Just Do It: East places third at NIKE Football Festival
Saturday's NIKE Football Festival at Craig Ranch and the Michael Johnson Performance Center in McKinney was a unique event as it featured not only the typical 7-on-7 structure, but five other events.
That uniqueness drew rave reviews.
"The whole day was an absolute blast," said Jeff Fleener, Allen offensive coordinator. "The kids, parents, coaches, everybody enjoyed it."
Plano East head coach Johnny Ringo concurred.
"The kids loved it," he said. "You got a tent with your team's name on it, there were plenty of activities to keep everyone busy; it was just a heck of an event."
Making the day even more enjoyable for the Panthers was the fact they finished third overall in an event that factored in points for 7-on-7, quarterback challenge, lineman challenge, wide receiver best hands competition, SPARQ challenge (vertical jump, power ball toss, 40-yard dash and the 5x10x5) and place kicker challenge.
"We got 30 kids involved in this event," Ringo said. "I think it was especially fun for the linemen because they never get to go to these."
Among the standouts for East was Parker Hunt, who caught 35-of-38 passes during the best hands competition, which featured a JUGS machine firing footballs out at a variety of angles.
Hunt also played a part in the marquee event of the competition: 7-on-7.
Taylor McGehee and Anthony Maioriello split time at quarterback early on as presumptive starter Mario Smalls was taking the ACT test. The Panthers, who were also without leading returning wide out Collin Shaw, proved no worse for wear with the adjustment as the team picked up wins over Irving MacArthur, Melissa, Denton and Austin Westlake.
"That Westlake win was a big one," Ringo said.
East was bounced from 7-on-7 competition by DeSoto, which was the overall winner of the NIKE Football Festival, but felt good about its 4-1 run.
"I think events like this definitely serve their purpose," Ringo said. "It's fun because we know it isn't do or die, but at the same time you can definitely build up some confidence that can be carried over and pay dividends in the fall if you look at things in the proper perspective."
Panthers, Wildcats in Wylie SQT
East will have another chance to display its 7-on-7 skills Friday as the Panthers take part in the Wylie State Qualifying Tournament.
East will see a familiar foe at this event as Plano Senior gets in on the SQT circuit. The top two teams from the event will advance to the 15th annual Division I FOX Sports Southwest 7-on-7 State Championship Tournament, which is July 20-21 at Texas A&M.
This one of just two SQTs for the Panthers this summer.
"We wanted to do them both in June," Ringo said, "so the kids can still have a summer."
Plano is in Pool C alongside Wylie East (which has already qualified for state), Mesquite and Jesuit while East is set to be in Pool D with Mesquite Poteet, West Mesquite and Arlington Martin. Future district foe McKinney is also part of the 16-team field. Pool play begins at 5 p.m. Friday. The winner of each pool, assuming they haven't already qualified for state, will advance to the semifinals, which are set for 8:30 p.m. with the finals to follow at 9:20 p.m.
After missing players at the Colleyville Heritage SQT due to SAT testing and Saturday in McKinney because of the ACT, East should be complete Friday.
"We will have our full contingent in Wylie," Ringo said.
But as has been the message for the Panthers all summer, results alone won't dictate the success of the event.
"Our focus continues to be getting better as a group and not just individuals," Ringo said. "If we can do that and qualify for state, then that's just a bonus."