It can be difficult at times for Gaithersburg High School safety Marc Smith to hold up on hits while playing in the Upper Montgomery County Passing League, but he and fellow safety Jake Thomas made sure to slow down on Thursday at Seneca Valley when receivers were in their vicinity.
When you're a physical safety, which Trojans coach Kreg Kephart said both Smith and Thomas are, the one-hand touch league can be a tease compared to the sport when pads are on.
“Sometimes you get tempted to hit somebody, but you have to play smart,” said Smith, a rising senior, who noted that a hit in seven-on-sevens results in a 15-yard penalty and a first down. “If you do that, you'll be fine. You won't hit anybody. But there's times you really want to and you know you just can't. You have to do what's best for the team.”
Kephart, who noted the biggest tease is the lack of linemen, said Smith was on the field plenty for the Trojans last season during a 3-7 campaign. Thomas, who also plays baseball, saw the field less because of injuries.
Kephart isn't concerned about the safeties being able to turn on the hitting once the pads are on.
“Both are guys that return with some experience and I know they'll come up and hit people,” said Kephart, Gaithersburg's coach since 2000. “I'm not worried about what I'm not seeing out here from them during seven-on-sevens.”
A baseball player, Thomas has been hitting the weight room more this year, Kephart said, and Smith has been a consistent presence at lifting sessions. Smith, about 5-foot-7, could play linebacker but is better used at safety.
“He's tough and strong,” Kephart said. “And at this level you can get away with that at linebacker.”
Smith said he and Thomas are interchangeable. Both can cover deep or move up in the box to stop the run, which he says should cause opponents problems while gameplanning.
While they can't hit, Smith said there is still plenty to work on during passing league.
Smith said he and Thomas are focusing on dropping into coverage, playing the ball in the air, breaking up passes and recognizing routes.
His biggest takeaway from Thursday's game against Richard Montgomery? They didn't allow any long passes.
“We're just fixing some mistakes from last season, like getting beat deep,” Smith said. “As you saw today, no deep balls. So pretty much we're just trying to improve every game.”
Just weeks removed from a tough end to the Screaming Eagles baseball season, Calvin Reighard is throwing a different ball around.
A pitcher for Seneca Valley, Reighard will be returning in the fall as the Germantown school's quarterback.
The time away was apparent during Thursday's seven-on-seven game against Quince Orchard — Reighard and the Eagles didn't score an offensive touchdown until double overtime — but there were flashes of the chemistry between he and standout wide receiver Kevin Joppy II when the Eagles went 10-2 last year. Joppy caught the touchdown pass on an out pattern on second down.
“He's rusty for sure now with the change of the throwing motion from baseball to football,” Seneca Valley coach Fred Kim said. “He's a little sore — they went deep into the playoffs in baseball and he was their No. 1 pitcher. So he's working it out pretty well. He's working to get it back a little more. He might have missed a few, but he got some good ones in as well.”
The Eagles used a hurry-up offense at times, which Kim said they ran almost exclusively last season, and moved the left-handed Reighard out of the pocket on roll-out passes. He threw passes while running both to his right and left.
When Reighard needed completions, he was looking to Joppy.
“[Joppy] is probably our most dynamic football player,” said Kim, who added that Joppy plays wide receiver, cornerback and returns kicks. “He's our guy and he gets it done out there. He makes some big plays for us.”
Javon Burriss Jr. had a pick-six off of Quince Orchard quarter Mike Murtaugh, intercepting the ball in the end zone and taking it the length of the field for the touchdown, the Eagles' only score in regulation.
Murtaugh, who was wearing a brace on his left knee because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament last season, ran after Burriss, nearly catching him near the sidelines at midfield, and didn't seem restricted by the brace.