JEFFERSON — The calendar may have said the first day of summer, and the scorching sun was certainly in agreement.
But for Lakeside and Jefferson, football was the focus Tuesday evening, as the two Ashtabula County programs, along with Erie High School, got together for 7-on-7 action at Falcon Pride Stadium.
High school teams are only permitted a handful of contact days before camps start in late July. Both Lakeside coach Buzz Edwards and Jefferson coach Brandon Hanna said the 7-on-7s are a good way to start getting everyone on the same page.
“It’s never about winning or losing, there’s a whole lot of factors missing from a real game on a Friday night,” Hanna said. “But, it’s definitely great to get the quarterback in rhythm and get timing with the receivers. Obviously there’s no pressure, but you can still get that mental clock going.”
The non-pad workout is exclusively about passing. There’s no blocking, tackling, or rushing on the quarterback, although the defense does have the opportunity to force coverage sacks if the quarterback holds the ball too long.
Since it’s not game situations, Edwards said the players have to be careful to not develop bad habits.
“Everyone knows high school football, you have to stop the run to be successful,” he said.
That does not mean there’s other important aspects of football to work on, though.
Edwards said the three goals of drills, like the one Tuesday, was establishing communication on both sides of the ball, making sure guys are lined up correctly and executing the proper techniques on the field.
“In the classroom, the focus is to get an A,” Edwards said. “There’s a lot of times though we’re not focused on how to get an A. It’s the process of learning the material, learning to do things the right way and all the details that go into it.”
The Dragons are coming off a 5-5 season and their first state playoff appearance in nearly two decades (not counting 2020 when all teams qualified). Jefferson started the season 3-0, but finished 4-6 against a tough Northeast 8 Conference schedule.
Both teams have plenty of returners this season and had much of their offensive arsenal on display.
Falcons quarterback Grant Hitchcock was a bit shaky on his first drive, going just 5 of 9 for 24 yards, but heated up after that.
When he wasn’t taking snaps, Hitchcock had two touchdown receptions from Kaige Boczar. Trent Hodge and Patrick Beebe also had some nice moments.
Hanna said it was too early to tell if there’s going to be a quarterback battle, but loved the way both kids threw the ball.
“I thought that was Grant throwing those balls until I saw he was the one catching them,” Hanna said of the way Boczar fired the football. “Both those guys are two of the hardest working guys in our camp. It’s a good problem to have, and I just love that those guys are interchangeable and it’s always good to have athletes at quarterback.”
It was a similar story on the Lakeside sideline as both Alex DiSalvatore and Angelo Collazo had nice moments. Dislavatore, in his first two series’, and Collazo went a combined 10 of 14 with two touchdowns. Collazo split a couple of defenders to make a TD catch.
Typically, Lakeside relies on the power running of J’Shon Sanders behind the big physical line that Edwards has been building. With the outside speed of Malachi Matlock and a couple of sure-handed receivers like Jimmy Timonere and Jamil Haynes, whichever quarterback wins the job, will have some nice targets to work with.
“They’re kind of sparring for that spot right now,” Edwards said of DiSalvatore and Collazo. “Whoever doesn’t win that spot is going to be another skilled guy for us. We’re excited, this group is exciting, they really care about each other and that’s made the summer really fun.”