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Area football teams square off at FCA passing camp
Chestatee High rising senior David Jones, right, cheers on Julio Arteta, also a senior, at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Passing Camp Saturday at Johnson High. Football players from eight different local schools were in attendance. - photo by SARA GUEVARA


Hall County FCA director Jason Lester talks about the benefits of the FCA camp for area football players Saturday at Johnson.


Lumpkin County football coach Tommy Jones talks about the highlights of participating in the 7-on-7 camp against the competition in Region 7-AAA.


East Hall football coach Bryan Gray talks about the benefits of playing in a passing camp with teams the Vikings will see in the regular season.

OAKWOOD When the East Hall and Chestatee football teams wound up in a goal-line situation Saturday at Johnson High School, it only helped magnify the difference between the camp the teams were competing in and a normal Friday night under the lights.

There was no need for a scoreboard. Nobody was keeping track of a time clock. And there certainly wasn’t the distraction of fan noise from the stands.

As part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes 7-on-7 camp, the Vikings and War Eagles were able to work on real game situations wearing shorts, jerseys and helmets, as they get prepped for practice, which begins in two weeks. The eight-team camp that filled both practice fields at Johnson included East Hall, Chestatee, Lakeview Academy, West Hall, Lumpkin County, White County, Johnson and Gainesville. The teams competed in two-hand touch games.

Being the end of summer conditioning, the execution was not as sharp as it hopefully will be when the games count. For every nice diving catch, there were also teammates running into one another.

"It’s a great, positive camp that the FCA and (Hall County director) Jason Lester put on for the kids to help wrap up the summer," East Hall coach Bryan Gray said. "It’s a good way for the kids to build confidence."

It was also a relaxed atmosphere for most of the Hall County schools to be able to compete and show different schemes that they’ll display during the regular season. The FCA camp also gave some players that aren’t going to see much playing time on Friday nights, a chance to get in the game.

"The best thing is that it’s a chance to go against a team wearing a different color jersey," Red Elephants coach Bruce Miller said. "It’s kind of one last hoorah before we start practice."

There were also some very obvious differences in how the game was conducted. When Chestatee lined up at the 5-yard line against East Hall, War Eagles quarterback Ethan Souther didn’t do the normal quarterback-center exchange, instead taking the snap from coach Stan Luttrell.

On the back side of the end zone, Gray was able to give his Vikings instruction without having to yell it out  like on Friday nights. He liked the fact that three different times his defensive backs, including Judd Robinson and Ariel Negron, were able to break up Chestatee’s passing attempts.

But Chestatee was able to make the most of its next drive, completing a pass down to the goal line. Despite scores not being kept, the nice plays still pulled a little bit of excitement out of the coaches and players.

"The best thing about today is that when someone makes a mistake, someone is there to pick them right back up," White County coach Gregg Segraves said. "Everyone knows no one wins a championship in July."

The biggest change to this year’s FCA 7-on-7 camp was the addition of a lineman challenge. Chestatee offensive line coach Matt Stowers ran the "bull pull" for lineman, which put two players harnessed together, trying to pull each other over a line in a tug-of-war type event.

It drew some of the most cheers, as players rooted on their teammates to try to out-muscle the competition.

Johnson rising junior lineman E.J. Wright won bragging rights as king of the bull pull event.

"We did 10 or 15 events over the summer and this is the only one where the linemen got involved, which is great," Gray said. "Those big bodies need work too."

Players were also met with a Christian message by Free Chapel Worship Center associate pastor of church relations, Javon Ruff. The former Stephens County athlete shared his personal testimony of getting pulled in by the temptations of drugs and alcohol during his high school career, Segraves said. Ruff shared his message to help more athletes avoid the mistakes he made in the past.

"This was an awesome day for football, and to also share the spiritual side that we want to get across to the players," Lester said. "With FCA we want to share a message of unity, and we feel like this is the best way to get the kids together."

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