When Argyle heads to Leander for the opening of the 7-on-7 state tournament on Thursday, the Eagles won’t only be making their second appearance in the Division II bracket at the summer event in three seasons, but they’ll be doing so under some new circumstances.
With the retirement of longtime offensive coordinator Jeff Harp, the Eagles are installing a new offense led by former Hebron offensive coordinator Shay Nanny and have used a successful 7-on-7 season to help acclimate themselves to the new schemes. The Eagles will open play against Cameron before playing Eastland and Kinkaid in pool play. Bracket play begins Friday.
While some schools run special variations of their offense to tailor to the quick-hitting 7-on-7 game, Argyle head coach Todd Rodgers said the offense his players are running this summer is the same one they’ll run in August when they open up the regular season against fellow state powerhouse Abilene Wylie.
“This is our offense,” said Rodgers, who can only watch from the sidelines in 7-on-7 play and can’t actively coach. “We have made no adaptations to our offense we’re using for the fall to better serve our 7-on-7 stuff. We’re learning the plays. It’s big-time live reps. It’s obviously really good for the quarterback to look at different coverages and learn all the different nuances of the new plays.”
The quarterback position has been filled by two players throughout the summer — returning starter Brandon Boyzuick and do-it-all athlete Ian Sadler, who is committed to Texas Tech and totaled more than 30 touchdowns as a junior in the rushing game, receiving game and return game.
Sadler missed out the last time the Eagles advanced to the state 7-on-7 tournament two years ago because he was playing club soccer, but the incoming senior said he is enjoying the opportunity to get some invaluable time with his teammates prior to fall workouts beginning in early August.
“It’s benefitted us a lot,” Sadler said. “You get some time in the spring to go over some football stuff, but being around the rest of the team and getting the new offense as a whole has been a big help, and I think it will really benefit us when the season starts, too.”
Rodgers knows the benefits for an offensive unit from his days as an assistant coach at Flower Mound Marcus back in the 1990s, when the Marauders were one of the trailblazers of the spread offense and of 7-on-7 competition in Texas high school football. Marcus set passing records and played in two Class 5A state championship games in a three-year span and won the 5A Division II title in 1997.
“It [7-on-7] gives kids needed quality reps before they get in the full gamut of a full season,” Rodgers said. “We saw the advantages of it at Marcus in the 90s. We threw the ball, and at one point we had six wishbone [running] teams in our district. We were doing something that no one else was doing. I won’t say we were the pioneers, but we were one of the first in the marketplace, and we went to the state championship in ’95 and won it in ’97 because we were doing something different than most people were doing in 5A.
“The passing game has evolved tenfold since then, and spread offenses are a dime a dozen, but it’s because the rules have been changed over the years so quarterbacks and wide receivers from one team can get together [in summer 7-on-7 play] and work together and play on the same team.”
Rodgers, who was a defensive backs coach at Marcus during that time, also knows the benefits for a defense in playing 7-on-7 football, one that is often overlooked in favor of the offensive benefits.
Argyle has some stars on the defensive side of the ball, as well, including cornerback Reese Thompson and a pair of Kansas State commits in linebacker Sam Sizelove and safety Connor Wilson, who are all getting quality summer work prior to the real deal in August.
“For corners and safeties and linebackers, it’s tremendous work,” Rodgers said. “I’m a defensive guy. If it was based on my attitude toward the game, I think those guys benefit as much as the offensive guys. There’s so many things that can be learned about reading wide receivers and being zone-droppers as linebackers and safeties being disciplined in their reads. It’s a huge benefit if you get to play 7-on-7 as defensive back.”
Rodgers knows what happens this week will not mean anything — good or bad — when the Eagles step on the field with Abilene Wylie next month, but he also would rather have his kids playing in Leander than sitting back in Argyle.
“Your success down at 7-on-7 is not a precursor for the success or failure of the 11-man season in the fall,” Rodgers said, “but it is an opportunity to get quarterbacks and wide receivers and defensive backs and linebackers quality, high-intensity reps in an organized game with an end and a beginning and a final score.”
And while Sadler agrees with his head coach’s thoughts on what this week’s state championship actually means for the coming season, he said it has him licking his chops about the 2013 season coming around the corner.
“I’m so excited,” Sadler said. “I haven’t been this ready for football season to get around since I’ve been playing. It’s going to be a year to remember I think it’ll be a lot of fun. It’d be great if we could go win it this weekend and get off to a good start.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.