Brad Gordon doesn't want his offense getting too pass-happy this summer. But with the calendar still reading July, it's the nature of the beast for the time being.
It's no secret that the second-year Mount Zion High School head football coach intends to implement a run-oriented attack once again in 2018, but the Eagles also feature the firepower to do some damage through the air should the opportunity present itself, making Tuesday's trip to Tallapoosa for a little 7-on-7 action at Taylor Memorial Stadium worth the while.
"The biggest thing about the 7-on-7 is it allows us to polish the passing game and what little bit we do. You know us. We're going to run the football," Gordon said. "But it allows us to get our passing game in. So when we get a chance to put the pads on, then it gets back to what we do. This is just bonus time right here for us. That's the main thing. The kids have bought in and they know we're going to run the football, but we've got to throw it enough to keep people out of the box and keep them honest."
And when you have athletic and capable signal-callers such as Iaan "Mike Mike" Cousin and Ray Cheeks under center, it delivers an intriguing dynamic for the MZ offensive staff. Both quarterbacks looked sharp on Tuesday morning at Haralson County, where MZ matched up against the host Rebels and Cleburne County, Alabama.
"I think 'Mike Mike' even surprised himself throwing the ball. He really threw the ball well. Ray came in and threw the ball well," Gordon said. "Tyriese (Farley) and 'Mike Mike' made some nice catches, as well. I think we surprised ourselves a little bit. We had some drops, but that's to be expected. We competed, and that's the main thing."
Perhaps the more substantial aspect to the 7-on-7s come from the defensive standpoint, where the back end of the Eagle 'D' was able to prepare for some of the spread offenses it will face during the course of the 2018 campaign.
With a veteran secondary, along with Cheeks and Case Jiles returning in the middle of the defense, MZ flexed some muscle with some quality stops on Tuesday.
"The back end, we're sitting there with all seniors across the board. Our spurs are returning starters and our linebacker core, we've got a little work to be done there. We've got some faces in new places. But for the most part, I was pleased," Gordon said. "Those inside linebackers, when we're worried about knocking down passes, that's a good thing. We better stop the run, and that's the main thing with those guys."
Tuesday marked the start of a busy slate of action for Mount Zion over the next few weeks, which includes hitting the field four days a week leading up to the acclimatization period. The Eagles are set to return to the 7-on-7 circuit next Tuesday against Temple and the following day against Central. On Monday, May 23, Mount Zion will take part in a padded camp at LaGrange against the host squad and Manchester, the team it stunned in the Class A Public state quarterfinals last season.
"Getting after it (Tuesday) was the first day competing against somebody else," Gordon said. "Of course, we had mistakes. But I felt like we made the mistakes going full speed. We've got some things to work on, but that's what this time is for. These 7-on-7s are just a glorified practice."