To a man, most high school football coaches—and the players, for the most part—will tell you they hate passing leagues.
“It’s not real football,” they’ll say.
Following Barnstable's earning the Cape Cod Passing League Tournament title last week, teams are beginning to break out the helmets and pads, putting the two-hand touch game in the rear-view mirror and setting their sights on training camp.
Even during the passing league, players put little stock in the 7-on-7 play, citing their excitement for the Mashpee High football camp. Sandwich rising junior Nick Brown, who’ll contend for the starting quarterback position for the Blue Knights this fall, was already looking ahead to the Mashpee camps back in mid-July.
“That’s when we get the pads on and really ramp things up,” Brown told the Enterprise on July 17.
Four teams—Bourne, Sandwich, Old Rochester and Cape Cod Tech—joined the host Falcons this week for a four-day conditioning and drill-laden camp as the 2019 regular season slow draws closer.
Not only is it a way to fine-tune positional stances and tweak form, but it serves as a form of team and player bonding. Players are grouped by position—and not teams—after breaking from warm-up calisthenics into circuit training and positional workshops.
On Wednesday, August 7, as the sun dipped below the tree line and the hazy summer heat broke with a late-night thunderstorm rolling in, players were split into five groups spanning the length of the field at Michael S. Horne Stadium. The first group worked on linebacker drills: exploding through the gaps, represented by heavy bags placed roughly three feet apart from each other, before backpedaling to their starting position. Explode. Backpedal. Repeat.
Each group has three to four minutes at every station before a prolonged whistle signals everyone to move clockwise and on to the next drill.
Up next, Falcons head coach Matt Triveri explained this particular defensive end/offensive linemen drill that emphasizes bending around the edge and keeping their hips low. Essentially a game of tag, players chase one another around a tight circle of cones. The rules are simple: get tagged and do 10 push-ups; don’t tag the opponent and do 10 push-ups.
At the center of the field, Bourne assistant coach Rick Boulrisse was heading up a linebacker drill aimed at helping players shed blockers and taking a direct route to the ball carrier, by ripping their lead arm through the bag and not giving their preferred route away with their eyes.
“Do you want to take the easy route and have to chase down a running back? Or are you going to rip through the line and meet him in the backfield?” asked Boulrisse, in a deep, raspy voice.
In the second-to-last group, players were pitted against one another in the three-cone drill. Cones were separated by approximately five yards and players found themselves on opposite sides. The goal? Beat your opponent or do five more push-ups.
Before players break for water, they must complete the four-corners drill, designed to help defensive backs in making quick reactionary moves. Players begin by backpedaling to the first cone before karaoking to their left and sprinting forward before, finally, shuffling to the final cone.
Although there was no hitting—players were in just helmets and shoulder pads—the structure and technique have more of an impact on the actual game than throwing a football 40 yards without being touched.