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Change of plans for Jonesboro, Drew football teams

Drew coach Dorwyn Lyles is looking for his team to have some momentum going into today’s passing league tournament at McEachern High in Cobb County. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Drew coach Dorwyn Lyles is looking for his team to have some momentum going into today’s passing league tournament at McEachern High in Cobb County. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

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Zerrick Cooper, a rising junior quarterback at Jonesboro, will lead the Cardinals against some stiff competition in a tournament at McEachern High today. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

There has been a change of plans for the Jonesboro and Drew football teams.

After qualifying for the NFL High School Player Development (NFL HSPD) Regional 7-on-7 tournament, which started today at Maynard Jackson High in Atlanta, they have since dropped out in favor of another tournament being held at McEachern. Drew won the qualifying tournament held earlier this month, while Jonesboro was the runner-up.

“We were very excited to compete in the NFLHSPD tournament, but we had a prior engagement,” Drew coach Dorwyn Lyles said. “We had paid already paid to go to McEachern (High), so that’s where we’ll be, I’m looking forward to great competition.”

The NFL HSPD is a program based out of Manhattan, N.Y., with the mission of developing high school athletes to excel on and off of the field. Along with holding camps and 7-on-7 tournaments, NFL HSPD puts the players through character building seminars including cyber-bullying, concussions, sportsmanship, financial literacy among other topics. Notable alumni of the program are Carolina Panther quarterback Cam Newton and San Francisco 49ers’ tight end Vernon Davis.

The 7-on-7 regional tournament will determine which teams will get to travel to Indianapolis for the national tournament in July.

“The program is definitely a great one to be a part of, we’ve grown as a team because of it,” Jonesboro coach Tim Floyd said. “You get to learn great lessons through the workshops and get to compete at a high level, so it’s great for us.”

Though Drew and Jonesboro will not be on hand to compete for NFL HSPD, they will be well tested by the competition at McEachern. Twenty-four of the top teams in the state from multiple classifications will be split into three pools of eight, where they will play six games each. The top two from each pool will be placed in a single elimination bracket until a winner is determined. Along with Drew, Jonesboro and McEachern; Kell, Griffin, Archer, Hillgrove and Harrison are also scheduled to attend.

“It’s a great opportunity for us because not only do we get to compete against top schools, it allows us to face teams we normally wouldn’t play,” Lyles said. “It gives us a good measurement for where we are. We won the NFL qualifier so we want to carry that momentum moving forward.”

With 7-on-7 tournaments growing more popular, teams are filling their summer schedules with them hoping to gain as much experience and growth as possible. For players like Jonesboro quarterback Zerrick Cooper, it doesn’t matter where they play as long as they are getting better.

“For us it’s about getting better with every play we take, and we’ve done that with every camp,” he said. “At McEachern, we’re looking to compete as hard as we can and continue gearing up for the upcoming season.”