Summer 7-on-7 offers learning experience for area teams

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Columbine falls to Pomona in finals of Dakota Ridge tourney

By Michael Hicks

The sweltering heat beats down on the players. For the 12 teams at Dakota Ridge High School’s annual 7-on-7 football tournament July 11 it was another day in the dog days of summer. It was also another chance for those teams, such as Columbine, to work on team building with the regular season a mere six weeks away.
“We’re just working hard. That’s what we came out to do. Work hard, run routes, do all the things you’re supposed to and win,” Columbine senior Zack Smith said.
For the most part, the Rebels did that. They went undefeated in pool play before toppling Arvada West and Heritage to reach the tournament finals. It was there where Columbine’s run was halted by Pomona. The Panthers scored 25 consecutive points to open the 40-minute game and won 36-19.
While wins are nice, they’re not the be-all and end-all until the regular season gets underway. The Rebels know that just like they know there’s room for improvement.
“We’ve just got to step it up in the summer. We know what we need to do in the season. I think we’ll be ready,” Smith said.
Dakota Ridge and Chatfield also found themselves having to answer some questions about their play. Each went 2-1 in pool play, but neither the Eagles nor the Chargers advanced in the eight-team championship playoffs. Dakota Ridge fell to Holy Family, while Chatfield was defeated by Heritage.
For Dakota Ridge, the problem was a lack of communication on defense.
“We need to work on just communication, talking, switching calls, switching off receivers and just wrapping up and tackling,” Dakota Ridge senior cornerback Mike DeLeon said.
Holy Family’s two-back offensive set was problematic for the Eagles. The visiting Tigers’ tendency to wheel a back out down the sideline crossed up Dakota Ridge’s defense.
“We’re not talking. The times (the Eagles) communicated and talked it worked out pretty well,” Dakota Ridge head coach Ron Woitalewicz said. “Other times we had a lack of communications in terms of not getting calls, not getting switches. Holy Family is a pretty decent football team. They’ve got a good passing game. We kind of killed ourselves with a lot of mistakes there.”
Chatfield finished in a three-way tie in Pool B with Arvada West and Holy Family, each team finishing 2-1. But the Chargers suffered a letdown against fellow Littleton-area school Heritage in the quarterfinals. Even so, Chatfield head coach Bret McGatlin was looking at the big picture instead of one game.
“In the offseason you go through so many stages of things,” McGatlin said. “The bottom line is are we getting better. You come to these 7-on-7 and coaches will tell you it’s not real football. You don’t have a pass rush coming off the line, but you still want to get better in those things.
“It was kind of a bummer in the playoff round, but you hope the kids learn from it and take it into the season.”

Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.