Checking in on the football teams at Harnett Central and Triton following this week's 7-on-7 matchup.
ANGIER — There weren’t many spectators, cameras or even a scoreboard present during Wednesday’s passing exhibition at Harnett Central.
That’s just fine with first-year Central coach Cory Barnes, who welcomed the opportunity to see what his new team was made of during 7-on-7 drills against Triton and Holly Springs.
“We want to start hosting 7-on-7s to get good teams here to create that competition,” said Barnes, who took over the Trojans program in March.
“From spring practice to now, you’re just going against yourself. Between finding places to go to throw, and hosting them (scrimmages) here ... you get to see something different than the same color jerseys.”
Inheriting a Central team littered with new potential starters, Barnes was able to see glimpses of the future during the three-hour workouts.
Returning quarterback Aiden Taylor, coming off a trying 2-7 season last year, took almost all of the snaps as he tried to get comfortable with his new coaches’ spread attack while also adjusting to a fresh set of receivers.
“The biggest thing is, they’re starting to understand the offense a little bit,” Barnes said. “You can do whatever you want to in the spring, but until you start competing against other people you don’t really know exactly what you’re doing with offenses and different looks.”
Meanwhile, Triton coach Ben Penny enjoys a different outlook for his veteran-laden squad this summer.
The Hawks, who ended last season on a three-game win streak and finished above .500 in a tough All American Conference, found some encouraging moments during their first look at the cross-county rivals.
“Well, that was fun. We had a good game against them, and obviously with Coach Barnes just getting here ... he’s got some time and they’re gonna be a good football team,” Penny said.
He added that Wednesday was important because it was one of the few opportunities for starting QB Jalen Evans to get reps after he had taken on other obligations this summer.
Penny says Evans’ absence during the team’s other 7-on-7s earlier this offseason has, however, provided for more depth at the position.
“We want to be able to throw the ball more than we have in the past,” he said, noting how the current period allows Evans and company to establish proper timing.
Triton’s leading receiver returns in James Shaw, who Penny says is having a “tremendous summer” to this point after great showings, including last week’s passing showcase at North Carolina State University.
For the Trojans, Wednesday marked the first of two home 7-on-7s this month and allowed Taylor and fellow returner Tay’Shawn Moore to lead most of the offensive production. As the summer continues, they’ll be tasked with bringing along a host of talented newcomers like D.J. Moore and Logan Huffman, both of whom showed signs of playmaking ability downfield.
Barnes feels the biggest improvement with such a young team needs to come in the weight room.
“I told them it’s the only difference because you see them out here making plays,” he said. “I think that’s where we’re a little behind at right now is in our body. And they’ve been committed to it, they’ve been showing up and pumping iron, but it’s a process. It doesn’t happen overnight either.”
For Penny, the major concern facing his team also comes from a physical standpoint.
He says getting in game shape will be the utmost priority between now and the season opener less than two months away.
“Definitely the conditioning aspect of it,” Penny said. “As far as being in the playbook, and in the install right now, we’re ahead of schedule. ... Let’s go old school the rest of the summer. Let’s come out August 19 ready to play.”
Donnell Coley can be reached at email@example.com or 910-230-2040.