Gridiron test for Grangers

Published 11:35 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – The seven-on-seven camps teams go to during the summer are a valuable tool, but it’s a long way removed from a real football game.

The 11-on-11 competitions are different.

It features the full complement of players on both sides of the ball, and there is also contact involved.

It’s still not an exact replica of what teams will see on Friday nights during the fall, but it’s a lot closer to reality than a seven-on-seven game.

On Tuesday at Callaway Stadium, the LaGrange Grangers hosted an 11-on-11 camp with Spencer, Shaw and Salem.

“Seven-on-sevens are great, but it’s different when you’ve got somebody coming at you and you’re trying to catch a ball,” LaGrange head coach Dialleo Burks said. “You can get hit, rather than just running by.”

The Grangers got plenty of reps on offense and defense during their nearly five hours on the artificial turf of Callaway Stadium. The LaGrange defense would be on the field for a few plays, and then the offense would take its turn.

The format made sure none of the players for any of the teams were on the sideline for very long, and there were also some position drills over the course of the day.

“The other teams, they were highly impressed. They loved what we were doing,” Burks said. “And they got some quality work in against other people, with football pads on. It was very controlled, quick whistles and things like that. For you to be able to see your guys actually using pads during a game, that’s what you want to see.”

While contact is allowed during the 11-on-11 games, players aren’t supposed to be driven to the ground according to Georgia High School Association guidelines.

Burks said that forces tacklers to focus on the fundamentals of wrapping someone up as opposed to trying to make the big hit.

“It makes sure you’re using proper technique instead of just going all out, leading with shoulders and all of that,” Burks said. “Our guys, and the other teams, did a really good job of trying to practice sound, fundamental technique.”

One player who opposing defenses had a hard time wrapping up was LaGrange running back Cornell Kendrick, who had some nice carries, including a touchdown run where he steam-rolled through a host of Spencer players.

While there were plenty of other highlights for the Grangers, Burks said there is room for improvement.

“Now we started off pretty good with our inside drill, with our linemen,” Burks said. “But we want to finish. We really preach the finish. You look at it, this is the start of Week 3 of the summer program. If you’re peaking out with everything, that’s going to be tough to maintain.”

Everything the Grangers did was filmed, and Burks said that will be provide a nice teaching tool for the players.

“We’re going to sit down, and we’re going to take one of our workout days, and we’re going to go watch it with a fine-tooth comb,” Burks said. “They have to be able to see it themselves so when we hit the field, it’s like OK, this is what coach has been saying for the past two weeks, or the last couple of months from spring on. Now, you’re able to see it. You’re going against a different guy.”

LaGrange has two more 11-on-11 camps scheduled.

LaGrange will be at home on July 15, and it will have another 11-on-11 camp at Manchester later in July.

LaGrange will begin preseason practice the final week of July, and it will host Heard County in a preseason game on Aug. 4 before opening the season against Callaway on Aug. 18.