The Gainesville Leopards continue to roll their way through the Valley View 7-on-7 tournament this summer as Week 3 saw two more dominant performances.
The Leopards moved to 6-0 with victories over Tioga and Sacred Heart and it was defensive coordinator Kenneth Wilkerson’s first opportunity to see this summer’s 7-on-7 squad in person.
While the Leopards emerged victorious twice, Wilkerson was glad to see the team fight through the ups and downs of the game.
“First, the kids are taking those skills that we worked on in the spring, and they’re putting them on the field, which is always a plus,” Wilkerson said. “The second thing is we want to see them recover from that adversity. That’s something that didn’t always happen. I know that from talking to coach [James] Polk when I first got here that they hung their heads. We’re not shaking it off as fast as I think we should yet or having that short-term memory, but we are getting to that point where it’s like ‘OK, we can fight through this. We’re good enough to recover. One bad thing doesn’t end everything.’”
In the first game against Tioga, Wilkerson said its size was a challenge for Gainesville, but the Leopards still came away with a 32-13 win.
“They were a pretty good team,” Wilkerson said. “They’re very athletic. They have some tall long receivers. I think our kids did well playing what they were doing. We didn’t have a lot of adversity in that game.”
Gainesville followed that up with a 28-15 win over Sacred Heart and Wilkerson said the Tigers gave the Leopards a great test.
“I thought the thing about them is they executed really well,” Wilkerson said. “You know, they knew exactly what they needed to do when they needed to be there. They knew their spots. Once we could get them off their spots, that’s when they got a little bit off. But until we were getting off their spots, they were there.”
The Leopards trailed at one point in the game which Wilkerson was pleased to see.
“From what I saw, especially in that second game, there was a lot of adversity,” Wilkerson said. “We weren’t handling things well. We weren’t able to knock those guys off the routes or disrupt their timing. They got up on us and they were doing some picks early. For our guys to be able to fight through that to recover and come out on top and play the way they should have, speaks a lot about their character and just the grit.”
As a defensive coach in the fall, Wilkerson recognizes that defense can be difficult in 7-on-7.
“They are taking away the inside and about forcing them to go outside where they don’t want to go,” Wilkerson said. “Every year, the rules keep evolving and they take away things from the defense to get offenses opportunities. We don’t have trouble scoring. Defensively, yes, we’ve made an emphasis to get better defensively. We tried to make everything simpler, so that the kids can just play faster and take advantage of our athleticism.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip