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Running-focused Raiders use pass-heavy competitions to work on defense

Bolingbrook's running game doesn't translate to 7-on-7 competitions, but events help 'D'

Bill Ackerman –
Bolingbrook's Neo Armstrong catches a pass June 25 during a 7-on-7 scrimmage against Oswego East at Bolingbrook.
Bill Ackerman – Bolingbrook's Neo Armstrong catches a pass June 25 during a 7-on-7 scrimmage against Oswego East at Bolingbrook.

BOLINGBROOK - If there is any term that doesn’t apply to Bolingbrook football under head coach John Ivlow, it is “passing team.”

But while the Raiders tend to keep the ball on the ground, the pass-only playbook at a 7-on-7 event still appeals to Ivlow in a couple of ways.

“It’s for defense,” Ivlow said. “Defense can drop into zones, work on their man coverage, things like that. For us, we throw it a little bit so it does give a us a chance to work on our passing game. It’s a chance for our receivers to catch and a chance for our quarterbacks to throw.

“There’s plenty of stuff for the defense to learn – coverages, rotations, alignments. Teams use some funky alignments, so just getting used to those formations makes it worth it.”

Passing currently is in vogue for more and more teams, which favor getting the ball into space quickly by throwing the ball. Bolingbrook won’t start throwing it 45 times a game anytime soon, but passing does keep opposing defenses on their toes so participating in several 7-on-7 events (the biggest of which is Bolingbrook’s Passing Jamboree on July 20) helps with several aspects of quarterback play.

Junior quarterback Quincy Woods saw action under center last season in place of the injured Aaron Bailey, but the 7-on-7s are keys for learning the playbook and building chemistry with his receivers as he heads into the 2013 season.

“We do them for fun, but it helps out our passing game,” Woods said. “We learn things like what’s open and what’s not, so it helps us practice our passing for when we do need to throw it. We’re trying to see what will work, so we just run the plays, see what’s open and try to get completions. We see what I can throw and what the receivers can catch.”

With no pass rush, linemen or running plays, 7-on-7s hardly approximate the action of a real game, yet players and coaches do enjoy them. Competing against other players and teams, rather than against teammates in full-squad practices during the summer, is a benefit. So is breaking up the monotony of agility drills, conditioning and weightlifting that takes place over the summer.

“The practices are what really gets us going for the season, but the 7-on-7s are fun. You get to have fun out there for a day,” Woods said. “We build team chemistry. We have fun our there. We celebrate after a good play and build each other up after a bad play.”

As fun as the competition of 7-on-7s can be for the players, if Ivlow had his way he’d stick with 11-on-11 scrimmages in practice. Even Woods knows there is only so much a running team like the Raiders can get out a day of passing the ball.

“A 7-on-7 is way easier than a game,” Woods said. “In a 7-on-7, everybody is dropping back so it’s not really like a game because we like to run a lot so [defenses] are coming upfield. In a 7-on-7 they know we’re passing so they drop back.”

“We’ll get much more out of a padded practice in house than we would from any 7-on-7,” Ivlow said. “When it’s just us, we get to run our option.”

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