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Teams develop during summer 7-on-7 tourneys

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Columbine, Dakota Ridge get an early look at some youthful quarterbacks, while Chatfield fine-tunes its explosive offense and tweaks its defense

By Michael Hicks

The Columbine Rebels are typically a running team. So why would they, of all teams, participate in a 7-on-7 tournament that is custom-made for quarterbacks, receivers, linebackers and secondary players?
“People are always asking us, ‘Columbine, why are you guys out here playing 7-on-7? You don’t ever pass the ball,’” assistant coach Ivory Moore said. “That’s pretty much true, but when we do, it’s usually positive.”
That’s why Columbine plays 7 on 7.
Sixty-four teams signed up for the 2014 Denver Broncos’ 7-on-7 high school tournament with 16 advancing to the elimination round at Dove Valley on June 21. Columbine and Chatfield each qualified to play at the Broncos’ practice facility virtue of 3-0 records in pool play. The Rebels made it to the semifinals before losing to eventual winner Legacy, which earned the rights to attend the national finals July 13-16 in Indianapolis.

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Though it didn’t prove to be the case against Columbine in a 38-31 quarterfinal-round defeat, 7-on-7 appears to be tailor-made for the Chatfield Chargers’ no-huddle, high-octane offense. A hybrid of what they picked up from watching NAIA power St. Xavier, the Chargers picked apart defenses at will.
“We like to pick the tempo up. That’s the way that it helps us,” said Chatfield Senior quarterback Kyle Winkler, who played with a brace covering his left knee. He dislocated his left knee cap during Chatfield’s spring camp, but he showed little ill effects from the injury in the 7-on-7. “It surprises a lot of teams. We find defenses scrambling to get into their coverages, and we take advantage of that.”
That was the case in a 64-14 thumping of Boulder in the Round of 16.
But while Chatfield Senior head coach Bret McGatlin was pleased with Winkler’s sharpness in the preliminary round, it was the Chargers defense that he was particularly encouraged with. Chatfield didn’t overcommit in outscoring pool play opponents Manual, Denver West and Vista Peak 130-38 at All City Stadium.
“Last year, we know as a team we gave up a lot of points during the season. We committed a lot of time to defense in the offseason so that if we do score 40 points, we’re not giving up 40 as well,” McGatlin said.
Summer 7-on-7 games also benefit inexperienced varsity players, in particular quarterbacks. It’s one of their first chances to show what they can do with their fellow offensive skill position players.
“I just like to come out and compete,” said Columbine junior quarterback Jake Lowry, the nephew of head coach Andy Lowry. Though he considers himself more of a running QB as opposed to a thrower, he sees the benefit in playing in these kinds of conditions. “If we get an opportunity in a game that we have to pass, then we’ll be ready for it.”
Dakota Ridge returns just one offensive skill position player — receiver Nick Cohn. The Eagles are breaking in a new quarterback, new running back and new receivers. So for Dakota Ridge head coach Ron Woitalewicz, these summer sessions are crucial to the developmental prospects.
“This is huge,” Woitalewicz said following his Eagles’ 31-21 win over defending state champion Valor Christian. “That’s why we do this stuff in the summer, so we don’t have to wait until August to find out if a kid can play or can’t play. Any time you can get out and compete and play, I think the kids love it.”
Consider Dakota Ridge junior quarterback Adam Clary, one of those who likes to compete. The first-year varsity player is taking the summer 7-on-7 camps in stride as he gets his feet underneath him.
“I think it’s really important that we’re all in a rhythm, that we’re all on the same page,” said Clary, who started for Dakota Ridge’s JV team in 2013. “It helps with the defenses and what each team runs and what they’re going to do.”
Contact Michael Hicks at sports@evergreenco.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 15.