When Chad Smith arrived in Clover last spring to take over the town’s struggling high school football program, he touted his affection for running-based offenses, primarily the double wing, which have brought the Blue Eagles so much success over the years. So why is he taking his team all over the Carolinas to compete in 7-on-7 passing scrimmages?
“Defensively is mainly it for us,” Smith explained. “It’s very difficult for teams to simulate what we do on offense, but to be honest with you, we have a hard time simulating what other teams do. In this league, almost everybody is Air Raid; they’re putting the ball in the air.”
The 7-on-7’s have given Clover valuable defensive reps against pass-happy offenses similar to the ones that populate Region 3-AAAA.
All but the heaviest Blue Eagles have racked up the activity bus miles this summer, taking in 7-on-7 camps and tournaments at Smith’s alma mater, Concord University (W. Va.), Presbyterian College, Lenoir-Rhyne College, Duke, Wake Forest, Shelby High School, and Chester on Wednesday. Clover was also slated to head to Chapel Hill on Friday, but figuring that his team had gotten all it needed from the previous couple of weeks, Smith scrapped the trip.
In South Carolina, high school football programs get 10 competition days to use in the summer, days that they can scrimmage other teams. Smith, who came to Clover from Easley, taking over from interim coach John Barrett, has aggressively scheduled over the summer to try and help the Blue Eagles bounce back from a winless 2012 campaign.
The 7-on-7’s are part of a change in tact. Clover is a running football program, and has been for a while, and the Blue Eagles would compete in three or four 7-on-7 events under Jet Turner in the mid to late-2000’s, but the scrimmages were always local. They appeared in two under John Devine, both at Hunter Huss, before Smith showed up this past spring. He views the 7-on-7’s as a way to compete and stay in shape, without having to run stadium steps or grassy hills in the glaring heat. Plus, “You build camaraderie when you’re on a bus. I like it just because you get to compete.”
Wednesday’s workout with Chester did little good for either side. The Cyclones took reps for the first 10 minutes of the scrimmage before lightning flashed in threatening navy blue skies and sent coaches, players and onlookers scrambling. Still, facing the likes of promising Chester quarterback Tommy Sanders even for just nine or 10 repetitions can be useful. Smith said the experience helps get his linebackers and defensive backs “used to seeing all of that stuff before the season starts.”
Outside of defensive preparation, the passing scrimmages force Clover to work on what will always likely be a marginalized portion of the playbook.
“Offensively it still helps you. We run our four pass plays well now,” Smith said with a chuckle.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032. Twitter: @BretJust1T