Moving to a pass-oriented offense under new coach Rich McWhorter, Jackson County is putting its summer days to good use.
Both 7-on-7 and padded-camp scrimmages have given the Panthers — a heavy running team last year — the chance to work on its aerial game with the start of the season less than two months away.
“We’re working a lot of kids through,” McWhorter said. “We’re not showing up at a 7-on-7 trying to bring home a trophy or anything like that. We’re just trying to get a lot of kids a lot of good reps.”
The team is often running four or five wide-receiver sets in these summer workouts.
“We’re getting into different packages,” McWhorter said. “We’re looking at guys at different spots. A lot of receivers are still getting used to it.”
With Jackson County running a single-wing offense last year, not many Panthers were called on to catch passes. With more players having duty as receivers on this year’s roster, that will demand more two-way play out of several Panthers who might have only played as defensive backs last year. The summer 7-on-7s, along with padded camps, are helping players become accustomed to playing on both sides of the ball.
Meanwhile, Jackson County continues to rotate reps between four quarterbacks in their summer work. Jake Stinchcomb, Jessie Whiting, Connor Bejin and Isaiah Maxey – all of whom directed a touchdown drive in the Panthers’ spring game in May — have seen action.
“We’re glad that we have four kids that can play the position,” McWhorter said.
For a team that wants to pass the football, the format of 7-on-7s certainly caters to the Panthers’ offensive identity. McWhorter said his team simply starts at the top of its play list and works its way down the sheet.
“We’re not doing so much situational stuff,” he said, though the team did work on its goal line offense at a padded camp at Social Circle last week.
Meanwhile, the coach continues to be impressed by the progress of the defense.
“I think our defense is getting better,” McWhorter said. “Our defense had a really good outing against Winder-Barrow in the spring, I thought. I think our defense is doing a really nice job … Our defensive front I think is a pretty good group.”
Overall, the coach said attendance for the offseason passing sessions has been “fantastic.”
“Attendance has been really good,” he said. “I still encourage our kids to go to other sports camps and church camps and things like that, and they do that stuff, and I give them credit for being with us because I want them to do other things, too.”
McWhorter said he’s careful that his team doesn’t overdo things in the summer. He said there’s been years he’s felt like his teams have almost peaked at the end of July. He doesn’t want his team to feel like now is the time for it to go out and win games.
“That’s going to come in August,” McWhorter said.