By Gabriel Stovall
COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — Don’t tell Mundy’s Mill, Jonesboro, North Clayton or Forest Park that it isn’t football season yet.
With school being officially out for everyone across the four-county Southern Crescent area, everyone’s fancy has now turned toward summer football sessions. And the four aforementioned programs from Clayton County will kick off their summers by competing in the Cam Newton 7-on-7 Tournament this weekend at Woodward Academy in College Park.
It’s the second stop in the tournament’s Georgia tour — the first being a Thursday and Friday stint at North Cobb High School.
Of course, 7-on-7 passing leagues and passing league tournaments have erupted over the last five years as a major point of preparation for high school football teams, particularly in the south and southeast regions. It’s been no different for South Metro squads looking to get an edge on its competition before August.
While some will argue how much 7-on-7s actually help a football team once the pads come on, there definitely seemed to be a correlation to summer and fall success for the Jonesboro Cardinals in 2015.
Jonesboro starred in several passing league tournaments last year, including Cam Newton’s, with particularly strong showings from Kentucky-bound DB Jordan Griffin and Clemson freshman-to-be QB Zerrick Cooper.
Griffin won MVP honors during the Cam Newton event last year, and the Cardinals went on to an unprecedented 11-2 season, complete with its first region title since 1944 and deepest playoff run ever.
This year’s Cardinals will have to overcome a ton of attrition at virtually all the key spots in order to recreate last year’s success in 2016 — particularly at QB and wideout, positions where such tournaments seem to reap the most rewards.
But the other three teams could have much to gain also from the extra work and competition.
Mundy’s Mill and North Clayton are both breaking in new coaches this year in Dwayne Davis and Cap Burnett respectively. The summer sessions should give both coaches a chance to not only see the kind of talent they’ll have in the upcoming season, but it should also give the coaches themselves an opportunity to get a feel for being the guy at the top of the food chain for the first time.
Meanwhile, while Forest Park retains coach Dale Myers for a second season, the Panthers will take a departure from region play in 2016, electing to play all non-region games in an attempt to break an almost three-season losing skid.
The Panthers have gone 0-10 the last two seasons and are 2-38 over the last four. And although their first three opponents in 2016 (SW DeKalb, Towers and Morrow) have a combined 2015 record of 6-24, Forest Park won’t get off the hook without a challenge, as it will also travel to Locust Grove, Mary Persons and Camden County before the season is done.
The freshman class looks promising at Forest Park, however, and the action at Woodward Academy this weekend should aid in the gelling process.
We’ll have more coverage for you regarding our area teams in the Cam Newton 7-on-7 tournament over the weekend.