Shaking off the rust: Area football teams compete in passing camps

By Chris Yow

The goal of passing camps aren’t necessarily to win, but it sure helps to beat the heat.

Columbia Academy’s Collins Malone noted during his team’s matchup Tuesday against Cannon County, when asked if he was having fun, “It’s a lot more fun when you’re winning.”

To that point in the day, Columbia Academy had not won much, losing their first three pool play games of the Shelbyville tournament before advancing all the way to the semifinals before losing to Mt. Pleasant.

“We didn’t play very well early. We lost to Mt. Pleasant the first game and we lost our first three games, but then we played better after that,” Bulldogs’ coach Charlie Lansdell said. “Nobody’s going to remember who came out here and won or lost, but we competed. We worked hard.”

Competing — especially against other teams — was the name of the game for every team, considering there were no passing camps or scrimmages held last season due to COVID-19. Richland coach Nick Patterson said he and his team were just happy to be able to get reps in against an opponent.

“This is huge to get a chance to come out here and compete against people in different colored jerseys,” he said. “We didn’t get that last year, and it hurt, but it hurt everybody. I think we are all just happy to have this chance.”

Patterson’s team fell in the first round of the bracket play to eventual semifinalist East Robertson, but breaking in a new quarterback and continuing to install his system was the overall goal.

“We come out here to do what we do and get better at it,” he said. “We don’t have a special 7-on-7 playbook or anything. This is about helping our kids understand what we are going to do on August 19.”

Lawrence County coach David Marston, whose team competed in a round-robin event Tuesday at Columbia Central along with the host Lions, Spring Hill and Columbia Academy, agreed.

“I don’t think you win 7-on-7, you just try to get better, and I think we did that today,” he said.

The Wildcats were without rising senior and three-year starting quarterback Alex Carr, but Marston praised his team’s effort and noted the importance of having a backup quarterback capable of running the offense.

Mt. Pleasant didn’t have a backup quarterback in their run to the Shelbyville tournament finals because both of the Tigers’ quarterbacks swapped every other series for the duration of the day.

“We switched those guys (rising senior Te’Varius Strayhorn and sophomore transfer Nick Brown) in and out on every series,” first-year Mt. Pleasant coach Kit Hartsfield said. “They both did some good things, and they both bring something different. They’re competing, and they’ll continue to compete until one proves he should be the guy, or proves he shouldn’t be the guy.”

Hartsfield’s team earned their way into the finals with wins over Shelbyville’s junior varsity, Fairview and Columbia Academy. The Tigers lost to 2019 Class A state champion Lake County courtesy of a late interception in the finals.

All-in-all, though, Hartsfield was pleased with what he saw from his team.

“We had a good day. We got some good work in. For the first time we had really been together, it went well,” he said.

Nearly every coach interviewed remarked about how important and excited they were to be able to compete with summer workouts, noting the disadvantage of the 2020 offseason.

“I can’t tell you how much it means to me and these kids to get out there and be able to do what they’re doing today,” Marston said.

Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports

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