 tournament Friday at Roswell Area Park was somewhat unusual.
With the two schools sharing similar maroon and gold color schemes, both the Broncos and Seminoles showed up to play in nearly identical uniforms of maroon jerseys and shorts and gold helmets, making it extremely difficult to tell who was who, even with the differing logos on the front of the jerseys.
As mundane as that situation may seem, it may have had tangible consequences, with five combined interceptions between the two teams in what became a 24-19 Creekside victory.
“I think it definitely affected both teams,” Brookwood coach Philip Jones said. “The same color helmets, same color uniforms. Some of the schools that play 7-on-7 every week, so a lot of them have two different (sets of) shirts, but we don’t.”
Regardless of those troubles and the outcome of that particular game, Jones was pleased overall with what he saw from the Broncos on Friday, having won its pool with victories over defending Class AAAAAAA state champion Milton (16-15), plus Lanier (27-9) and Blessed Trinity (20-12), both state semifinalists in their respective classifications from last year.
Most pleasing to him was the growth of several young players, including rising freshman quarterback Dylan Lonergan, showed throughout the day.
“It was a good day,” Jones said. “We won our five-team pool in the morning, and out of everybody we played (Friday), we had only one guy who was a starter for us last year, and that was Eli Kohl, our tailback. Everybody else was brand new, and considering that, we came out here and competed … and did a lot of good things.”
New coaches continue getting to know their teamsHaving already spent a few months in offseason weight training, spring practice and a few 7-on-7 tournaments or camps already, Friday’s tournament wasn’t the first time three individuals heading into the first season as head coaches at their respective Gwinnett schools got a chance to see their team in a competitive setting.
That said, Friday proved to be a learning experience from Grayson’s Adam Carter, Mill Creek’s Josh Lovelady and Buford’s Bryant Appling.
In Carter’s case, the biggest challenge is still getting to know his personnel on both a performance and personal level.
“We went to (the University of) Georgia (7-on-7 tournament) last week,” said Carter, whose Rams went 3-1 in pool play and advanced to the round of 16 in bracket play. “We’ve got a bunch of guys playing (varsity) for the first time. With that (senior) class of 2019, a lot of our guys didn’t get a ton of experience. So last week was the first time a lot of these guys played in a competitive 7-on-7, and this is their second opportunity.
“I really believe we got a lot better. This for me, 7-on-7, is not necessarily the end-all by any means, but it allows us to make plays on the ball and understand our concepts better, and that’s the biggest thing for us. It’s a new offense and new defense with a good group of kids, but not a group with a great deal of experience. So all this goes as a learning experience.”
Friday was a learning experience for both Lovelady and Appling for a different reasons.
Both were already on staff at their respective schools before taking the head coaching job, though leading the team in a 7-on-7 setting from the head coaching standpoint proved to be quite different for both Appling, who has spent the previous 15 years on the defensive side of the ball at Buford, and Lovelady, who coached offensive line for most of his career at both South Gwinnett and Mill Creek before taking the Hawks’ head coaching job this past winter.
“(Coaching) offensive line, and even offensive coordinator, I’m still part of it,” Lovelady said. “But obviously, (former head) Coach (and now Mill Creek athletics director Shannon) Jarvis the quarterbacks coach, he had more of a hand in it. We’ve got some new folks in, but it’s great. The kids are adjusting to, not necessarily a new system, but just different people calling (plays) and things like that.
“For me, the biggest thing is adjusting to the (idea that), ‘Hey, this is 7-on-7.’ We’re not running the football. You’ve got all these different rules — three points for this, two points for that. It’s a tool in the toolbox, and that’s what we want to emphasize to our kids. … The main thing we’re preaching is playing fast, getting after folks and playing physical within the boundaries of the game.”
Stancil likes moderate steps taken by Lions
After two tough seasons the past two years, Peachtree Ridge coach Reggie Stancil is looking for improvement in 2019, and Friday’s tournament was a step in the right direction despite a 1-3 pool record and a first-round elimination in bracket play.
“One thing that our group has done really, really well is they’ve competed here and at Georgia (last week),” Stancil said. “They competed really, really hard. We haven’t been on the winning side (often), but you see a big difference. Our kids love each other and play hard for each other and celebrate with each other, things like that. We’re moving in the right direction.”