For most high school football teams, the “offseason” is a myth. Students might not be going to school, but high school players and coaches train and practice year-round. Tuesday at San Luis Obispo High was proof.
With the start of official prep season practices still a few weeks away, footballs were flying as the summer sun hovered over a seven-on-seven passing game between San Luis Obispo and Mission Prep. But instead of hard helmets with facemasks, players wore padded, soft headgear. Coaches huddled up with their teams and called plays. There was no scoreboard.
Tuesday’s game amounted to a passing pick-up game between the schools and a chance for coaches to preview what the teams will look like before official practices begin.
“It’s fun. The kids like it and there’s little risk for injury,” Tigers coach Pat Johnston said. On top of these improvised scrimmages, many San Luis Obispo County football teams spent the summer traveling around the state playing in passing tournaments where the atmosphere wasn’t as relaxed as it was Tuesday.
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Mission Prep touchdown coming right into your living room. pic.twitter.com/TuOHCWoNyM— Travis Gibson (@TravisDgibson) July 22, 2015
San Luis Obispo and defending PAC 5 co-champions Paso Robles joined other teams from around the state in a passing tournament hosted at Arroyo Grande on July 10-11.
The tournament organizers “try to take care of the local teams and they do a good job,” Johnston said. “We got some really good work in.”
Paso Robles, which also played in the AG tournament, began its in-state passing circuit the weekend following the end of the season and wrapped up last week, coach Rich Schimke said.
“We ended up with about 30 games,” Schimke added. “It was needed because our guys were young this summer.” But teams do take some time off. Each squad has three weeks of “dead time” to recharge, and it’s up to the school when that is.
While Paso Robles chose to take its break before official practices begin, Mission Prep picked the middle of the offseason. The Royals hosted a passing tournament the second weekend in June with 10 teams, including teams from Los Angeles and San Fernando Valley.
“We’re in the summer, we’re not worried about the mistake. We’re worried about can we correct it,” Mission Prep coach Chad Henry said. “This summer has been, for us, a moment when we can really come together and focus on us.”
The coaches try to take advantage of the summer where the students don’t have to worry about school and can focus on football. Henry said Mission Prep junior quarterback Bryce Fledderman is an example of a young player who’s benefited from summer workouts.
“I’ve been happy with the way we have been throwing this summer,” Henry said. “We expect that we should be able to move the ball pretty well with a returning quarterback and pretty much all of our receivers returning from last year.”
But as the season nears, coaches will look to ratchet up the intensity and correct problems before it’s too late. After Tuesday’s scrimmage, Johnston talked about the need to bring energy, even in a pick-up game.
Mission Prep taking on SLO High in a little 7on7 passing scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/RraK9neHTV— Travis Gibson (@TravisDgibson) July 21, 2015
“Sometimes it can be disappointing, sometimes it can be really elevating for a team,” Johnston said. Tuesday was “disappointing, but it’s also a good learning tool. You get that sort of stuff out of the way now, address it, and move on.”
Coaches say they’re looking forward to bringing the entire team into the fold, not just quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs.
“We do have a pretty young offensive front and so that’s an area where we are working on,” Henry said. “In the summertime, it’s so hard to do stuff with the linemen.”