For the Morris and Seneca 7-on-7 football teams, it was as close as it gets to the teams ever playing the real thing against each other. For the two communities, it was a pleasant oddity. And for members of the Redskins and Fighting Irish coaching staff, it was a reunion of sorts.
While Morris and Seneca have encountered each other in most every other venue of sporting activity over the years, it is fairly certain that the two have never engaged in any football activity until Thursday.
“It was a fun get-together in the summer,” Morris coach Alan Thorson said. “Hopefully both teams got better because of it.”
Thorson is a 1999 graduate of Seneca High School where he played football for the Irish under coach Don Brown.
“It was nice to see coach Brown. He’s still an assistant over there. It was good to talk to those guys before,” Thorson said. “It was good to talk for about 10 minutes before hand and catching up on old times.”
Ted O’Boyle is the head coach at Seneca after taking over the program at the start of the last season. One of the other reunions involved a coach on his staff that used to coach at Morris.
“Coach Terry Maxwell coached over here with us for a couple of years and we still keep in contact with him and talk a lot,” Thorson said.
Seneca senior Brad Wyss said he was excited to get the opportunity to scrimmage Morris.
“This is the first time we’ve really done this, but I said heck yeah,” Wyss said. “I wanted to see what we could do against them.”
While the scrimmage lasted just over an hour, there was a little excitement on the first snap.
“The first play of the 7-on-7 tonight, Seneca ran a slant right in front of Austin Laurie and he stepped in and, even though he held back, he put the Seneca kid on his butt on the first play,” Thorson said. “That set the tone for the day.”
A tone that the much smaller Seneca team had trouble working around at first.
“I thought we came out and were a little bit intimidated, which is understandable. Not only is Morris a lot bigger school than we are, but it’s also a highly successful school who is very well coached and has a lot of skilled kids,” O’Boyle said. “I thought we came out a little timid at the start, and I can understand that, but as a football coach you don’t want to see that. But we settled down and then competed better. I think this sets us up great for this weekend and going to Clifton on Saturday. There well be fine because the schools are a lot smaller than Morris.”
Irish quarterback Bo Taylor agreed.
“I was excited to come here. I felt we could compete with him,” Taylor said. “When we first came out, I guess some of the guys were intimidated by them a little, but we found our groove as it went on.”
“We got more comfortable after that,” Wyss said.
Thorson said that he likes the aggressiveness of guys like Laurie and Kyle Hill on defense but also said they are showing all the signs of wanting to hit at next week’s camp. Still, there is not supposed to be live tackling at a 7-on7 event.
“That’s the hardest part. For our defense, we want the kids to be physical and hit but, without pads on you don’t want anyone to get hurt, either,” Thorson said. “It is a fine line and sometimes the kids go right up to that line.”
Hill said that he would take the same approach to whoever puts on an opposing uniform and stands across the line from him.
“It doesn’t really matter who we play. We just go in with the same mentality. We have to know that we are better than the other team and play our game,” he said.
Hill said that he could tell that Seneca was a little gun shy at the onset.
“Especially the first series, we could kind of tell, but if we play our game, every team should be like that,” Hill said.
Taylor thinks it is a good idea regardless of what took place on the field.
“Yeah, it’s good. You need to see bigger and better competition than what you are going to play,” he said. “It’s kind of pointless to play a team smaller than you, especially if you want to get better.”
Thorson’s senior season, Seneca was 8-2 on the football field. He said raising up to play a bigger opponent has its own reward.
“I’ve always had the attitude, even going back to my days as a player that we would play anybody. That’s just my personality,” Thorson said. “I’ll give the Seneca kids credit. They came out, competed and did their best today. I still think both teams benefited from tonight.”
“It’s great for our kids to compete with kids at this level. It’s good for them to see that,” he said. “I always like doing 7-on-7s when you are playing someone like Morris. They are aggressive and a few of our kids need to see that. I think it was of great benefit for our kids to see where they are at and what they need to work on.”
Even though Seneca is a smaller school, Thorson said that there are several benefits to having them on the summer schedule. The first is the local factor.
“It was fun. Obviously football in Morris draws on it’s own excitement, even in the summer,” he said. “Having the 7-on-7 you can see the people here and I even saw some people on the sidelines from Seneca that I haven’t seen for years. It was nice to see them out to watch football.”
The second is that teams can get together and work out at a nominal cost.
“It’s one of these things where we’re trying to do a lot of 7-on-7 stuff with local schools. A lot of times there is travel and cost involved. This way we can do the 7-on-7s with teams like Wilmington and Plainfield South and now Seneca,” Thorson said. “Obviously, it’s free and not costing either program anything. Short of the travel.
“And you can get as much work in as you want as opposed to going to a 7-on-7 somewhere where you only get 20 set plays. We kind of got together, talked to coach O’Boyle, and everything worked out. They were interested and hopefully this is something we can do again in the future.”