When the final game of the Celina 7-on-7 football tournament came to an end for the Gainesville Leopards, they had a different attitude than in years past.
The Leopards had just finished 1-2 on Saturday with a win over Krum and losses to Lone Oak and Bonham.
The players turned to offensive coordinator Blake Crutsinger and immediately reminded him that they will have a chance to get their revenge against Bonham as they will face the Warriors in August for their second scrimmage of the season.
“I’ve seen a change in our kids’ mindsets,” Crutsinger said. “It bothered them that they lost, which hasn’t always been the case. The kids are maturing and buying in. That’s how you build a program.
“They want to show everyone how hard they’ve been working and we talk about how we’re not going 3-7. The kids and the coaching staff believes it. We’re ready to show everyone what we’ve got.”
Gainesville went 3-5 overall for the 7-on-7 season and Crutsinger said it was a mixed bag of results.
“We didn’t perform as well at the host tournament as well as I’d like,” Crutsinger said. “If we would have had as many kids in the other two tournaments as we did in the first, we would have done better. I’ve been impressed with how our defense played all spring. There were penalties called in 7-on-7 that wouldn’t have been called in real football.”
The Leopards opened the day with a 36-35 win over Krum. Crutsinger said he had the team working on offensive and defensive concepts for the upcoming season as opposed to teams that put together playbooks that won’t work in “real football,” as Crustinger describes fall football.
“They looked really sharp against Krum when they were fresh,” Crutsinger said. “One thing I did tell the kids is when you go to these tournaments, some of these teams are playing 7-on-7. We’re actually working on our offense. We’re working on passing concepts that we’re actually going to do during the season. Seven-on-7, to me, is not real football to me.”
Crutsinger said it can be tempting to focus on the winning aspect of 7-on-7, but he said the main goal is to be ready for the fall.
“I want to win,” he said, “but I want to win doing what we’re going to do when August rolls around. I don’t want to spend all spring working on a bunch of plays that these guys are going to forget about because we’ll never do them again.”
The Krum victory saw the Leopards working on dropback passes that were effective for them, especially with long throws.
“We hit a couple big balls over the top for touchdowns,” Crutsinger said. “It’s a good concept and it’s easy for Fats [quarterback Draylon Franklin] to read. He’s getting good at it. We had a lot of success that first game.”
Franklin has made strides in his game, particularly when it came to reading defenses according to Crutsinger.
“He’s gotten a lot better, which is what you want to see,” Crutsinger said. “The first game, he looked really, really sharp. The second game, they came out in Cover 3 and we haven’t seen that all spring. In 7-on-7, a lot of people just run [man-to-man] defenses. That was something new. We still completed some balls. You’re not going to hit as many home run balls.”
The Leopards fell, 28-20, to Lone Oak in the second game, rallying after falling behind 21-0 at halftime.
The Leopards’ first win of their 7-on-7 season came at the hands of Bonham to the tune of a 26-14 victory, but due to the lack of players, Crutsinger thought the team ran out of gas last weekend.
“There was a miscommunication and they scored late in the first half,” Crutsinger said. “We were up 24-20 and they ended up scoring late inside of a minute left to go. That made it tough losing like that. I felt like we gave up two cheap scores. At that point, our kids were just exhausted. We had already played two games and had been playing for three hours.”
For Crutsinger, the main takeaway from the tournament was the Leopards’ fight and energy level.
“Our kids never gave up,” Crutsinger said. “Their attitudes were great, so in those regards, I’m really, really proud of them. This last week of summer strength camp was the hardest I’ve seen the kids get after it in the weight room and with agility exercises.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip