Friday, July 17, 2015

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil 7-on-7 meet features fun activities

Leader sports editor

The 10-team schedule is set and Aim High and Let It Fly 7-on-7 tournament, scheduled for Friday at Jacksonville High School will feature much more than team competition. Teams from a wide range of areas and classifications will compete in the event, including Benton, Sheridan and Little Rock Central from the higher classifications, Jacksonville’s conference mate Mills University Studies, Clarksville from the 5A-West, as well as 4A Mena, 3A Atkins and 2A England.

Jacksonville will put two teams in the tournament, a varsity and a junior varsity team to complete the 10-team bracket.

The team competition will consist of two five-team, round robin pools, and a three-game guarantee tournament that will be seeded after pool play.

“That’s seven games for everybody,” said Jacksonville coach Barry Hickingbotham. “That’s a good deal. You make a mistake in one game; you got a lot of games to make that up. Everybody’s going to get a lot of work in, and it’s going to be fun, too. We got a lot going on.”

In addition to the team competition, around the lunch hour, players will be divided into positions for individual contests that won’t necessarily be football related. Quarterbacks will face off against each other in target and distance competitions. Wide receivers will run an obstacle course and change of direction drills. And there will be an egg toss competition for each position.

“We want to fill lunchtime with some entertainment,” Hickingbotham said. “We’re going to put them through these three events, create a little more competition besides the team competition. We’ll tally up the score and have some sort of prize for the winners. Just something to change it up; add a little bit of fun to it. We’ll have music going and all that sort of thing.”

While all the focus next week will be on skill players, another bit of good news is that all but one of the lineman who have sat out of spring practice and summer offseason have returned since the end of the dead period.

A few had injuries. Some were not eligible, and a few were eligible, but not allowed to practice until grades reached coaches’ standards.

“We’ve got some that are just getting started that we didn’t let go through spring because they had to get their grades right,” Hickingbotham said. “Everybody’s eligible now. Still got one out with injury. Hopefully they’ll take the right approach from here on out, and do it differently from the way they’ve been doing things.”

Two new coaches were added to the high school staff just before the dead period as well, and their addition since offseason resumed has been a major benefit.

Bobby Gentry and Jim Stanley add decades of combined coaching experience to the staff.

“The addition of these two coaches, it’s been outstanding,” Hickingbotham said. “It’s getting extra eyes on individuals and just a ton of experience. It’s been a blessing for us. I don’t know yet if we’ll play better, that remains to be seen. But we’ll be coached better I promise you. Just from a standpoint of having all hands on board, knowing what we want. The kids are adjusting well to the new coaches. We’re ahead of last year at this time. We’re still improving. It’s a long road, but we’re taking pride in what we’re trying to do – kids and coaches alike.”