The start of the regular season is still two weeks out, but from the looks of things at Saturday morning’s scrimmage in Mukwonago, the two seventh-grade teams for the Lake Country Chiefs are both on the right track to be ready.
Arrowhead’s “White” and Red” teams were two of several squads that gathered at the fields of Mukwonago Middle School. Teams had about a half-field to work on and took turns with runs of 20-25 minutes each on offense.
Developing the offensive line is often the area of a football team that takes the longest to come together, requiring five players to operate in cohesion. In spite of having less than two weeks of practice time under their belt, the front five of head coach Mark Zeutius’ Red team came out and made an early statement in their first session.
Arrowhead Red repeatedly controlled the point of attack, and sprung its backs and quarterbacks for long gains. The second session came against a good team from Brookfield Central, and it required some adjustments, but Coach Zeutius concluded the scrimmage happy with how his kids adjusted and how they blocked as a team.
“As a group, the line is coming together real nice,” he said afterward. “We have to improve every week, but we made good adjustments against a tougher defense.” The coach went on to praise the work of his receivers in blocking down the field. While the line must control the point of attack, it’s the downfield blocks from receivers that take good runs and turn them into breakaway touchdowns and its clear Arrowhead Red’s kids have bought into the team concept behind blocking.
Arrowhead White head coach Brenton Carr had no less reasons to be happy. Coach Carr has a quarterback who’s both a strong runner and has an accuracy on the deep pass that’s rare for a seventh-grader. During practices, he routinely hit receivers on deep flag routes with the ease of a kid tossing his laundry into the basket. And in tough scrimmage situation, against another team from the good Brookfield Central program, it became apparent that the White team will have a deep passing game even when challenged by a live opponent.
The skill position players get the glory, but the lineman do the dirty work, and that’s something that wasn’t loss on Coach Carr, as his White team did a good job on both sides of the ball. Perhaps more impressively, the unseen work of the lineman didn’t escape the attention of the seventh-grade kids, who singled out Connor Jones, a hose tackle on defense and guard on offense, for his stellar play.
When you observe both the Red and White teams in practice, and then again in the scrimmage, their understanding of fundamentals and playing as a team become readily apparent. When the Red team was on defense, cornerback Caden Bence drew instinctive shouts of approval when he made a perfect form tackle on the outside to prevent a breakaway.
“That’s textbook,” Zeutius said, in praising Bence’s tackle. “He can’t get sucked in or it’s going to be a big play outside. He can’t miss or the back’s going to be gone. What Bence did was face the runner square-on, keep his head up and simply lift the ball carrier off his feet. It’s a play that’s both spectacular and safe all in one fell swoop and it’s a credit to the coaching Bence has received and his own willingness to apply it.
The healthy spirit of football was seen in ways beyond the execution and sound tackling. When a Brookfield Central player was hurt, the Arrowhead kids needed no instruction to instinctively applaud when he got up and walked off of his own accord. The players for both the Red and White teams respect the game and respect their opponent and it comes across in the way they play.
Furthermore, there’s a commitment on the part of the coaching staffs to get all the players involved and playing to their full potential. Carr spoke of his desire to get as many players as possible into both the offensive and defensive starting lineups. “It makes a better experience for the kids,” he said of the approach that avoids stacking both lineups with the same players, at the expense of not just a good playing experience, but team depth.
Competitive sports is still something that requires constant improvement and that’s perhaps most true of football, due to the number of kids involved. Zeutius and Carr both left the scrimmages knowing what they have to improve. Zeutius continued to stress team blocking, up and down the line. Carr hit a similar theme, citing the need for his team’s physicality to get better.
But that’s what the scrimmages of August are about—finding what you have, what you need to do to get better, for both the coaches and players. They’re on two weeks notice before the games start for real.