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El Campo ramps up the defense during 7-on-7 season

By Taylor Mitchell
June 25, 2013 at 1:25 a.m.

El Campo's B.J. Flagg catches a pass against Victoria East during practice last week. Since the Ricebirds offense is run heavy, the team must work on different things during the summer.

Check out more photos from 7-on-7 football practice by clicking here.

Texas High School 7-on-7 football

UIL first approved of 7 on 7 competition in 1995, but championship games weren't played until 1998.Field is only 45-yards longNo game clock. Instead there's a central time keeper. Offense can only advance the ball on forward passes.No blocking or pass rush. Quarterbacks have just four seconds to throw the ball.No tackling. Player is down when touched. Any extra contact is not allowed. Mouthpieces must be worn at all times.

El Campo bucks the trend during the season, choosing to run the ball a majority of its plays instead of throwing it.

So, it only makes sense for the Ricebirds to buck the trend in 7-on-7 football.

El Campo quarterbacks Kody Supak and D.J. Washington took every snap of a recent 7-on-7 practice at Memorial Stadium from the traditional under-center position. Nearly every other quarterback playing - with only the exception of a few plays by Cuero quarterbacks Jared Verner and Hunter Fales - was taking snaps from a shotgun formation.

"That's the El Campo way," said senior running back B.J. Flagg.

The Ricebirds, whose only loss last season was in the Class 3A, Division I state title game, ran the ball five times more often than they passed it. However, 7-on-7 games are passing only.

"7-on-7 isn't really our style of football," said El Campo coach Bob Gillis. "Our passing game is predicated on the play action pass. That doesn't work out here because you don't run the ball."

So, what does a team like El Campo benefit from participating in 7 on 7 games?

Defense.

Gillis' offense is primarily all about the running game with the play action pass thrown in to keep defenses honest, but his colleagues have steered to an offense where the passing game is the focal point.

So, the Ricebirds main focus is getting better at man to man coverage.

"7-on-7 definitely helps our defense," Supak said. "It teaches our receivers to cover more of a spread type offense and stay on their toes."

"We weren't really prepared for it last year," Flagg said. "This year, we're working on a new coverage so we can be ready next year."

El Campo coaches can use the 7 on 7 games to evaluate players' footwork, speed, reaction and ball skills from the stands (coaches aren't allowed to participate in their team's games). However, you can't tell everything about a player from 7 on 7.

"The thing you can't tell is when they do catch it, who is going to tackle them," Gillis explained. "On offense, you can't tell when a guy catches the ball crossing the middle of the field and he gets hit will he be able to hold onto it? Sometimes I call it fake football."

The weekly summer games will also help Ricebird coaches replace the large exodus of seniors from last season's team. El Campo has just three starters returning from 2012.

One of the positions missing a starter is the quarterback spot. Bryce Brandl and his nearly 1,500 rushing yards isn't around anymore, meaning El Campo will have a new signal caller when the 2013 season kicks off.

Despite not passing the ball much, 7 on 7 will help Gillis and his coaching staff decide who will be the starting quarterback.

"We can and see how they work with the team and how they handle adversity," Gillis said of his quarterback competition. "If they throw an interception, how do they come back the next time. We're not out there on the field with them; they run the offense and defense."

The main goal is for teams to get better, but 7 on 7 is still a game and games are supposed to be fun. For El Campo, that's one of the main reasons they participate.

"It's fun for the kids, we're here and I hope they enjoy it," Gillis said.

For Flagg, and the rest of the running backs, 7 on 7 is the only time they'll run a lot of routes and that makes it ever more fun for the senior.

"We don't usually run routes in our passing game," Flagg said. "So, this allows us to have fun with the passing game because we're usually just running the ball."

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