Southern California 7on7 Tournament Report

July 19, 2012

Mission Viejo, CA -- Senior wide receiver Tommy Manning cradled the final pass from junior quarterback Ian Fieber in the end zone as his Mission Viejo teammates erupted on the sideline and flooded the field to celebrate the Diablos 7on7 tournament championship. This was the scene on the final play of Mission Viejo’s 19th annual summer 7on7 tournament which culminated in a championship round victory over Crespi High School of Encino.

It is also a scene repeated across the United States during the summer months.

As the amount of money associated with the NFL and college football has risen, the amount of preparation and training for the season has increased to the point of near year-round football-related activities.

This level of preparation has trickled down to the high school level as well. Spring ball begins several months after the regular season ends, and is followed by summer practice and passing league which rolls into fall camp.

On any given weekend in Southern California from April through July, one can find a high school or club football tournament taking place. The increased activity can be attributed to a number of factors.

One factor involves the increased exposure for high school players hoping to gain the attention of college coaches. The high school coaches also love the additional practice time.

However, the coaches’ positive feelings are limited to a certain extent. Mission Viejo’s head coach, Robert Johnson, remarks that he sees the benefit of the 7on7 tournaments but does not like "huge tournaments."

Johnson went on to further explain that the Diablos' tournament "has 12 teams, each team plays 3 games in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, there aren’t byes. When you get too large there are byes and too much sitting around. Also too much media attention is paid to these kids."

An example of one of these large tournaments is the Under Armor 7’s that took place at the same time at El Toro High School last Saturday. There were 24 high schools participating on 8 fields scattered across campus. This meant that at any given time 16 teams were playing while 8 teams were sitting and passing the time until their next game started. The tournament lasted from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30p.m. -- a marathon for the players involved.

In Johnson’s opinion, the 7on7 tournaments “are great for practice in the passing game, but that is all. They obviously fail to incorporate lineman.”

That issue is solved at the Mission Viejo tournament by including the Lineman Challenge. The contest consists of various drills including tug-of-war, wheelbarrow races, tire rolls, and other various strength-related competitions.

Mission Viejo star safety, Max Redfield, noted that one of the greatest benefits of the 7on7 tournaments throughout the spring and summer is the increased camaraderie among teammates. “It allows our team to bond and to further develop our chemistry,” Redfield said.

Redfield is quick to praise the team’s improvements as a result of the additional practice time, noting that “Tommy Manning’s catch on the last play was a great example of how much the practice helps us from a skill standpoint. Tommy has some great hands now and you can attribute some of that to the amount of practice we get during spring and summer."

In addition to the increased practice time and exposure for the athletes, there is an element of bonding occurring with players from other schools. Elite players from opposing schools that otherwise wouldn't compete, now have an opportunity to meet regularly.

The friendships developed during these events often lead to players electing to play together in college. Redfield has grown close to a number of standout players in the area through his participation at these camps, and alluded to the fact that there is a desire among them to attend the same school.

Redfield is primarily down to USC and Oregon for his college selection. He has visited USC and plans to take a trip to Oregon with his mother and some friends later this summer. When asked when he anticipates making a decision, Redfield states, "I am hoping to hold off until the Under Armour All-American game."

When asked about his use of the word "hope," and if he is being pressured by the coaches to commit sooner, particularly given USC's scholarship reductions, he states, "No the USC coaches have been cool and let me take my time. It's my friends that are pushing me to commit."

In today's game, football "season" has become a thing of the past. With football's popularity and subsequent dollar signs on the rise, one can expect the near year-round activity from coaches and players at all levels to continue to rise in the future.

By Chris Harker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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