BRADENTON — Dyron Speight and Cord Sandberg are light years apart when it comes to high school football.
A senior, Speight is entering his third season as the starting quarterback for Southeast High. Sandberg is a 15-year-old sophomore signal caller for Manatee High who has never started a regular season varsity game.
Despite the disparity in experience, they both had the same thing in mind Thursday, the first day of play at the National High School Coaches Association 7-on-7 Tournament at IMG Academies.
They each know you can never put in enough time developing a relationship with your receivers and take the approach they are like family and deserve the utmost attention.
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Speight and Sandberg got to put that belief into action in the competition where there is contact and no linemen rushing the quarterback. It didn’t take away from the fun, and they still were able to work on things they feel need refining for the upcoming season.
“I am having a blast. It’s really fun playing against this competition,” Sandberg said. “You get to see different defenses and different teams and are going against them full-speed. It helps me develop timing with my receivers because this is as close to a live situation as you will get before a real game.
“There is no rushing, but you have four seconds to get rid of the ball, and I think that’s a pretty good rule.”
Speight has worked with his receivers a lot longer, particularly the Noles’ top pass catcher, Bo Brand, who has received offers from schools from the Big East and Big Ten conferences.
“I am just mainly concerned with getting my timing down so we are ready to go in the fall,” Speight said. “If we do that then we can focus more on getting our blocking schemes ready for the running game when we start preseason practice. This whole summer we’ve been doing a lot of 7-on-7 against ourselves, but here we get a chance to show our stuff against competition.
“It makes it easier that no one is rushing us, but it will make you a better player because you still have to make quick decisions. Winning is also important to me.”
Head coaches Paul Maechtle from Southeast and Joe Kinnan from Manatee were also hoping to win, though that was not the primary concern. They were both looking to refine their respective passing games, particularly Kinnan, who lost four-year starting quarterback Brion Carnes to graduation.
“Any time you keep score, it’s important to win, but that being said it’s more important that your kids get a chance to compete and you hopefully get better, and it helps our defensive backs,” Kinnan said. “This is my first 7-on-7 tournament, and I had to go back to re-read the rules. We are getting repetition against something other people do and seeing different routes on defense and different offenses on defense.
“It’s good for Cord. Every day we walk out there we want to do a little more where it makes him a little more knowledgeable of what is going on.”
The Southeast and Manatee A teams (varsity) ended the day facing each other with the Noles earning a 25-21 victory. The setup is so much different than a regular season game that its outcome doesn’t have much meaning except to give coaches a chance to weed out some players, according to Maechtle.
“This is real good for conditioning because you’ve got your wide receivers and defensive backs running all over the place all day long in this heat,” Maecthle said. “You get to see a lot of things. One of the most important is that you see some kids who you thought could play and find out maybe they are not quite ready for prime-time.
“You get caught up with the kids and try to win. But you want to implement stuff that you would like to run, and you like to see them doing the right things on routes, which I think for the most part we were pretty good at.”
The Southeast and Manatee A teams were each 4-1 for the day, and in local matchups Southeast A defeated Bayshore 17-10, and Manatee A also beat the Bruins 38-0.
The Southeast B, Manatee B and Bayshore teams all finished 1-4 on the opening day.
Pool play continues today with seedings at stake for the double-elimination portion of the tournament set for Saturday.