Passing Pitt's 7-on-7 camp a summer must-do
Share with others:
Clairton and North Allegheny are defending champions in their classifications, but the disparity in line play between Class A football and Class AAAA is, in general, so great that a game likely would not be close.
But if the offensive and defensive lines are taken out of the equation, a 7-on-7 game would produce a highly competitive thriller, as it did Saturday at Pitt's UPMC South Side facility.
That North Allegheny, defending WPIAL Class AAAA champion, won, 22-19, isn't particularly relevant because it was one of about 95 games matching schools from different classifications, districts and states on the first day of Pitt's 7-on-7 camp. There are 40 teams competing at the camp, which has became one of the biggest football-related events of the summer.
"I love this camp because of the competition. There are so many great athletes down here, it gives us an opportunity to put our guys in situations and see how they react to things," said North Allegheny coach Art Walker. "And you can take the classifications away and the kids just compete with each other. I joked with [Clairton coach Tom] Nola that, with all of those athletes they have that if they started to rip us, we were gonna have to run the ball."
Clairton has a 47-game winning streak, and if the Bears go undefeated through the WPIAL championship game this season, they will break the state record for the longest streak. And Nola said the 7-on-7 camp, which Clairton has won several times over the years, is the first step toward that goal.
"It is a great situation for us because we get to compete against all these bigger schools," he said. "And it is skill against skill, and we clearly have a lot of skill players. And this really does kick off our season and get things started even though it doesn't count for anything other than some good stories."
Nola, Walker and several other coaches agreed that the passing camp, which Walt Harris started in 1997, has become the unofficial start to the football season because of the number of area teams participating.
"The thing about it is we are able to get the kids in that football mindset, get them thinking about the season," said Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak. "We do this, then we do one down at Hoover[, Ala.,] which is even a step up in competition, and it really gets our guys a good understanding of how to compete and push themselves against other teams."
The Jaguars were one of three teams -- along with North Allegheny and Woodland Hills -- that went undefeated Saturday. The double-elimination portion of the tournament is today, and a champion will be crowned in four divisions.
Clairton has two players Pitt is recruiting -- receiver Tyler Boyd and defensive back Titus Howard -- and there are a number of other prospects, such as Seton LaSalle tight end Scott Orndoff, whose schools are participating in the camp.
The opportunity to watch prospects compete with each other is the obvious benefit for the Pitt coaching staff. But it also enabled the staff to connect with high school coaches in a relaxed setting.
Cherpak said new coach Paul Chryst and his staff have done a great job reconnecting and putting out the welcome mat.
"We didn't come to this camp last year for obvious reasons," Cherpak said, referring to departed coach Todd Graham. "[Pitt director of operations] Chris LaSala does an amazing job of setting this up and organizing it, and the staff now makes us all feel so welcome.
"It was like a second home, and it is starting to get back to that way after the disaster from last year. This staff has made a place where people are going to love coming down here and being here. And Chryst has made it clear he wants [high school coaches] to be a part of things and give him input again. So it is a welcome change."
First Published June 24, 2012 12:00 am