New quarterbacks show their stuff at 7on7 tournament
By Caleb Suggs
For the Enquirer
This past Thursday at Point Mallard wasn’t just about swimming, camping and golf, but football as well.
Several teams from across north Alabama gathered to compete in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ annual 7on7 football tournament.
Among the teams competing were four Morgan County schools: Austin, Hartselle, Priceville and Falkville.
In addition to all being from Morgan County, those four schools have another thing in common. They’ll all have new starting quarterbacks this fall.
The Austin Black Bears are in the midst of a quarterback battle with senior Judd Bailey and junior JL Davis vying for the open spot. Sophomore Qadir Lyle is also in the mix, but sits behind Bailey and Davis.
Coming into the offseason, head coach Jeremy Perkins said Bailey and Davis would receive equal reps until fall camp and, true to his word, that’s exactly what happened Thursday. Both players rotated equally with the first-team offense, and each showed flashes of why he should be the signal caller for the Black Bears this fall.
“They’re learning and growing,” said Perkins. “They threw some good balls and made some good reads. They also made some mistakes that hopefully they’ll learn from.”
“Today is important to allow us to see how they lead the offense, how they handle mistakes. Every play counts,” Perkins said of the 7on7 play affecting a decision on the starter.
When asked if Bailey and Davis were still neck-and-neck Perkins said “Yes, absolutely.”
Austin’s opponent to start the season, the Hartselle Tigers, were also competing at the tournament. Unlike the Black Bears, however, Hartselle knows who its starter will be.
Landon Blackwood will lead the Tigers, who are coming off a 12-1 season, this fall. Blackwood is the younger brother of JT Blackwood, who started for the Tigers in 2021 and threw for over 2,000 yards and 26 total touchdowns while earning the Decatur Daily’s Player of the Year award. Landon Blackwood will be replacing Jack Smith, who also threw for over 2,000 yards and accounted for 36 total touchdowns.
But while the Tigers may know who their quarterback will be, Thursday was still an opportunity to figure out who will fit in key roles.
Hartselle will be replacing its top three receivers from a season ago. Izayah Fletcher and Eli Tidwell had over 900 and 1,000 yards receiving respectively. Blackwood was the team’s third receiver, in addition to being the backup quarterback.
“Our top three guys are gone, so it’s a whole new group out there,” said Hartselle head coach Bryan Moore. “Playing in 7on7’s like this helps Landon to build that trust so he can know who he can go to.”
“It also helps us figure out what scheme we want to run because, with all new guys, what worked last year may not be what’s best for this year,” Moore added.
To his credit, Blackwood had a strong day, throwing several long touchdowns during pool play.
Another team replacing a star quarterback is the Falkville Blue Devils. Caden Burnett is gone after throwing for over 2,000 yards and accounting for 36 total touchdowns.
Normally, replacing a player of that caliber at the 2A level would give a coach a headache, but head coach Seth Ward was at ease.
“Fortunately for us, Landon Powers is a guy that we’ve been getting ready for this moment. He’s started games for us before and two years ago he played basically the whole game in a big region game against Tanner. We have complete faith in him,” said Ward. “I think the biggest issue for us is figuring out who will replace the losses we had at positions around him.”
On Priceville’s side, Jake England was the new guy leading the offense.
Head coach Chris Foster said England performed well. However, since Priceville’s offense is 90% running the ball, Thursday’s 7on7 was more for the defense according to Foster.
“It does a great job of preparing our defense for what they might see in the season,” said Foster. “We don’t throw the ball a lot, so sometimes we struggle to simulate teams that do. This helps us with that.”