SIDNEY — Seven-on-seven football scrimmages are perfect for getting skill players practice during non-contact summer camp days but largely useless for linemen, who normally don’t participate.
Creative coaches looking to make full use of their limited summer instruction time came up with a solution: linemen challenges. The challenges feature various physical drills and are often attached to 7-on-7s — which have grown in recent decades to become popular enough that every team on Ohio participates in at least one.
Sidney hosted West Liberty-Salem and Dayton Ponitz for its second and final 7-on-7 of the summer on Thursday at Sidney Memorial Stadium and also hosted a linemen challenge.
“You just try to give those guys something to do at these things,” Sidney coach Adam Doenges said of hosting a linemen challenge. “… We did a couple of different things with that, and there was a lot of energy there with all three teams. There was a lot of enthusiasm, and they competed pretty well. It was fun to see those guys get out and compete a little.”
The 7-on-7 was the seventh summer camp day used by Sidney of the 10 the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows teams to use. The squad will use its remaining ones in the three days leading up to the start of official practice next Thursday.
That’ll essentially give the Yellow Jackets an extended three days of preseason practice — something Doenges is happy to have. The squad returns 13 letterwinners from last season and will likely be using upwards of as many varsity newcomers on the field this fall.
“Next week we’ll be doing a testing week with our kids in the weight room and light practices on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and some light practices before we really get going on Thursday,” Doenges said.
Sidney doesn’t start school until after Labor Day due to reconfiguration the district is undergoing this summer — though several players attend Upper Valley Career Center and will start classes in mid-August.
“It’s going to be an interesting month, but in the end, we’ve got 34 days left (until our first game) and no school in the way for the most part, so we have the liberty to be able to work some things out and have plenty of time to do it,” Doenges said.
Sidney has two big returnees on the line in sophomore offensive guard Evan Kennedy and junior center Byron Jones. Kennedy had a breakout season as a freshman and earned a spot as a starter.
“You keep forgetting that he’s just a sophomore,” Doenges said. “He’s so mature and he handles himself very, very well. He’s going to be a stalwart on that team.
“… It all starts with Jones. He did a good job starting for us a sophomore there last year and is going to be a stalwart.”
The Yellow Jackets freely substituted players in the 7-on-7 portion on Thursday, as they did last week against Lehman Catholic, Anna and Covington. They had a slow start against their first opponent in West Liberty-Salem.
Teams are allowed to run only passing plays and use only 40 yards of the field. They’re allowed 10 plays per possession, regardless of an interception.
West Liberty-Salem threw a first-down pass on its first attempt and followed with a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Tigers added two more TDs in their first possession, while Sidney got down to the 15-yard line and didn’t score.
West Liberty added another three touchdowns on its second possession. Sidney got going with its starting group in its second possession, as Ryan Dunham threw an 18-yard pass to Cam Vordemark on the first play and a 22-yard touchdown pass to Quamir “Philly” Brown on the third play.
The Yellow Jackets started on offense against Ponitz. Backup quarterback Cedric Johnson threw a 15-yard pass to Ryan Cagle and a 10-yard pass to Brown in the first four plays before throwing a 6-yard TD pass to Curtis Spangler on the sixth play.
Ponitz scored on 35-yard and 10-yard throws on its first possession, then Sidney scored on a 30-yard TD reception by Vordemark on its second possession. The Panthers didn’t score on their second possession.
The Yellow Jackets will open the season on Aug. 30 against St. Marys at Sidney Memorial Stadium.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.