Bengals Take 7-on-7 Crown

Blythewood’s Dominique Lemon leaps in front of Westwood’s Darius Mccaskil and plucks the ball out of the air in last week’s Richland 1-Richland 2 7-on-7 tournament in Blythewood. (Kristy Kimball Massey)

BLYTHEWOOD – From a field crowded with some of the best competition in the Midlands, the Blythewood Bengals emerged Friday with the hardware in the Richland 1-Richland 2 7-on-7 tournament.

The Bengals topped Lower Richland in the title bout, keeping a handle on standout Diamond Hornets’ receiver Larry Collins in the process. The Bengals reached the championship game by knocking off A.C. Flora in a contest dominated by defense.

It was the final passing tournament of the summer for the Bengals, and head coach Dan Morgan said he was happy with the way it turned out.

“It was a good way to finish the summer,” Morgan said. “Overall, we had a good group of teams. The last couple of games were really competitive. The Flora game in the semifinals was kind of an unusual game. Nobody could catch the ball – on either side. And that junior wide receiver for Lower Richland, Collins, is just incredible.

“We looked good in the championship game,” Morgan said. “We’ve gone two weeks without playing in any tournaments, and it kind of showed. We came out a little slow.”

The Redhawks of Westwood also got their hands dirty Friday, winning two of their four games. Although it was not enough to take them into the finals, head coach Rodney Summers said he was pleased with the workout.

“We feel like it was a very productive summer and we got better in several positions,” Summers said.

For the Bengals, returning quarterback David Israel, a rising junior, has matured over the summer, Morgan said, gaining some additional experience in the system. Israel transferred into Blythewood last August, making the 2013 roster but without getting the summer workouts in the Bengals’ camp.

“His progression is so much better now,” Morgan said of Israel. “There’s still the tendency to throw the deep ball, and that’s one of the bad things about the 7-on-7 format – you’ve got all that time back there and you just want to throw it deep. But he finished strong and he’s starting to fix that. He’s got the potential to be one of the best quarterbacks in the state.”

The Bengals have a young receiving corps coming into the fall and Morgan said the tournaments have allowed his staff to get all of the candidates some reps, rotating a full stable of a dozen pairs of hands into the mix.

“They’ve grown up,” Morgan said. “All summer long, they’ve been earning their way. They’ve really developed. Sekwan Jenkins, a rising sophomore, has been a pleasant surprise. He’s starting to fit the mold of what we’re losing in Lynard Jamison. JoJo (Joseph) Richardson and Trae Churn had really good summers, and Eric Weaver is a beast at 6-3, 235 pounds. We’re blessed with a lot of talent.”

The mid-summer passing tournaments offer a lot of flash, speed and high-scoring. But next week coaches will get a better look at what their squads look like when the shoulder pads go on and the mouth guards go in.

“We won’t know for sure what we’ve got until we get the pads on and start scrimmaging next week,” Summers said.