Concord football hosts area teams for scrimmages as the official start of the season approaches

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 07-31-2023 9:36 PM

CONCORD – High school football players can’t put on their pads just yet. With the overbearing heat and humidity this summer, that’s probably been a good thing. 

But four area teams – Concord, Bow, Merrimack Valley and John Stark – wrapped up their fourth and final week of 7-on-7 scrimmages at Rundlett Middle School on Thursday night. No pads, no helmets, no tackling. Just football like it’s played in the backyard.

The style certainly has its limitations – after all, there’s only so much you can work on without an offensive or defensive line in place. Still, the coaches like it for how hands-on they can be when a defender is slightly out of a position or a quarterback misses an open receiver.

“This is a great opportunity when it’s very controlled, where we see something that maybe didn’t go so well, we can stop. We can reset. We can walk kids through,” Concord head coach Jim Corkum said. “It’s a lot of teaching, a lot of reps. It’s really valuable to do during the summer.”

It also helps coaches start to get a sense of the players they’ll have to work with for the upcoming season. For a team like Bow that graduated 14 seniors off its roster from last year, some of the younger players have the chance to show off a little of what they can do.

“It answers some questions for us in terms of the skill sets, the skill level that we have with newer players, a bunch of whom were freshmen last year,” said Falcons head coach Paul Cohen. “But as one of my assistants often says, you gotta wait until you put the pads on to really see what you have. But at least from a pass defense and pass offense situation, we have some skill. We’re also young. We know that, and we have a lot of work to do.”

The NHIAA season officially gets underway on Aug. 11 when teams can hold their first padded practices. That’s when teams like the Tide will gain a better sense of what their quarterback situations will look like.

With the graduation of last year’s starting QB Zack Doward, the Tide have an open competition between rising senior Levi Madison and rising junior Colby Nyhan.

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So far, Corkum said, they’ve split reps, and that will continue at the start of padded practices.

“I think they both had a pretty good summer so far,” he said. “They’ve both been committed, here every week. Both doing some good things, both have some things to work on. We’ll evaluate that as we go through our preseason camp.”

One spot Concord will not have to worry about, though, is running back, where rising senior Eli Bahuma led the way for the Tide offense last season. He finished atop all of Division I with his 1,536 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns.

At Thursday’s practice, he reminded everyone of his talents, frequently juking around and blowing past defenders. With no real run game in 7-on-7, two-hand touch football, he took most reps as a receiver, something the Tide could employ more of during the season.

“I think if Eli wanted to, he could be a good receiver too,” Corkum said. “He’s got great hands. I think it just makes us better for him to know a variety of positions, so if he needs to split out in the slot once in a while, (or) if he’s running some pass routes out of the backfield, that just makes us a little bit more dynamic as an offense.”

Of course, there’s a limit to how much coaches can take away from these sessions. But for players who’ve been gearing up for the start of the season for months, it can at least excite them about what’s to come.

“In this situation, it’s extremely artificial because you don’t have a line, you don’t have pads on,” Bow’s Cohen said. “Over the four weeks we saw improvement, but as I just told them, obviously we have a long ways to go, as does everybody. This is just to get them into football mode during the course of the summer where there are so many other distractions. After today, they really need to start thinking about our preseason coming up next month.”

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