• 82°

Blue Devils hit stretch

Blue Devils receiver Cedric Tolbert jumps to catch a pass during 7-on-7 work at summer workouts for ECHS.|Photo by Chandler Myers

In less than two weeks, the Escambia County Blue Devils will officially hit the field to prepare for the 2011 season with the beginning of fall practice.

The Blue Devils have 10 days of summer workouts left with two 7-on-7 tournaments scheduled in that span.

As the team gets closer to practice, Heaton wants his team to keep their business-like approach for the remainder of the workouts.

“Right now, we are just trying to finish up our 7-on-7s,” Heaton said. “We are still doing our strength and conditioning in the mornings. We have a 7-on-7 Thursday at Citronelle, which will be a 10-team tournament and we conclude our 7-on-7s here next week with hopefully four or five teams coming.”

With so much being crammed into a small timeframe, the ECHS coaching staff is preparing the team, while trying not to overwork them.

The Blue Devils players will finish up summer workouts and possibly get a day off before practices start, Heaton said.

“There’s a lot going on right now with the 7-on-7s and workouts in the morning, but we are going to make sure we get everything in and then maybe give the kids a day off before we start practice.”

During the course of workouts and 7-on-7s, Heaton has seen a number of improvements made by his team.

Coverage and big plays have become common for his team, he said.

“We made tremendous strides,” he said. “Defensively, I think we are starting to understand what we are doing. The secondary is playing tighter coverage and more comfortable. On offense, our kids are starting to make plays. Our sophomore quarterback is making some big throws and our recievers are making some big catches. Everyone is getting excited about Aug. 1.”

While the skill players get a lot of work through 7-on-7s, the linemen have to find other ways to stay competitive.

Camps and challenges are areas that help linemen keep in shape, Heaton said.

“Defensive guys get in individual work and we try go to camps,” he said. “We also do linemen challenges. It’s hard that 7-on-7 is built around skill players, but we find things for our linemen to do to get them tuned up and in shape.”

With time winding down on workouts, the Blue Devils are in a better place than they were in 2010.

Knowing the system has helped players improve on all fronts, Heaton said.

“We are going to be in great shape going into fall practice,” he said. “I feel we have a good understanding of what we want to do, which puts us further ahead of where we were last year. It just makes us feel better about where we are with these kids knowing what we are doing.”