June 25, 2014

No free passes: Gann knows North Murray must build on summer success

North Murray High School football coach David Gann doesn’t know if seven-on-seven summer success equals winning in the fall.

He doesn’t think it can hurt, though.

North Murray was the winning team at Northwest Whitfield’s seven-on-seven tournament this past Saturday. It was the second reason to celebrate this summer for the Mountaineers, who finished second earlier this month in a Cam Newton Foundation seven-on-seven tournament at North Cobb High School in Kennesaw.

For a program with aspirations of making the state playoffs this year — the Mountaineers are still looking for their first postseason berth as they prepare for their fifth varsity season — it has been a good summer.

“There are teams who worry about winning and they put in a completely new system for seven-on-seven stuff,” Gann said. “We do the stuff we’ll do on Friday nights. So we are playing our Friday night offense and defense. As far as that aspect goes, we have been clicking very well.”

Seven-on-seven competition leaves the offensive and defensive linemen on the sidelines and eliminates both running plays and tackling from the game — a ball carrier is “down” when touched by an opposing defender with at least one hand below the neck.

North Murray’s next seven-on-seven test is the Cam Newton Foundation’s national tournament on July 11-12 in Charlotte, N.C. The top two teams from the tournament at North Cobb qualified for the event, which Gann said will include 16 teams.

“When we went to (North Cobb) and threw, there were some very good football teams,” he added. “The better the competition you play, the better it makes your team.”

Gann said it’s an all-expenses-paid trip and gives the Mountaineers a chance to meet Newton, the Carolina Panthers quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner who led Auburn to the national title during the 2010 season.

“For two days, it’s some of the best teams in the South throwing against each other,” Gann said. “A lot of my kids have never been to North Carolina or been on a lot of trips. It’s a good experience for them and good for team building and helps you do the things to help build a football team.”

North Murray finished the 2013 season 4-6 — the Mountaineers won their last three games — and nearly made the Class 3A state playoffs. In 2012, the team finished 5-5, its only non-losing season in four years of varsity competition.

“Last year, I felt we were extremely inexperienced,” Gann said, “and now we have a ton of kids who have 10 and 20 games under their belts as starters.”

Two of those returning starters are two-way contributors Jordan Adams and Payton Swilling.

Adams, a wide receiver and cornerback, said the team is excited to compete in Newton’s national tournament next month.

“It’s the first time North Murray has done something like this,” the rising junior said.

Swilling, a wide receiver and safety, will be a three-year starter as a senior. He believes the success this summer is an indication of big things to come for North Murray.

“I feel like the receivers get better at the routes, the quarterback gets better throwing the ball and the defense gets better at coverages,” Swilling said. “You get better with your teammates and the quarterback learns his receivers more in a throwing offense.”

Even if the seven-on-seven style is only 50 percent of the fall version of the game, Gann hopes the Mountaineers benefit from positive outcomes at competitions.

“I guess it’s better than being unsuccessful,” he said, “but seven-on-seven is completely different from Friday night when you have the linemen and running game.

“I do feel it’s a good sign of what’s to come, but it’s not Friday night football by any means.”

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