Competition, competition, competition.
That remains the mantra of every high school football coach at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Football Challenge, which included 7-on-7 teams from 24 schools kicking off pool play Friday at the Optimist Youth Sports Complex.
The tournament bracket starts Saturday morning, and a championship game begins at noon. But the competition the coaches concern themselves with doesn’t include the scoreboard.
“For us, it’s about competitiveness,” Rocky Mountain coach Scott Criner said. “We want our kids to compete. We want guys to know assignments.
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“Do you get a lot of good 11-on-11 football habits developed? Not really, but you get the competitive stuff. Your kids show up and compete.”
The 7-on-7 competition is filled with quirks that teams may never see when they put on pads in the fall — 3.5 seconds for the quarterback to survey the field, linebackers unconcerned with what happens in the backfield and not a single running play in sight.
But after a summer working out together, running routes together and walking through plays against defenders made of air together, the 7-on-7 format provides an opportunity for coaches to measure players in a new competitive environment.
Emmett edged Mountain View 38-37 in last year’s championship game. Emmett coach Michael Schroeder said the victory over a 5A powerhouse provided a confidence boost to the Huskies, who move back up to 4A this fall. More importantly, he saw a pair of backups rise to the occasion when two starters suffered concussions, two backups key to their undefeated season.
“We have seen one kid in particular today step up,” Schroeder said Friday. “And we’re looking for maybe one or two more tomorrow we can go into camp with that’s not as a starter, but we know we can rely on.”
For all the dismissive attitudes of 7-on-7 football, the Treasure Valley’s tournament has served as an accurate barometer for fall success in recent years.
Emmett won the 3A state title last year after edging Mountain View, the eventual 5A state runner-up. In 2014, Bishop Kelly won the passing title before earning the second of its three straight state championships, topping a 5A semifinalist (Lake City) in the finals. And in 2013, the 7-on-7 winner (Capital) reached the 5A semifinals and the runner-up (Highland) finished as the 5A runner-up.
“I think it has carryover,” said Mountain View senior quarterback Tucker Rovig, a Montana State commit. “I kind of think 7-on-7 is like Underwear Olympics — you never really know how good a team is going to be in live competition. But it establishes chemistry with your teammates and all your wide receivers and defense and everything. That correlates into football season.”
The tournament has also whiffed, too. The 2012 finals featured two teams, Centennial and Mountain View, that failed to reach the playoffs that fall. And Rocky Mountain, the reigning 5A state champ, went 2-3 on the opening day last summer and lost in the first round of the tournament bracket.
That doesn’t bother Criner, though, who said the only thing he cares about is how his team competes this weekend.
“I think that’s way more important than, ‘Did you win the tournament?’ ” Criner said. “When I was at Timberline, we won the tournament two years in a row and we didn’t win a state championship. But we could throw 7-on-7 because we had a quarterback who could throw.
“The people who come to it and look at it that way, they kind of lose thought of what we’re trying to get done as a program. They’re missing the mark.”
Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424
7-on-7 success — does it matter?
How recent winners and runner-ups at the Treasure Valley’s 7-on-7 tournament have fared in the fall.
3A state champion
Runner-up: Mtn. View
Winner: Bishop Kelly
Runner-up: Lake City
Runner-up: Mtn. View
Saturday at the Optimist complex
▪ 9 a.m.: 7-on-7 single-elimination tournament begins
▪ 9-11 a.m.: Lineman’s challenge
▪ 11:30 a.m.: Lineman tug-of-war
▪ Noon: Varsity, JV championship games
▪ Approximately 12:30 p.m.: Awards ceremony
Varsity game schedule
Optimist Youth Sports Complex
Game 1: Kuna vs. Nampa, 9 a.m.
Game 2: Highland vs. Ontario, Ore., 9 a.m.
Game 3: Pocatello vs. Cole Valley, 9 a.m.
Game 4: Rocky Mountain vs. Gooding, 9 a.m.
Game 5: Fruitland vs. Ridgevue, 9 a.m.
Game 6: Bishop Kelly vs. McCall, 9 a.m.
Game 7: Centennial vs. Vallivue, 9 a.m.
Game 8: Jerome vs. Middleton, 9 a.m.
Game 9: Mountain View vs. Winner 1, 9:40 a.m.
Game 10: Boise vs. Winner 2, 9:40 a.m.
Game 11: Skyview vs. Winner 3, 9:40 a.m.
Game 12: Meridian vs. Winner 4, 9:40 a.m.
Game 13: Capital vs. Winner 5, 9:40 a.m.
Game 14: Emmett vs. Winner 6, 9:40 a.m.
Game 15: Eagle vs. Winner 7, 9:40 a.m.
Game 16: Borah vs. Winner 8, 9:40 a.m.
Game 17: Winner 9 vs. Winner 10, 10:20 a.m.
Game 18: Winner 11 vs. Winner 12: 10:20 a.m.
Game 19: Winner 13 vs. Winner 14, 10:20 a.m.
Game 20: Winner 15 vs. Winner 16, 10:20 a.m.
Game 21: Winner 17 vs. Winner 18, 11 a.m.
Game 22: Winner 19 vs. Winner 20, 11 a.m.
Game 23: Winner 21 vs. Winner 22, noon