Coronavirus in Polk: Summer football camps, tourneys under spotlight – Sports – News Chief

With the threat of the coronavirus pandemic looming to cancel spring football this year, coaches and tournament organizers might find themselves placing more importance on summer 7-on-7 tournaments and linemen camps provided the sport is given the green light to begin activities by July .

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WINTER HAVEN – Right now, everything is up in the air except the football, and that could become grounded as well.

With the threat of the coronavirus pandemic canceling spring football this year, coaches and tournament organizers might find themselves placing more importance on summer 7-on-7 tournaments and linemen camps, provided the sport is given the green light to begin activities by July .

“I think it will be vital to get kids out getting snaps and throws,” said Victory Christian head coach Kendrick Stewart, whose team finished as the Class 2A state runner-up this year. “I wasn’t a big 7-on-7 guy, but if we lose spring, it will be something we definitely need to get honed in on.”

Former Lake Wales and Warner University coach Rod Shafer has run the Florida Down and Dirty Lineman Camp for years at Webber International University, and right now it is still moving forward with two sessions slated June 23-25 and June 26-28.

Shafer said if spring football were canceled and he was flooded with registration requests, he would consider creating a third session if given the go-ahead by governing officials. Right now, his registration caps at 350 players per session.

“We would do it if we had room space at Webber,” Shafer said. “We would if we could and we could have a commuter camp. Generally, at Webber, the kids stay overnight.

“Right now I have to order jerseys and t-shirts and put a down payment on the facility. If they say we can hold no camps at Webber or other colleges, then I am going to get stuck for about $8,000.

There are several tournaments planned for Polk County this summer, and one of them, the Wayne Gandy High School 7 on 7, is looking to expand and become the premier tournament in the state with up to 30 teams this year and more in the near future.

“We want to get as many Polk teams as we can first,” said Tenoroc assistant coach Irving Strickland, who is the organizer for both the Gandy and the annual Billy Dee Polk County 7v7 tournament. “We are looking to get teams from all over the state of Florida, and start by inviting the teams which made it to the state championship game.

“If we lose the spring, and I haven’t heard anything yet, but my opinion is we are, and then we will have a bigger turnout for 7-on-7 than in the past.”

Strickland said this year’s Gandy Tournament, slated for July 11, will offer $2,000 for the winning team, $1,000 to the runner-up and $500 each for the third- and fourth-place teams, with checks payable as a donation to the school or booster club and earmarked for the football program.

It will cost $250 to enter the tournament, and the payout could entice more teams to shy away from the big-campus college competitions and steer their team buses toward Polk County.

“Orlando Evans has already confirmed it will play. We want to reach out to Orlando and Hillsborough County schools, down south to Booker T. Washington, St. Thomas Aquinas and Miami Northwestern and up north to Tallahassee as well,” Strickland said.

“Our goal is to have our phone ringing off the hook getting teams from South Alabama and Georgia. We want to make this the premier tournament.”

The Gandy tournament hopes to use eight fields, including six at Haines City High School and two across the street at Boone Middle School. The Polk 7v7 tournament will be played at either Tenoroc or George Jenkins and was slated for June 13.

“If they don’t let us go in June, I am going to push the Polk County tournament back. I might even push it back to the end of July,” Strickland said.

“I know how it important it is for kids to get reps if we lose spring. Not just throwing the football, but getting their minds stable and back into football mode.”

Stewart, who has a very large coaching staff at Victory, said they have already begun thinking about summer workouts, which would include virtual reviews on Hudl and social distancing for weight room activities. But for right now, they are just ideas.

“If we go worst-case scenario, we thought about doing workouts through Hudl, where we can film ourselves and it creates a fun atmosphere,” he said.

“We have thought about the possibility of creating some weight stations, with some on the bench, some on platforms and then some outside and then rotating around.”

Jenkins head coach Chris Canning said getting players into safe-and-sound playing conditions before the season starts should be paramount in the decision making.

“The idea is to have the kids go into the season in sound shape because you run the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke,” Canning said. “Maybe the FHSAA or medical doctors may say you guys might need to consider pushing back the start date to the season.

“In our case, we would be trying to get a new quarterback ready. … I think the importance of the tournaments, workouts and Down and Dirty camps will become a lot more important for the kids because everything right now is erased.”

Registration for the Down and Dirty Camp is ongoing at

Bill Kemp can be reached at; follow him on Twitter @BillKempSports.

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