FAIR HAVEN — While many teams across the state have to alter a lot of what they do to compete in 7-on-7 football this fall, Fair Haven isn’t phased.
The Slaters have long been a team known to pass the ball, so fitting into the pass-only mold 7-on-7 presents isn’t a huge adjustment for the group.
“We’ve done a lot of 7-on-7 in the past. It’s something we’ve always integrated in our practices,” said Fair Haven coach Jim Hill.
While the major change from full contact to touch football this fall has brought mixed feelings across the state, Fair Haven is taking it stride.
“It’s been fun. The linemen are having fun learning different skill sets than they’re used to,” Hill said.
The Slaters have a trio of quarterbacks getting work in the early practices and each provides a different look.
Evan Reed returns for his senior season under center.
“(Evan’s) loves to throw, so he’s excited to show off his arm during this season,” Hill said.
Sophomore Sawyer Ramey will also see time at quarterback. Hill envisions Ramey working a lot with the linemen, during their two quarters as receivers in the 7-on-7 game.
“(Sawyer) was one of the top athletes in the state as a freshman and helped lead the basketball team to a state title,” Hill said. “He does a lot of the same things on the football field.”
Freshman Joe Buxton is also in the mix. Hill noted how Buxton is a “tall, athletic kid who is getting his feet wet” with the Slaters. Buxton comes from a long line of quarterbacks at Fair Haven, so his potential is high.
Kohlby Murray and Zack Ellis will line up in the slot for the Slaters. Like Ramey, both are standout guards in basketball and translate that quickness to the gridiron.
Sam Worthing started last year and returns as a receiver, as does Levi Ryan, who tore his ACL last fall, but returns at full strength.
Reilly Flanders is normally a running back, and will return to that position next year, but he’ll play tight end this fall.
Defensively, Fair Haven will play a nickel and dime defense all year. Hill talked about the versatility of Ellis, a linebacker who can also play some safety if they need in certain coverages.
Hill said the team is carrying close to 40 guys. They anticipated 50 if the season was normal 11-on-11, but he’s happy with the numbers he has.
Hill expects about 25 guys to play on varsity, while the rest will find a home on junior varsity.
Even though the Slaters are playing 7-on-7 this fall, they aren’t forgetting about teaching the skills essential to the regular 11-on-11 game. That development can’t be lost given the expectation is to return to 11-on-11 next fall.
“We’ve been working on the fundamentals of football,” Hill said.
Fair Haven opens up at home against Mount Anthony on Friday, Sept. 25. The Slaters ended a promising MAU season last fall in the Division II quarterfinals.
The regional scheduling model put in place due to COVID-19-related reasons has created some fun matchups for the Slaters.
Games against Division I opponents like Rutland, Burr and Burton and Middlebury loom on their nine-game schedule.
“It’s exciting. We love the challenge,” Hill said. “I’m a graduate of Rutland, so I know how well their program is run.
“BBA has been one of the best teams in the state for the last decade. I have nothing but respect for their coaching staff.”
Other local matchups like Poultney, Otter Valley and Mill River should prove to be fun as well.
“In 7-on-7, it takes the physicality out of it, so if you have a kid that can sling and and someone who can go and get it, you could be dangerous,” Hill said.
It’s something new to get used to, but the Slaters are ready for the challenge.