WARRENSBURG - Saturday, the town recreation fields off Library Avenue were busy with high school athletes - from as far away as Sydney, NY throwing footballs, and conducting defensive drills like lugging gridiron blocking sleds over a lengthy course.
The action heralded Warrensburg High School's first-ever Seven-on-Seven Football Scrimmage Tournament, an event intended to give a boost to football skills in the off-season and give coaches a close look at their developing team's talent, coaches said Saturday.
Involved in the rotating matchups were athletes from grades 8 through 11 who are likely to be serving on their respective school's varsity team. The high schools participating in Warrensburg's Seven-on-Seven event were: Corinth, Salem, Stillwater, Fort Edward, Hoosic Valley, Cambridge and Sidney Central - a school near Oneonta which is about two hours and 40 minutes away.
Sydney Central Coach Jeff Matthews said his team was enthusiastic about attending, despite a five-hour round trip to participate.
"To be able to get together with coaches and players that love football as much as we do, is a great opportunity," he said., noting that he had "jumped" at the opportunity to participate after a similar scrimmage in Massachusetts was cancelled. "Also, this field is a great place to practice - with the mountains and beautiful scenery in the background."
For the offensive players' practice, a seven-member squad would attempt to complete pass plays under the pressure of the opponent's defense. Receivers catching the ball can run with it, but the forward progress is stopped when a defender touches the receiver. Off-season team practice with tackling is not permitted under high-school athletic rules.
While their offensive counterparts were running pass plays, linemen were dragging blocking sleds or flipping giant loader tires across a nearby field. Others were running while lugging 50-pound bags of potatoes.
Burgher Assistant Coach Rex Reynolds watched his squad of linemen lose a tug-of war battle against their counterparts from Stillwater, who averaged more than 250 pounds apiece.
"This may inspire them to spend some time in the weight room," Reynolds quipped.
Warrensburg Coach Mike Leonbruno said the seven-on-seven meetup offered a new opportunity for both coaches and players, and he expects it to become a yearly event.
"It's awesome for the players to get this extra practice running drills, and it's a nice day for kids in the lead to get to know each other," he said.