Joplin football had some fun under the sun, and eventually the lights, on Monday as the Eagles hosted its annual Four States 7 on 7 Tournament at the JHS Athletic Complex.
Rock Bridge, Mount Vernon, Nevada, Nixa, Glendale, Seneca, Carl Junction and Neosho all joined Joplin in a field that consisted of 12 teams divided up into Red and White divisions. Each team played five divisional games before single-elimination bracket play started to determine who would play in the semifinals and ultimately the finals of each bracket.
“We cap it at 12 teams because we feel that is a really good number for this event,” Joplin coach Curtis Jasper said. “We always get really good feedback on the way we put this on, and I felt like this was probably our best one yet. We had a full field of 12, beautiful weather, the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) came out and fed the kids between the games and we didn’t have any significant injuries. It’s always a great day if everyone gets to come out here, have fun, compete and stay injury free. “
Joplin finished the day with a 6-2 record, finishing runner-up in the championship to Nixa, who finished the day 8-0 on the way to first place.
“I thought they did great,” Jasper said of his Eagles. “We have a lot of new faces after graduating a lot of kids. We have a lot of things we have to get better at, and today was a tool to help us with that. We inched a little closer to where we need to be.”
For those not familiar with the rules of 7 on 7, it’s a stripped-down version of what you see in the fall on Friday nights. There is no contact (one-hand touch below the neck), and it’s a strictly passing format (no running game) with no offensive or defensive line play. Each individual team is predominantly made up of a quarterback, snapper, and either five wide receivers or four wide receivers and a running back on offense. Defensively, each team consists of seven players made up of linebackers and defensive backs.
Each game is 20 minutes and played from 40 yards in with another game going on simultaneously on the other side of the field. A team gets four plays to get across the 20-yard line for a first down, and that team then has four plays to find paydirt. As far as scoring goes, touchdowns are worth six points and the offense can choose to go for 1 point from 5 yards or 2 points from 10 yards away on the PAT (no kicking). Defensively, interceptions are worth 2 points.
“We were here just to get better,” Carl Junction coach Doug Buckmaster said. “We’ve had some of our own team camps and practices and such, but we haven’t played any 7 on 7 to this point. We are out here to get those reps against somebody different ready to compete.
“We are going to be a much better football team tomorrow by being here today. We made a lot of mistakes and if we weren’t here, we wouldn’t have seen those mistakes and know that we need to correct them. We have a lot to correct, but our kids played hard, they competed and they are going to get better.”
What are the benefits for this type of offseason activity? Glad you asked. Aside from giving the student-athletes a competitive outlet away from all of the strength and conditioning, it also provides offenses and defenses a glimpse at some areas to work on, as well as building up chemistry and communication skills in the process.
“This is the only 7 on 7 event that we do,” Jasper said. “Some other schools put more priority on it. But, with only 20 contact days, we feel like one is enough. We like to focus more with our linemen involved and all of that. So, for today, it’s about a ton of reps both offensively and defensively. There are things to be wary of, but there is also a lot of good that can come out of it.”
“I told our kids I wanted to see three things from them today,” Jasper continued. “I wanted to see them play really hard and compete well, be very coachable and to improve. I thought we nailed it in all three aspects today.”