With the football season a little over a month away, area coaches are looking for ways to get their teams ready for when the games begin.
On Friday afternoon, Raceland hosted a 7-on-7 passing tournament that spanned three fields and featured varsity and junior varsity squads from 11 area teams.
Schools represented included host Raceland, Russell, East Carter, Lawrence County, Fleming County, Greenup County, West Carter, Lewis County, Bath County, Bracken County and Rock Hill (Ohio).
T.J. Maynard, Raceland’s head coach and event organizer, said it’s a good thing for all the teams, coaches and even KHSAA officials to come out and get early work before the season.
“It’s a chance for all of us to come out after the dead period and throw the ball around and get things going before the season,” Maynard said. “And we’ve been blessed that all the officials from our region are here doing it. It’s great for those guys to come here and get work and be around the coaches.
“It’s just a good event for everyone to get out and get the ball rolling and get it started.”
The event continues today with a change in teams. West Carter, Rock Hill and Bath County will not be at today’s session, but Johnson Central will be joining the action.
One of the best things for Raceland this season is the abundance of returning skill players. The only starting player from the backfield who graduated was John Valencourt.
The returning Rams were on display Friday night, as quarterback Adam Elkins hit some of his top targets this year — among that group are running back Daylin Beach and wide receivers Timmy McComas and Rodney Vance.
Maynard said the best part about 7-on-7 drills is working players at different positions.
“We actually got four teams in this thing so we’re trying to get as many guys as many reps as we can,” he said. “Our challenge right now is to find some depth with the younger guys.”
Raceland’s top receiver last year was Connor Messer, who finished with 633 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. His ability was on full display Friday, with one highlight being a jump-ball touchdown against Bracken County.
Messer also took a few snaps from behind center. Maynard said fans shouldn’t be surprised if they see that this season.
“We worked him there in the spring because we wanted to get him some experience,” Maynard said. “This isn’t a knock on Adam or anything, but there are some things Connor can do back there. He’s a playmaker so we’ll get him some opportunities and have some different packages for him.”
If the word “rebuilding” seems a little harsh, let Russell coach Ivan McGlone explain it simply.
“We don’t have too much except a few guys who played on defense last year,” McGlone said. “Other than that, we don’t really have any starters out there.”
That doesn’t mean he hasn’t been impressed by the guys out on the field. In fact he was very impressed in Russell’s first two games on Friday night.
“I’ve seen some things out of the older kids you usually don’t see,” McGlone said. “They don’t take it for granted because some of our younger kids have got pretty good talent.”
And if Friday is any indication, the Red Devils’ starting quarterback job looks to be coming down to junior Bobby May or sophomore Jacob McKee. Both shared snaps during games, with each taking a series.
Lawrence’s Top Dawg
Lawrence County’s top returning rusher is quarterback A.J. Cyrus. That’s not a bad thing considering he finished with 1,051 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground.
But Bulldogs coach Joe Cecil, who admits his team has a run-first mentality, wants people to know Cyrus can throw the ball too.
“He is really improved over the last three years with his motion and his mechanics and he works hard at it,” Cecil said. “It shows he’s a dual-threat quarterback.”
Cyrus admits he’s wanting to air the ball out a little more in his senior season, and what helps is he has a new weapon on the outside to open up defenses.
Lawrence County basketball star Timmy Dalton was one of Cyrus’ top targets on Friday. They connected on a TD-scoring comeback route on which, as soon as Dalton turned back, Cyrus had the ball in his chest.
The senior quarterback and the new wideout, who play basketball together, are working on getting a good rapport with one another, Cyrus said.
“Last year we didn’t have that talented of wide receivers and we didn’t get the chance to throw the ball as much as I liked to,” Cyrus said. “It opens things up more and gives us a better chance.”
Greenup County hasn’t won under third-year head coach Chris Mullins. But, according to him, that hasn’t deterred the Musketeers’ work ethic.
In fact, he’s hoping the Friday 7-on-7 tournament will help them find a winning attitude. They picked up a win in its first game of pool play.
“They’re playing good and playing hard and they’re executing really well,” Mullins said. “(A winning attitude) is one of those things that are hard to learn, hard to teach, but vital to your success.”
One of the main problems in Mullins’s first two years at Greenup has been injuries. That continued into this year as running backs Jeffery Williams and Matt Lawson each had offseason surgery and both have missed the early part of summer practices.
However, some newfound depth may prevent these injuries from having as big of an impact as before.
“The numbers are good. We actually have some depth and some experience — two things we haven’t had,” Mullins said.