Are you ready for some football? If you are then Bentsen Palm Park in Mission is the place to be. That’s where the Mission Parks & Recreation Department is hosting a 7-on-7 passing tournament league that features some of the best high school football talent in South Texas engaged in a fast-paced, passing only version of the most popular sport in the country – football.
Varsity football players participating in this league include Mission High, Veterans Memorial, Sharyland, La Joya, Palmview, Juarez-Lincoln, PSJA, PSJA North and Edcouch Elsa. Some of these schools have only one team in the league while others have two.
Since UIL rules ban high school coaches from participating in these summer leagues, most 7-on-7 teams are coached by parents of the players. As the coach of VMHS team No. 1, Roland de Leon explained what 7-on-7 football is all about.
“What we’re trying to do with 7-on-7 football is to get the boys offensively sound,” explained de Leon. “It is a speed game that we’re hoping will help our quarterbacks, running backs and receivers get ready for the fall, which is right around the corner.”
While the focus of 7-on-7 football is the offensive passing game, it is also intended to help defensive players.
“On the defensive side, 7-on-7 football is intended to help players understand coverages by exposing them to what they will be seeing from different teams and different offenses,” said de Leon. “You have your three linebackers, your corners and your two safeties. They run their cover twos and their man-to-man defenses, which gives [us] a chance to see what kind of speed the players have in the middle, on the outside and on top.”
Although in 7-on-7 football there are seven players on each side of the ball, de Leon explained the sport’s name is somewhat deceptive.
“The term 7-on-7 is in a way a misnomer,” said de Leon. “On the offensive side it’s really 5-on-7 because you have your center, your four receivers, your running back and your quarterback going up against seven defenders. The center is ineligible to do anything other than snap the ball and the quarterback cannot run with the ball so you basically have five offensive players going up against seven defenders.”
Explaining his role as a 7-on-7 coach, de Leon said, “Coaches such as myself, we are just sponsors or parents that enjoy being out here with the kids and helping them get prepared for the fall. You will see the high school coaches out here, but they’re here just to see what the kids are doing.”
The official 7-on-7 passing tournament rules call for it to be played on a 45-yard long, 160-feet wide field with 10-yard deep end zones. There are two 20 minute halves with the clock running continuously – except in case of an injury. There is a 10-minute halftime and 10 minutes between games, making each game a total of 60 minutes long.
“We start out at the 45 yard line,” explained de Leon. “It’s 15 yards for a first down. Basically, you get three plays to make a first down, but once you get into the red zone you get four downs to make a touchdown. Then you either go for one point or two, whichever the team chooses.”
Touchdowns are worth six points, with extra points being worth either one point or two. Should a team decide to go for one point, the ball is placed on the three-yard line. If the team decides to go for two points, the ball is placed on the 10-yard line.
Since there is no blocking or rushing of the passer in 7-on-7 football, the quarterback is allowed only four seconds to throw the ball. The official timekeeper starts a stopwatch on the snap of the ball and stops the watch as soon as the quarterback releases the ball. If the ball is released in less than four seconds, the play goes on. If the timekeeper sees that the clock has exceeded four seconds, he waits until the play is over and then brings the ball back to the original line of scrimmage with a loss of down.
While the 7-on-7 league is aimed at better preparing high school football players for their upcoming season, that is not the only objective.
“We’re getting prepared for the state qualifying tournament,” explained de Leon. “As a matter of fact, our team is going to be up in Corpus this Saturday to compete in a tournament. Our pool will include teams from Flour Bluff, Somerset and Mercedes high schools. So what we’re doing here is preparing the boys for the next level.”
Bentsen Palm Park is located at 1801 S. Inspiration Boulevard in Mission. The 7-on-7 games are being played Mondays at 6 and 7 p.m. with only two weeks left on the schedule. For more information about the league call the Mission Parks and Recreation Department at 580-8760.