AXTON, Va. – As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. That's the mindset high school football teams in our area have taken on. While it's summer, many have found a way to be productive on the gridiron by participating in the Smith River Sports Complex 7-on 7 Passing League. It's been around for nearly a decade, allowing teams to sharpen their iron, so to speak, in the off-season.
"Just thought it'd be something different to do in the summer...get the guys out here and get them some reps," said Houston Stutz, who serves as the director of marketing and operations at the sports complex.
The four-down, two-hand touch format gives coaches an opportunity to fine tune details on offense and defense. Two-time state champion Magna Vista and Bassett are two teams that compete each of the five weeks that the league runs.
"You know, I think the guys get excited about doing it in the summer, which helps motivate us through the summer, get the guys through off-season workouts and gives us something to look forward to every week," said Magna Vista head coach Joe Favero.
Since this is strictly a 7-on-7 passing league, teams are presented with unique challenges -- ones they hope to benefit from and carry into the regular season.
"I think it's great for defenses going through all your coverages. It's really good for wide receivers running the routes. Quarterbacks get a little more time than this, a little more comfortable back there than they will be on Friday nights. But it's still a good chance for them to read, go through the progressions of throwing the ball on time," Favero said.
"You get tired of going against the same guys in practice each and every day. So, they enjoy being out here and a chance to see different looks and it puts them one step ahead of the game come fall," Stutz said.
Ahead of the game -- the feeling every team wants to have in two months as a new high school football season kicks off.