The aura didn’t fade during Brad Hensler’s second trip to one of college football’s meccas.
“It was more enjoyable with the campus being as beautiful as it is,” Hensler said. “Seeing it again, you know you’re at Notre Dame when you’re at Notre Dame.”
The Seneca Valley senior wide receiver was in South Bend, Ind., for more than a tour. He was there for a 7-on-7 tournament the Raiders participated in during June.
Butler County football teams scattered all over the place to get workouts in.
Some camps keep score, others don’t. It’s an opportunity to practice against other teams instead of against teammates.
Summer football, and 7-on-7 workouts in particular, have become increasingly popular in recent years.
The workouts, which are all passing, are voluntary.
There are no lineman and no contact is allowed. Team’s start on the opponent’s 40-yard line and pick up first downs every 20 yards.
Quarterbacks have four seconds to get rid of the ball before the play is whistled dead.
“It is all about fitness and quick routes. We have particular routes where you run this many steps,” Hensler said. “If you don’t do it, go one step too far, the route is blown and coverage is all over your routes.”
Seneca Valley head coach Don Holl likes to go out of state where kids wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to go on their own.
Holl also finds a camp that is paired with a big-man camp that has challenges for linemen.
At Notre Dame, the Raiders took part in a 64-team tournament and reached the semifinals.
The games were played on practice fields and intramural sites around campus.
When Seneca Valley went two years ago, the semifinals and finals were played at Notre Dame’s Stadium, but there was construction at the site this year.
“It’s really neat. Bus rides are generally not fun,” Holl said. “They get to tour the campus, buy souvenirs and see a facility that’s like few others in college football.”
Karns City coach Ed Conto prefers to go to camps that don’t keep score. The Gremlins went to two with Knoch and two with Oil City and a 12-team one at Grove City.
“We’re running our pass offense and defense,” Conto said. “We have our kids play their regular defense. Some people will drop everyone into our coverage, but we have our linebackers step up to read run and drop into pass coverage.”
Karns City senior Logan Moroney enjoys the fast-paced nature of the workouts.
It gives the Gremlins wide receiver an opportunity to showcase his skills.
“7-on-7s are my favorite,” Moroney said about the Gremlins’ summer workouts. “It gives me a chance to show off more of my athletic ability and focus on the passing game. I get to use my speed more.”
Gremlins senior wide receiver Ethan Conto also likes the workouts, especially the one at Grove City.
“You get a lot of competition there and there are a lot of different teams,” Conto said. “It helps with technique off the line and running your routes correctly.”
Freeport coach John Gaillot said the Yellowjackets participated in around six 7-on-7 practices this summer.
That’s including a 16-team tournament at Westminster College.
Freeport used to compete in the Allegheny Passing League with some teams like Leechburg, Springdale and Ford City under coach Bill Dillen.
Dillen coached at Freeport from 2004-07.
The Yellowjackets had 25-30 kids at the 1-hour workouts two or three days a week.
“Timing and you get a chance to go against someone else besides your team,” Gaillot said. “At least you’re going to have some high-school level kids covering you.”
First-year Butler head coach Rob Densmore has been enjoying his first few workouts with the Golden Tornado.
Butler has gone against Knoch, Mars, Kiski and Slippery Rock.
“For us, it’s always been about the fundamentals,” Densmore said. “We’ve been working hard on being in the right spots and talking to each other.”