Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Interview with PA's Kevin Kelley

Kevin Kelley, the head coach at Pulaski Academy, was interviewed on his views on the value of 7-on-7 competitions.

Arkansas Football Bloggers (AFB): What do you think are the most positive aspects of 7-on-7 football competitions?

Kevin Kelley (KK): 7 on 7 is important for many reasons. It is fantastic for developing competition and teaching kids how respond in adverse situations and times. It is good for the players to be together. It is a time for the upcoming seniors to develop leadership and for the coaches to determine who the leaders are going to be for the team from the skill positions. It is also a valuable evaluation tool.

AFB: How important is 7-on-7 for a team like Pulaski Academy that relies so heavily on the passing game?

KK: 7 on 7 is very important not only on offense, but on defense. Looking at our schedule this year, 7 of the 10 teams we play run a spread type offense. So our defense will see this the majority of the time this year. There are many different types of spread offenses and this gives us the opportunity to work against each, try some stuff out on defense, and work some time to evaluate our kids.

Offensively, it allows us to work on our timing and get our QB used to playing with the receivers that will be taking some graduating receivers places. We use it as a teaching tool as well to learn for each player to recognize coverages and how to adjust their routes to each. It also allows us to try different things on offense and helps make a determination on whether we want to install them for the fall season.

I think even if we were not a “passing” team, we would still attend 7 on 7 tournaments. It also puts the kids in competitive situations. I place a high value on competition and teaching kids to compete.

AFB: Can you tell us if there are any negative aspects of the 7-on-7 season?

KK: I see a lot more positives than negatives. The kids are playing football, getting work, and spending time together. These are all productive. The only possible negative would be risking injury. But kids are risking injury all summer mowing lawns, working, and going to the lake.

AFB: Do 7-on-7 competitions and the spread passing attack over-emphasize the importance of skill position players to a team's success?

KK: I don’t think so at all, especially for spread teams. I think teams that don’t have the biggest kids up front equalize the game somewhat if they spread the field. At that point, you better be able to throw and catch and know how to work in space. So, 7 on 7 is just working towards exactly what needs to be accomplished during the summer. I think maybe the best answer would be, 7 on 7 simply highlights the skill positions because the lines are removed so their will be an easier visual on the skill positions.

AFB: How do you find ways to recognize the guys in the trenches doing the work that too often isn't recognized in the paper?

KK: It’s somewhat cliché and I think that the media is doing a better job of recognizing them, especially in college. Look at Jonathan Luigs. He is pretty much the poster boy for the Razorbacks now that McFadden is gone. But, we do impress the importance of our linemen to our entire team constantly. We also educate our skill guys that when they get a chance to speak to any type of media, to recognize the linemen and try to specifically mention names if at all possible. We also stress to our offensive skill people to mention the job that our defense does to get the ball back for them. I mention them personally at the beginning of conversations with the media. I know they want to hear about the skill guys so they will get that at the end while still paying attention.

AFB: Do you see any potential problems or conflicts on the horizon in either 7-on-7 or high school football in general?

KK: The potential problem I see with 7 on 7 came up this year. There was a two week “dead period” that was instituted by member schools of the AAA and the timing of it has made it difficult for many people to schedule 7 on 7 events. The reduction in number of tournaments, or overlapping tournaments because of the dead period has limited how many a school can attend. We are only going to two tournaments this year when we have attended 5 the last couple of years.

AFB: Is there anything else you would like to say about either 7-on-7 or high school football?

KK: Coaching high school football is a fantastic job for the most part. I don’t know what else I would do in life if not for that. 7 on 7 has become a separate season of its own and a great time for coaches to spend time with their kids in a competitive setting while finding time to develop a rapport with the upcoming kids in their programs. I hope it continues to flourish because in addition to all the things we have mentioned in the interview, it is helping our kids become better football players and allowing more scholarship opportunities to kids that might not have gotten them. A college coach who had some research recently told me that Arkansas produced more division one football players per capita than any other state. If that is true, I think 7 on 7 played a part in that.

AFB: Coach Kelley, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck this summer and next season!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Pulaski Academy 2008 7-on-7 Schedule

The Pulaski Academy Bruins, led by head coach Kevin Kelley, have a full schedule on their plate for the summer of 2008. The varsity Bruins will play host to the highly regarded "Shootout of the South" early in the summer. This tournament features many of the top teams in Arkansas as well as some highly regarded teams from Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana.

The Bruins will play in a league on Monday nights and will play in the High School Sports the Magazine tournament at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. PA will be one of the top 7-on-7 teams in the state this summer, but more importantly to Coach Kelley, they will be one of the favorites to win the 5A State Championship in December.

2008 Schedule of 7-on-7 Events

  • Varsity

    • June 2 -- 7-on-7 League (PA) - Finished 3-0
    • June 9 -- 7-on-7 League (PA) - Rained Out
    • June 13-14 -- Shootout of the South (Little Rock) - 6-0 in Pool Play - Lost to Lake Hamilton in First Round of Tournament
    • July 7 -- 7-on-7 League (PA)
    • July 11-12 -- VYPE the Magazine 7-on-7 Tournament (Fayetteville - University of Arkansas)
    • July 14 -- 7-on-7 League (PA)

  • Jr. Varsity

    • June 2 -- 7-on-7 League (PA) - Finished 1-2
    • June 9 -- 7-on-7 League (PA) - Rained Out
    • June 12 -- Hoffman Henry 7-on-7 Summer Showdown - 0-3 in pool play - Lost to Bryant in Second Round of Tournament
    • June 13-14 -- Shootout of the South (Little Rock) - 1-4-1 in Pool Play - Lost to Russellville in the Tournament Play-in Game
    • July 7 -- 7-on-7 League (PA)
    • July 14 -- 7-on-7 League (PA)

We plan to post updates after each of the events.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Greene County Tech 2008 7-on-7 Schedule

First time Head Coach Jeff Conaway takes over his alma mater, which is coming off an 0-10 season a year ago. He is bringing with him a spread offense that will most likely mirror that of Shiloh Christian, where he had spent 5 years as an assistant. The community is excited and so are the players as Coach Conaway had over 70 kids dressing out for spring practice, up from the 30 that ended the 2007 season. He has scheduled a busy summer for his kids as he tries to build this program that historically has experienced very little success.

2008 Schedule of 7-on-7 Events

    • July 11-12 -- High School Sports the Magazine 7-on-7 Tournament (Fayetteville - University of Arkansas)
    • July 14 -- 7-on-7 League at Harrisburg

    • July 19 -- 7-on-7 Tournament at Hoxie

    • July 21 -- 7-on-7 League at Hoxie

    • July 29 -- 7-on-7 League Tournament at Arkansas State University (Jonesboro)

We plan to post updates after each of the events.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Interview with GCT's Jeff Conaway

Jeff Conaway, first time head coach at Greene County Tech (GCT), was interviewed about his new job and the value of 7-on-7 with what he is trying to accomplish at GCT.

Arkansas Football Bloggers (AFB): In trying to implement the spread offense from scratch, what has been your biggest challenge?

Jeff Conaway (JC): The biggest challenge has been introducing a new offensive mentality, teaching new concepts, and trying to execute new plays. We were fortunate to begin installing the offense in February. This gave us a head start going into spring. However, the rhythm and timing of the offense is something that comes with repetition.

AFB: Obviously with the number of players you have coming out, the kids are excited about you and your offense at GCT. How many players do you have participating in football, and what do you think they are the most excited about?

JC: We have approximately 80 players. Many are first time football players and are still trying to figure things out. I believe the offense is exciting. These boys watch college football and they see every team running the spread and throwing the football. I believe they want to do the same. The spread offense allows many players to get involved in the action. I also think they are excited about our summer plans with team camp and our 7-on-7 tournaments.

AFB: Anytime somebody comes in and brings something new, along with the excitement, there will also be some doubters. What sort of negative have you heard from different people about some of the things you are trying to do at GCT?

JC: We are trying to build a successful football program. The town of Paragould has never seen a prestigious football program and our challenge is great. In order to build a successful football program many things must happen. It takes a huge commitment from coaches, players, parents, school, and the community. There are some doubters. However, we believe we can build a program that is successful.

AFB: How has 7-on-7 helped in your implementation thus far?

JC: 7-on-7 is a great tool for learning how to execute the passing game. It has accelerating our learning and our excitement. The boys love playing it and they become better football players when they participate in 7-on-7.

AFB: To add to your previous answer, what are some of your goals you want to have accomplished after a full summer schedule of 7-on-7 competition?

JC: I would like to be able to compete with some of the great 7-on-7 teams in Arkansas. I do not think there is any reason that we cannot play with the big boys. We have a very good QB and some size and speed at receiver. I think we will have a very good 7-on-7 football team.

AFB: What do you think are the most positive aspects of 7-on-7 football competitions?

JC: I think the competition is the greatest reward. I love it that our football players have an opportunity to compete throughout the summer. I also think that our timing between quarterback and receivers improves drastically. And finally, I believe it helps our linebackers and DB's learn to effectively cover a receiver and properly defend the pass.

AFB: Coach Conaway, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck this summer and next season!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Heber Springs 2008 7-on-7 Schedule

Coach Steve Janski's Heber Springs Panthers will host a 7-on-7 League in the summer of 2008. The league dates are set for Tuesday nights starting at 5:30. League participants include Heber Springs, Clinton, Mountain View, Quitman and Cave City. The Panthers are looking to use the summer preparations to improve on the playoff run (1st round) they made last fall.

2008 Schedule of 7-on-7 Events

  • Varsity

    • June 3 -- 7-on-7 League (Heber Springs)

    • June 10 -- 7-on-7 League (Heber Springs)

    • July 1 -- 7-on-7 League (Heber Springs)

    • July 8 -- 7-on-7 League (Heber Springs)

    • July 15 -- 7-on-7 League (Heber Springs)

    • July 22 -- 7-on-7 League (Heber Springs)

We plan to post updates after each of the events.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dead Period

Last fall, the AAA member schools put to vote a mandatory two-week "dead period" for Arkansas high schools. Although aimed at football and probably a little at basketball, this new rule prohibits all coaches, regardless of sport, from being involved in any type of activity with their players. It also requires all school athletic facilities to be closed.

This is taken directly from the AAA handbook and their May newsletter:

June 15-28, 2008: Athletic Dead Period prohibits any coach from engaging in any type of activity involving student athletes during AAA calendar weeks #51 and #52 for the purpose of practice, training, weight lifting, competition, or travel, including camps (ex: team camps, 7-on-7, etc.). It requires that school athletic facilities be closed during this period.

We will try to answer the "why" of this rule and some effects, then leave you to comment with your thoughts. Basically, the original intent of the proposer of this rule had little to do with players. The thought is that Arkansas high school football has become such a business of not just production, but of perception as well. Some coaches have had their kids working out, attending team camps, or 7-on-7 practices, league games, or tournaments every week in the summer all the way up to fall practice. If an opposing coach doesn't have his players up as much as the other guy, then the perception may be that he doesn't care as much or isn't as good of a coach. In order to give all coaches a mandatory break, the dead period was proposed to the AAA as the last week in June and the first week in July (Weeks #52 and #1 for the AAA calendar).

Before putting the rule to a vote by its member schools, it is our understanding that the AAA Board slightly tweaked or convinced the proposers (not sure how all that actually works) to tweak this to week #51 and #52 so they could get more coaches in attendance for All-Star week and the coaching clinics which is held during week #51 (nice vacation, huh?). So when it came to the member voting body, it appeared as #51 and #52.

I'm sure in the minds of the voters of this rule that they probably were thinking more about the well-being of the student-athletes and not necessarily about the coaches. And let's be honest, these are 14-18 year old kids, and I do think that the concept of this rule and the AAA member voting body had their best interest in mind in passing this by an overwhelming majority.

Since this is a site dedicated to 7-on-7 football, we want to share how this rule has effected this specifically. Last year, there were basically eight weekends to have 7-on-7 tournaments. For the past three years, there have been four or five tournaments involving more than 12 teams. The Sonic Air Raid has been the first weekend in June, the Shootout of the South was the third weekend in June, Fountain Lake's Tournament was the first Saturday after July 4th, The FCA State Tournament was the second-to-last weekend before fall practice (a.k.a Two-A-Days for some), and the Mustang Mountain 7-on-7 fluctuated their dates depending on when they could best fit it in.

With the new dead period, and with July 4th falling on a Friday this year, this year's tournaments have been reduced to 5 dates: June 7 and 14, and July 12, 19, and 26. One other thing to contend with for these schools wanting to host or participate is the Razorback Senior Camp, which is held July 19. This means that schools will have to make the most out of their leagues or the few tournaments available to them.

Please give us your thoughts on the dead period. It's not going to go away, so please tell us if you like it or not. What you would do to improve it? What do you think some schools or sports will try to do to circumvent this rule? How will this affect AAU basketball or summer baseball teams that have high school coaches as part of the coaching staff?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Greenwood 2008 7-on-7 Schedule

The 3-time defending state champion Greenwood Bulldogs have a plan for the 2008 season. The Bulldogs are hoping to follow the blueprint from the last 3 seasons, and those plans start with summer workouts and 7-on-7 competitions.

Head Coach Rick Jones has released the 2008 Greenwood football calendar (thanks to the Greenwood Dog Pound for the schedule). The Bulldogs will make their presence felt in a 7-on-7 passing league organized in the Greenwood/Ft. Smith area. The varsity passing league has two events scheduled in Greenwood and two scheduled in Alma. The junior high passing league will play four dates in Greenwood.

2008 Schedule of 7-on-7 Events
  • Varsity
    • July 2 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Greenwood)
    • July 9 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Greenwood)
    • July 16 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Alma)
    • July 23 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Alma)
  • Jr. High
    • July 7 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Greenwood)
    • July 14 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Greenwood)
    • July 21 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Greenwood)
    • July 28 -- 7-on-7 Passing League (Greenwood)
We plan to post updates after each of the events.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Matter of Belief

The spread passing game has proliferated around the state of Arkansas. Its popularity and high profile successes (Springdale, Shiloh Christian, and Greenwood for instance) has made some coaches feel pressure to "modernize" their game and chuck the ball around the yard. We think that we can make the case that this is a bad idea if this philosophy doesn't suit the entire coaching staff and the players that a school has historically produced. We feel that if a coaching staff will choose a philosophy (a grind it out power, a finesse type of speed option, or a no holds barred spread passing attack) and demonstrate to the players that they believe in it, then the team will be successful because of the consistent training in the system throughout the program.

First, the implementation of a spread passing offensive philosophy must get the buy-in of the ENTIRE coaching staff. By its very nature, the spread passing attack is very aggressive and takes chances that a traditional offense wouldn't dream about. For instance, these offenses are much more likely to go for it on 4th down on their side of the 50-yard line. These decisions place more pressure on the defense and its coordinator. The risks taken can lead to big rewards, but it can also mean that the Saturday morning paper reports on some lopsided defeats if the offense has a bad night.

Most assistant coaches are early in their careers as coaches and many have aspirations of becoming a head coach at some time in the future. Thus, a defensive coordinator may not fully commit to an offensive system that places "his" defense in positions to give up lots of points. It may be difficult to convince a young coach with head coaching aspirations that he should sacrifice that career goal for the team. This means that a coaching staff implementing a new spread offense attack must be ready to address some of the possible inter-staff conflicts.

Second, a coaching staff that does not have experience with a sophisticated passing attack may find it difficult to find and develop quarterbacks that can perform with some efficiency in the system. This is another aspect of believing in your system leading to success. If a head coach (and his staff) has cut his teeth on power football or the option attack, then it is likely that he understands the fundamentals of developing QBs, RBs, and OLs for those systems. It is also just as likely that he has only a superficial understanding of what it takes to develop QBs, WRs, and OLs in a passing system.

Next, the kids in a football program know whether or not a coaching staff believes in an offensive philosophy. How? Well, for one thing, they know if the playbook and offensive formation changes from year to year. If a team runs the wishbone one year and a slot-I formation the next with no real explanation of the changes, the kids begin to understand that the coaching staff isn't sure how to best move the ball down the field and give the team the best chance of success. However, if a kid starts running the wing-T in the first practice of 7th grade and continues to run it every day until he plays his final game six years later, then he knows that his coaches believe that offensive philosophy is the best for the team. So, if the spread passing game is just another offense that the coaching staff is taking for a whirl, then it is likely to meet with little success because of the limited experience that both the coaches and players have with it.

Finally, we want to make it clear that we understand that football is still football whatever the offense that you choose to run. A well executed running attack that dominates the time of possession and puts points on the board can frustrate the wide open attacks and prevent them from getting into the rhythm need to perform at a high level. What we are essentially saying to coaches is "Know yourself and your team." This is the surest formula for a successful season.

Some of you may be wondering why we are taking the time to argue for coaches to stick with types of offenses that do not lend themselves to 7-on-7 competitions. We feel that all teams could benefit from participation in these competitions for the following reasons:

  • No matter what a team's offensive philosophy, it is almost a certainty that its defense will face a hurry-up, no-huddle spread passing offense at some point (maybe several times) during a given season. So, 7-on-7 competitions provide excellent full speed opportunities for defensive backs and linebackers to work on pass coverage skills.

  • The 7-on-7 competitions provide the ability for coaches and skill players to work on techniques and plays that may be needed in come from behind situations. We feel that it is better for QBs and receivers to have at least seen the ball in the air before trying to use passing plays in game situations.

  • These competitions provide the conditioning opportunities for the players. With regular workouts outdoors in the heat, it is less likely that players will suffer from the heat and humidity at the start of the fall campaign. Since the players will be acclimated to the heat, it will be safer for them during the extreme heat of August.

  • Finally, the coaches get a chance to stay in contact with players. While this may not seem significant for some, it is well known that participation in athletics (or other extracurricular activities) decreases the probability of mischievous activities. This contact between the coaches and players at a time of the year when the athletes have lots of free time may keep some of the kids out of trouble.
While we may not convince you that a spread passing attack is the best offense for your team (and we are pretty sure we don't want to do that), we hope that you will consider some of the possible advantages in becoming involved with this fast growing derivative of that offensive philosophy.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shiloh Christian 2008 7-on-7 Schedule

Coach Josh Floyd's Shiloh Christian Saints have scheduled a very busy summer in 2008. The varsity slate has three top notch tournament events and three NWA 7-on-7 League nights. In addition, the Jr. High team has scheduled three NWA 7-on-7 League nights.

2008 Schedule of 7-on-7 Events
  • Varsity
    • July 7 -- NWA 7-on-7 League (Rogers)
    • July 11-12 -- High School Sports the Magazine 7-on-7 Tournament (Fayetteville - University of Arkansas)
    • July 14 -- NWA 7-on-7 League (Shiloh)
    • July 21 -- NWA 7-on-7 League (Shiloh)
    • July 23-26 -- National Select 7-on-7 (Hoover, AL)
  • Jr. High
    • July 7 -- NWA 7-on-7 League (Shiloh)
    • July 14 -- NWA 7-on-7 League (Rogers Heritage)
    • July 21 -- NWA 7-on-7 League (Springdale)
We plan to post updates after each of the events.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Open Season

We are asking you to tell us what questions you want answered by our articles. Here is your chance to get what you want.

You are also welcome to use the comments to start a debate with other visitors on anything concerning football (7-on-7, high school, recruiting, etc.).

ONE RULE: Play nice!

Saturday, May 3, 2008


The editors of this blog have been watching Arkansas High School Football since the late 1980's. When our observations started, the passing game was a necessary evil to most football teams. The key to winning games early in this time frame (1987-1997) was to run the ball effectively and win the time of possession battle. The most successful teams fell into two broad categories: (1) power or (2) speed. Both categories were just distinctions between the type of running plays that the coach liked to call. Most coaches believed the adage, "Only three can happen when you pass the ball, and two of them are bad."

The power teams typically used the I-formation of various flavors and ran right at the defense with big tailbacks and basically offensive guards playing fullback. The Cabot Panthers are an example of a team that came right at you with a Power I. They simply wanted 3.5 yards on every play. Opponents of the good teams in this category would find themselves physically dominated and battered by the 4th quarter.

The speed teams usually ran some type of option game at you and tried to isolate the corner. The option came in all kinds of flavors: wishbone, wing-T, and slot I to name a few. The Fordyce Redbugs and Pine Bluff Zebras are examples of teams that would rather run around you than through you. The goods teams in this category made opponents feel like they were at a track meet with inferior athletes and the speed could dominate you psychologically.

In the mid 1990's, a quiet change occurred around the high schools of Arkansas. Suddenly, a new offensive philosophy that didn't care about that two of the things that could happen when you throw the ball are "bad." The spread passing game appeared with great success brought in most notably by Ronnie Peacock's Greenwood Bulldogs, Barry Lunney's Southside Rebels, and Gus Malzahn's Shiloh Christian Saints. Each of these coaches brought state titles to their schools and each have moved on to other opportunities. However, their imprint on Arkansas high school football can be seen at schools all over the state with varying degrees of success from three-peat state champions (Greenwood and Nashville) to teams struggling to win more than a couple of games (Parkview and Alma for example).

What began as a "gimmick" offense to many around Arkansas high school football circles has been a revolutionary way of playing football at this level. When implemented correctly, it is a fun atmosphere for the players and fans running the system and a nightmare for opposing coaches trying to prepare for it.

One side effect of the explosion of the spread passing game is the appearance of 7-on-7 football games, leagues, and tournaments. These teams spend much of the summer perfecting timing, learning plays, and conditioning in a way that the running teams of old didn't imagine. This blog will be dedicated to keeping the 7-on-7 players, coaches, and fans up-to-date on the happenings in the world of 7-on-7 football in Arkansas.

So, thanks for stopping by to see what these high powered offensive showcases are doing. We hope that you will return again and again. If you have updates on 7-on-7 tournaments and leagues that you don't see here, please email them to us at

Ground rules for comments:
  • Please do not try to use this blog to disparage players or coaches. We are supportive of the effort that these people put forward to play, officiate, and coach in these 7-on-7 competitions.
  • If you have a different view, we would love to hear it, but please be respectful. We would be willing to publish alternative views of the 7-on-7 phenomenon as long as you can make a logical case.
  • Let us know how we can make this blog better.