County teams compete at Cornerstone 7-on-7

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

COLUMBIANA – With less than two months until the high school football season starts for Coosa Valley, Cornerstone and Kingwood, the three teams got their first look at each other thanks to a friendly 7-on-7 competition held at Cornerstone Christian School on Thursday, June 21.

“We’re already rivals, but it’s even better now that we aren’t all in the same class because we don’t have to compete for playoff spots against each other anymore,” Cornerstone head coach James Lee said. “It was just fun to get out there and compete. There definitely was some chippiness, but it was a great day and I saw improvement from all three teams compared to last year.”

It marked a day for the three teams, that are now in three different classifications in the AISA, to compete against one another and get a feel for what to expect during the upcoming 2018 season that is slated to get underway on Friday, Aug. 17.

“It was my first live action with them,” Coosa Valley head coach Jamie Scruggs said. “It was a lot of fun watching them compete. Going into it you wonder how they’ll respond when something goes wrong and how they will compete against somebody else, and I think we did really good job.”

One of the most impressive parts of the day for the Rebels wasn’t a win in the first game, but how they bounced back from a difficult second game to finish the day on a high note.

“We played well in our first game against Kingwood, but fell flat in the second game,” Scruggs said. “I was so impressed with how the team responded in the third and fourth game though. One of the main things I wanted to get out of the event was to see how these guys responded to a difficult situation.”

It was a welcome sight for Scruggs, whose team performed at a fast pace throughout the day thanks to an understanding of all of the plays and signals despite a short length of time to learn everything.

“Tuesday nights are the nights we do a lot of skill acquisition drills to where we learn the offense and defense to get reps running around to learn plays,” Scruggs said. “In just three of those practices this month, they’ve already got a good understanding of what to do and where to be. They’re hard working kids and very smart, which makes my job easier.”

Scruggs was impressed with several things, including his young 14-year-old freshman quarterback Brayson Edwards, who is expected to be the starter.

“It was the first 7-on-7 and first real action for him,” Scruggs said.  “He was a little slow releasing the ball on occasion, but with more reps he’ll start processing things faster. Overall, he was able put the ball in tight windows. He’s so smart and so talented and has all the confidence in the world.”

If Edwards can step up into a big role offensively, Scruggs feels really good about his team because of the early signs of brilliance his defense is showing after posting close to 10 interceptions in their four games at the event.

“That was probably the bright spot of the day really,” he said. “We played pretty much the same defense the entire day and it seemed like we had an interception from just about every position on that side of the ball.”

While Scruggs is high on the Rebels going into his first year as a head coach, the other two coaches are going into their second seasons at the helm.

For Lee, he said it may be the most excited he has ever been for a season.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever been this excited about coaching football because of what’s ahead,” he said. “We’ve never had this much depth at our skill positions. We’re head and shoulders above where we were last year and I’m really excited about us.”

Since last year, Lee said all athletics have taken off and now there are several players ready to come to Cornerstone to compete.

“I’ve got some really good kids out here and am really excited for where Cornerstone football is going,” he said. “I think the way we are going right now, we have as many athletes coming to play for us as a lot of bigger schools. It’s given us a lot of depth, especially for the 1A level.”

After competing against some of the best AISA level teams at the University of Alabama a week earlier, Lee was also impressed by the way his team improved.

“I feel like yesterday we were much better,” Lee said. “We still have some room for improvement, but I feel like we are much better than we have been in a while.”

Kingwood is coming off a playoff berth in 2017, but still struggled to a 1-9 overall record in head coach Todd Bradford’s first year.

The sentiment after the 7-on-7 event, however, is that this team looks much more improved, something both opposing coaches admitted to as well.

The biggest problem for the Lions will be the 2A classification in the AISA, which features region opponents such as Bessemer Academy, Tuscaloosa Academy, Morgan Academy, Lee-Scott Academy and Glenwood School, all of who could win a championship.

All-in-all, the day was a success that saw three teams put the beginning touches on what they hope is a special 2018 season.