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Benefits abound during 7-on-7 passing workouts

| Thursday, July 17, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Matt Grubba | Leader Times
Kittanning cornerback Logan Slagle (left) gets just enough of a pass to tip it away from Karns City receiver Tyler Dunn during 7-on-7 drills Tuesday, July 15, 2014, at Redbank Valley High School.

In the era of more passing and spread offenses, many local high school football teams are putting in work while cutting the line out.

Seven-on-seven workouts and competitions between schools are common parts of the offseason for high school football teams, as offensive timing and playmaking in the open field now get the same attention that weight lifting and speed training always have during the summer months.

Kittanning and Redbank Valley run nearly identical spread offenses, and Karns City operates out of a wing-T/spread hybrid with plenty of passing in the playbook. Tuesday at Redbank Valley, the Bulldogs played host to Kittanning, Karns City and DuBois for roughly two hours of seven-on-seven work among the teams, and some of the same teams will come together again at Kittanning this Tuesday.

“It's important for us. Getting together early and working with each other now gets us ready for when the time comes to play in an actual game,” Kittanning senior QB Braydon Toy said.

“We see a lot of different things and different athletes out here. Redbank runs the exact same offense as us, which we don't see in the season, but this year we might see more of it against Highlands or Apollo-Ridge.”

Even run-heavy teams are in on the seven-on-seven act.

Ford City long has driven south to work out against teams at the seven-on-seven hosted by Riverview. West Shamokin used to be a regular participant with Kittanning and Redbank Valley, but with the Wolves facing the Wildcats in Week 2 this season, West Shamokin coach Jon McCullough has taken his team to face Indiana County schools.

Regardless of whether teams expect to throw often during the season, seven-on-seven workouts help develop a rapport among players.

For an experienced quarterback such as Redbank senior Jake Dougherty, a three-year starter, that means figuring out who his go-to targets will be in pressure situations.

“Mitchell (Blose) was my leading receiver last year. When in doubt, I'd throw to Mitch,” Dougherty said. “He's gone, but we have a couple guys now that have been working real hard in the weight room, and practicing in the summer to get used to them is going to be real beneficial.”

Summer seven-on-seven is the first glimpse some players get of varsity action, which is why many top teams like to match up at this time of year.

Redbank Valley, a Class A playoff team, might not see competition quite like what it sees from Kittanning, a WPIAL Class AA playoff team; Karns City, a PIAA Class AA quarterfinalist; and DuBois, a 6-5 team in Class AAAA.

“When they play against us, it's fun. We might not be as talented as Kittanning or one of those teams, but it teaches our guys how to get open against more talented teams, and it teaches me to throw against more speed,” Dougherty said.

Top athletes also get to square off in seven-on-sevens.

Though their interior defensive positions meant they weren't often lined up face-to-face Tuesday, two sizable receivers shared the field — Karns City's Logan Moroney, a Division I prospect, and Kittanning's Nick Bowers, who already has committed to Pitt.

With players of that offensive ability, seven-on-seven play makes for a lot of downfield action and make defensive secondaries miss the pass rush that makes their jobs easier.

“It's a lot different for a quarterback without someone rushing you. The defenses have to back down more,” Toy said. “It's good because we never really have a kid like Nick coming back at us. (Moroney) was running a post pattern at me on defense, and I said, ‘Wow, that kid's big.' ”

Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mgrubba@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.

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