PEABODY — As the dog days of summer continue to roll on, conditioning workouts that mark the start of the high school football season are a little more than two weeks away. In the meantime, 10 regional football squads faced off against each other Thursday at Bishop Fenwick High School in the ninth annual New England 7-on-7 Championship.
Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) won the championship with a 20-14 win over Dennis-Yarmouth in the tournament final.
The single-day tournament featured seven MIAA schools — Andover, Billerica, Brockton, Dennis-Yarmouth, Hingham, Lynn English, and Newton North — as well as schools from the RIIL (Bishop Hendricken), the MPA (Bonny Eagle, Maine) and the ISL (Buckingham Browne & Nichols). Teams qualified by placing first or second in regional tournaments or securing wild-card bids.
The 7-on-7, passing-only format gives teams the opportunity to work on offensive concepts without worrying about rushing plays or special teams.
“Football is really 365 now for kids who want to play it,” said tournament director and Milton High coach Steve Dembowski. “The first thing you find out is who’s in shape.”
The semifinal matchups saw Bishop Hendricken (4-0 in pool play) defeating BB&N (3-1), 20-12, and Dennis-Yarmouth (3-1) defeating Brockton (2-2), 26-21. Teams qualified for the semifinals by having one of the top two records in their pool.
Last year’s tournament winner Suffield (Conn.) Academy was not in this year’s tournament, leaving the door open for a new champion.
In the title game, both teams scored on their first two drives making it a 14-14 game with a little less than seven minutes left. After scoring in less than two minutes on both of its previous drives, Bishop Hendricken began to pace itself and was able to cap a scoring drive on a 1-yard touchdown pass with 20 seconds remaining. Because of the tournament rule of having a running clock, the Hawks then ran out the clock on their 2-point conversion attempt, closing the door on any possible comeback from Dennis-Yarmouth.
“We were tied for most of the game. We had a couple big third down conversions (at the end) and it was a great team effort,” said rising Bishop Hendricken senior Tom Comella. “It was really great to work on the chemistry with the receivers.”
While one team came out on top, the overall theme for teams was to find out where they are as they try to improve heading into the fall.
“Even though the head coach doesn’t coach it and it’s not real football, enough of it transitions. Coaches get to watch and get to evaluate the growth in kids,” said Dembowski. “You find out things about the kids that don’t really matter whether you win or lose.”