There is no disputing the advantages that high school teams get by participation in summer passing leagues and tournaments.
It is a time to showcase their skills against other teams and add some bragging rights in the meantime. Coaches throw in a few new wrinkles to the offense. Defensively, it gives coaches a chance to evaluate their defensive backs and linebackers against passing schemes.
“You get a chance to work on technique,” Jonesboro quarterback Zerrick Cooper said. “It brings us together as a team to bond and have some fun.”
And another advantage that coaches like, is the competition it provides for the teams. Regardless of the fact that tackling and other elements of the actual game are missing, coaches like the idea of competing.
First-year Forest Park coach Reginald Austin says that is important for his team as he tries to instill a winning attitude in the long-suffering program.
“We want our kids to compete,” said Austin, who played three years in the NFL. “We are going to do as many of these tournaments as we can afford. The summer is a time where you learn to compete.”
To some, competing is more important than winning in the summer. Coaches and players realize that a state championship will not be awarded during the summer months, but the competition can help build a championship caliber team.
“We look to win, but want to learn to do what it takes to become a winner,” Cooper said. “We want to learn how to do it.”
And these next couple of months while school is out, teams will get that opportunity.
Whether a team employs a run-oriented attack or a pass-on-every-down offense, the passing leagues around the Southern Crescent area offers some good competition.
Riverdale, which is in the midst of looking to establish the run more this season, will hit the passing league circuit this season. Joseph Cambridge, a transfer from Drew, will be the Raiders new quarterback.
“This summer is about learning to compete,” Riverdale coach Terry Herrod said.
Because of a strong talent base in the Clayton and Henry county areas, players will find plenty of competition. When teams go up against Lovejoy, an opposing defensive back will get to match his talent against the state’s top wide receiver in Preston Williams.
He is the lone five-star recruit in the area.
Lovejoy defensive back Montrell Custis is a Alabama Crimson Tide commit.
But the big emphasis for teams is not to get too caught up on the results of passing leagues and tournaments this summer. A team that does well is not guarantee a shot at the state title, and the same on the reverse side. After all, there are elements of the game such as pass rush and tackling that are missing.
“You can’t get too caught up on these passing leagues,” says Herrod.
And that is a good way to look at it.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? @DerrickMahone_.