Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
A glimpse of a possible football future came to Manchester High School on Saturday, July 29. The brainchild of Greyhounds head coach Dustin Cook and his staff saw five local gridiron squads gathered on the same field for a night of pre-season action in a 7-on-7 passing scrimmage, with a pretty good crowd in attendance.
Joining the host school were teams from West Union, Peebles, North Adams, and Southern Buckeye (Eastern Brown), all with very little practice time under their belts but all chomping at the bit to get on the field with a different team across the line of scrimmage.
All of the teams got to play four scrimmages, where the clock ran for 20 minutes and every possession began at the 40-yard line. There were no running plays, thus no blocking was necessary, as every offensive play was of the passing variety with a center snapping the ball, a quarterback, and five receivers out in patterns. Instead of some of the physical aspects of the game, the mantra for the night was speed, agility, and quickness, as the scrimmages resembled a bit of backyard football, but with the purpose of getting the coaches an early glimpse of some of their possible skill position players.
Though very unofficial, the night saw two significant moments, the first coming when Peebles’ Andrew Conlee hauled in a pass from quarterback Brady Moore and became the first Indian in 38 years to cross the goal line, ball in hand. Later at another point in the scrimmage, fans could look out to the field and see all four county squads out there at the same time, with Manchester battling Peebles on one end, while North Adams and West Union tangled on the other, a sight many have waited a long time for.
An added bonus for the fans came over on the MHS practice field, with the “Linemen Challenge”, where members of all five squads competed in what might be deemed as “Feats of Strength”, with competitions such as a Tug of War, a 5-Man Sled Push, a 1-Man Sled Push, Tire Flips, a Medicine Ball Toss, and Relay Races (carrying two 45-pound weights).
All in all, it was a very successful night and all four local coaches talked with The Defender on what the night meant to county football and on how their respective teams performed.
Dustin Cook, Manchester: “Seven on sevens are huge in the summer and we were looking for ways to build excitement for our kids and obviously having all the county schools here with kids going up against their CTC classmates was great for all of them. It was a great time with a great atmosphere for the kids.”
“I was pleased with our play tonight. We didn’t put the ball in the end zone a lot, but the things that we saw were very good and I thought both our quarterbacks (Shaun Gould and Marcus Neeley) did a great job of taking what the defense gave them, which is something we have been stressing.”
When asked if the Hounds were looking at a possible quarterback competition between Gould and Neeley, Cook responded, “It’s an open battle. Marcus did a great job for us last year and Shaun brings his own athleticism to the position with our scheme. They are both well aware that whichever one isn’t under center will still be on the field making plays for us somewhere. Once we get the pads on and get going, we will be closer to a decision.”
Justin Schmitz, North Adams: “The kids are really playing well, they really are. They’re flying around, they’re dropping into their zones like they’re supposed to, and as long as we’re making plays, I’m happy.
“Five years ago a night like this is kind of what we envisioned. Tonight has been awesome to see all these people come out and support the Adams County football teams.”
Scott McFarland, West Union: “Having all five of these teams together is just awesome. I was so proud to see tonight how football is growing, everyone is having fun, everyone has a smile on their face. It’s early so all of us are still working on stuff, but it was just great to see everyone out here.”
“We brought everybody with us tonight, we wanted everyone to participate, so we got a lot of guys in because this was a practice for us. I was very proud of them overall. We see the kinds of things that we need to work on, we did a lot of things really well but there are always opportunities for improvement.”
Bobby Sandlin, Peebles: “ It was fun out here tonight and an incredible experience for our kids, who obviously don’t have much football experience. It was just good, clean fun and this is a dream come true for us.”
“We saw some great things from our team tonight. I’ve got a quarterback that once the nerves settled down, he was okay. We didn’t show much of our offense, it was kind of like stick in the sand stuff but I think that we came out and showed all the hard week we have put in. it’s a process, but a process that we’re looking forward to.”