Football: Run-happy Leyden sees benefit of 7-on-7 league
Leyden quarterback Michael Smith throws a pass against Oak Park-River Forest in a 7-on-7 tournament June 28at Addison Trail High School. Smith has been slotted as the starting quarterback for the 2012 season. | Rob Hart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 13, 2012 1:13PM
FRANKLIN PARK — A preference for running the ball as often as possible with the Leyden offense during the football season hasn’t left Eagles coach Tom Cerasani blind to the benefits of participating in summer 7-on-7 passing tournaments.
Leyden already has been involved this summer in an evening of passing games at Addison Trail and at Schaumburg. The Eagles were scheduled Tuesday to take part in another such tournament at Maine West.
The 7-on-7 competition is a non-contact version of football during which each offensive play is a pass on a 40-yard field; there are no runs from scrimmage.
Leyden played eight total games, heading into the Maine West competition.
“They don’t keep score, but we’ve been doing OK,” Cerasani said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to be involved with this during the summer. Basically, for me, it allows me to see the strengths of our passing game and watch a lot of guys who don’t have much experience. For the kids, it allows them a chance to develop a comfort level for the quarterback and the receivers. It also is huge in helping to work on timing.”
Cerasani said the 7-on-7 passing games also offer an opportunity for players to develop some good habits.
“Everything changes when you start the season and you have offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “But working on things during the summer with the passing games is good because you want some things to become second nature.”
Senior Michael Smith was a starting defensive back and the backup quarterback in 2011 for Leyden. He has been pegged as the starting QB for 2012 and has been doing most of the passing during summer 7-on-7 games.
“He’s looked OK,” Cerasani said. “He has a live arm. He can run, too. He’s not afraid to tuck the ball and run, and I don’t know how long it’s been since we had someone like that here.”
Kevin Kirkwood likely will be the backup quarterback in the fall for the Eagles. The senior may be benefiting more than most from the summer 7-on-7 experience.
“He didn’t play last year,” Cerasani said. “He has a cannon, but it’s tough missing a year. Having a chance to be involved during the summer is very important for him.”
Cerasani said sophomore Tom Pajor, who certainly should play a key role as a quarterback in the future for Leyden, also has impressed him.
As for receivers, senior Andrew Garcia has impressed Cerasani during the summer.
“He’s looked very good and will be our go-to guy this season,” Cerasani said, adding that seniors Jon Rodriguez and Dan Dymitrowicz also have looked good over the summer and likely will be keys to the Eagles’ offense in 2012.
“This summer stuff is a good learning experience for us,” Cerasani said. “It’s a good measuring stick to see where we’re at.
“These passing leagues and tournaments are something you pretty much have to be involved in these days,” Cerasani said. “Everyone else is doing it, so you will fall behind if you don’t participate.”