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At ACC 7-on-7, football teams look to have it covered

Geneva coach Rob Wicinski (right) said players "get immersed in a lot of football" at 7-on-7s such as the one held at Aurora Central Catholic on Saturday.
Geneva coach Rob Wicinski (right) said players "get immersed in a lot of football" at 7-on-7s such as the one held at Aurora Central Catholic on Saturday.

AURORA – Seven-on-seven football uses a number of scoring and rules changes that do not translate to a 48-minute game.

Still, there's one interval Geneva coach Rob Wicinski truly values, and it doesn't take him long to strum his beard and point it out.

Quarterbacks are supposed to release the ball within four seconds, so whenever Wicinski saw a Vikings defensive back or linebacker hold coverage in Saturday's 7-on-7 at Aurora Central Catholic, he nodded approvingly and stuck the data in his cap. Er, visor.

"Our offense can go out and throw, play pitch and catch any time on air," Wicinski said. "It's the defense. If you can find a kid that can cover out here ... he's going to be able to do it in the game when there's not quite as much time."

Closing the gap – on four seconds and on the quarterback in the pocket – starts up front with linemen such as Vikings senior defensive end Billy Douds.

Although Saturday's open offensive format kept Douds from rushing the passer or brushing up against any opposing offensive linemen, he saw the day as an opportunity to progress in his agility and reads.

"It's about the reps. Kids trying out new positions, getting reps on both sides of the ball," said Douds, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder who also saw time at tight end. "And kids who aren't maybe getting in on other 7-on-7s, this is a chance for them to get in. And it's a good chance to play other teams that we don't normally see."

One such team, Freeport, matched up against the Vikings as Streamwood, Geneva's Upstate Eight Conference River Division rival, warmed up to face another team in the early afternoon.

Glancing at the Geneva offense, a Sabres player looked at the quarterback and figured it was sophomore Nick Derr, a Florida State baseball recruit who started after Daniel Santacaterina broke his clavicle in a Week 3 loss at Batavia last season.

"It has to be," the player said. "Who else is that good of an athlete?"

Had he not been away from the team on another commitment, Santacaterina surely would have taken exception. He'll be back under center as a junior following a full recovery, with Derr set to start at quarterback for the sophomore team.

Mike Landi will be among those vying for the varsity backup spot.

"It's a competition. The competition's out," Wicinski said. Nick's priorites are just a little different. If he's OK, he's a great athlete and he'll play varsity football someday. Just not this year right now."

Counting the host Chargers, 22 teams committed to the 7-on-7, including Burlington Central and Wheaton Academy.

ACC coach Brian Casey touted the versatile mix of schools. Freeport Aquin was the smallest on hand, but on this day shared the ACC campus with schools such as four-time defending Class 5A champion Montini, Wheaton North and Geneva.

Casey called that group among the "flag-bearers, if you will, of success," and later added this about the event:

"We cover the spectrum in terms of size and location."

The Chargers did so for five hours – well more than four seconds. Now that's some 'D' to write home about.

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