The 7 on 7 action taking place each week at Destrehan is a gathering of like-minded coaches.
“It’s just a glorified practice,” Destrehan coach Stephen Robicheaux said. “We are out here and nobody is keeping score. The competition is good but you are really just out here practicing. The kids like it because it’s against other people. You are never going to win or lose in 7 on 7 but you get good work.
“The teams out here do a good job. We don’t run a ‘7 on 7 defense,’ just to try and stop people. We run our defense and they all do the same. I think it’s all about competition but you also do what you do and that’s the important thing.”
“The good thing I like about it is there is no pressure to come out here and just win. All the coaches know that everybody is here to get better,” said St. James coach Robert Valdez.
Destrehan, along with St. James, Vandebilt Catholic, Brother Martin and Karr gather each Wednesday evening to take part in the 7 on 7 games.
The games are played on 40-yard fields, so two games can go on simultaneously. The fifth team sits out a game. The games rotate so that each team ends up playing four games while having one rest period. Games are approximately 25 minutes using running time.
“I’m not the biggest 7 of 7 fan in the world but I want to see our kids come out here and compete,” said first-year Vandebilt coach Lance Ledet. “I want our kids to get used to the speed on this field. There’s a lot of speed our here. If we can get used to the speed, and hopefully, when the season comes around, the game will slow down for us a bit.”
Destrehan has been hosting the 7 on 7 games for several years with most of the same teams coming back each year.
Vandebilt is the newcomer of the group, replacing Riverside Academy, which chose not to participate this summer.
“When I knew Riverside was getting out, I called ‘Robe’ (Robicheaux) and said, ‘please let me in,’” said Ledet. “What a great opportunity for my kids to compete against Destrehan, a state power, Karr, a state power, St. James, a state power, and Brother Martin’s, who’s been the semifinals twice in the last four years. What a great gauge for us to go into the fall.”
It may be a new experience for Vandebilt to compete on Destrehan’s field, but not for Ledet. He was a one-time assistant to Robicheaux with the Wildcats and was an assistant at Brother Martin before taking the head job with the Terriers.
“It’s a process,” said Ledet. “It’s going to take us some time since we didn’t have a spring (practice). We are three weeks behind the opponents out here on 7 of 7 because we didn’t have a spring. We are still installing our offense and defense. We are playing catchup but we will be OK once August rolls around.
“With me getting the job late and me coming from Brother Martin, I had to fulfill by contract there. We brought in four new coaches on the staff so it was best to get the extra days in the summer.”
So, like Ledet, the other coaches taking part in 7 on 7 play at Destrehan know what it’s all about.
“I just think it’s something we have been doing for a number of years and it’s just gone on from year to year. I think people like coming here because it’s turf and it lends itself in case you have a rainy day, you never have to cancel,” said Robicheaux.
While Robicheaux describes the 7 on 7 play as a glorified practice, valuable experience is gained, particularly with the passing game so prevalent in high school football these days.
“The biggest thing is just getting timing and working on rhythm” Valdez said. “Sometimes you may have a tall kid that runs a route different from a shorter kid or faster kid. A quarterback has to be able to see those things.
“Defensively, it’s being able to try to carry you assignments, break on the ball and have fast reactions.”
For teams with smaller rosters many times the best athletes play on both sides of the ball. Because of that, Valdez said, a team can’t match up it’s best players against one another. A team’ top receiver, for example, may also be its best defensive back.
“Sometimes, with our numbers, we are not going to be able to work our best on best. So, we are going to go against their best. They will see the best we’ve got,” said Valdez.
One are where the coaches may disagree a bit is taking part in 7 on 7 tournaments besides taking part in the weekly event at Destrehan.
“I like to keep my kids busy that way I can keep my eyes on them,” said Valdez, one of the coaches who likes his team to compete in weekend tournaments. “I know what they are doing and see their progression. Now, if you want to be competitive, you almost have to be able to make that sacrifice and commitment to do this year round.”
“We spend our mornings lifting weights from 7:30 to about 10:45. We practice Monday through Wednesday in the a.m. and do our team and group stuff and we come out here every Wednesday afternoon,” said Ledet, whose team doesn’t take part in weekend tournaments.
Robicheaux is in accord with his former assistant coach.
“Our kids work their butts off for four days a week and that’s all we ask – Monday through Thursday and we give them their weekends off,” said Robicheaux, whose teams have never taken part in tournaments.