Summer Passing League All About the Reps
The months of June and July are an important time for two quarterbacks expected to engineer the offenses of their local high school football teams beginning in August.
Rising junior Travis Scales of Pinecrest and rising senior Taylor O’Neil of Union Pines are in the midst of a busy summer that will include a team camp, quarterback camps and 7-on-7 competitions. Both provided promising performances at Saturday’s fourth annual Pinecrest Air Raid Passing Tournament.
The defending champion Patriots were eliminated in the quarterfinal round by Durham Hillside, while the Vikings and the Patriot No. 2 squad fell in the round of 16. Carrboro defeated Southern Durham in the championship game.
Each team played seven 30-minute touch football games on 40-yard fields on the hot day. The quarterbacks and receivers had the edge on the defensive backs, and the touches were a little more emphatic than usual when the rival Patriots and Vikings met in the last game of the round robin portion of the competition.
During a furious final 10 minutes, O’Neil twice connected with Chris Rubinowski for touchdowns, sandwiching a Scales to Raphael Alston score. That exciting action gave the Vikings a 20-18 lead. But on the first play after the second Rubinowski TD, Scales dropped a long ball into the hands of Marshall Smith for a 40-yard touchdown. The Patriot defense held on for a 24-20 victory.
“It’s a good opportunity to see competition, get better and reflect on how your day went,” O’Neil said afterward. “All the receivers bring it from the weight room and carry it onto the field.”
The 6-foot, 170-pound O’Neil was the starting signal caller for the Vikings last season. In addition to Rubinowski, a wrestling standout, another favorite target on Saturday was Tim Vean, a newcomer at Union Pines.
“They got a ton of reps, and we got the opportunity to see speed we don’t see day-to-day in practice,” Viking head coach Ryan Riggan said. “Taylor got to see other defenses and the way they move around. He has great hands and an incredible work ethic. I’m real proud of the way our guys showed up to compete against those teams and didn’t back down.”
O’Neil has already attended a camp at Elon and another one put on by Under Armour. In addition to the Viking team camp at Western Carolina in July, he also plans to receive tutoring at Davidson and Randolph Macon. Viking assistant coach Drew Anker threw for over 2,000 yards as the Pinecrest quarterback in 2000 and 2001 and has college experience.
Riggan will be looking for more performances like the one O’Neil put together in the first half of a midseason game against Western Harnett last fall. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 123 yards before being injured on the last Viking offensive play of the half.
Union Pines will travel to Pinecrest for a regular season game on Aug. 27. Patriot head coach Chris Metzger was impressed with the way the Viking quarterback attacked his defense on Saturday.
“Taylor O’Neil is an awesome kid and a great leader,” he said. “We’re going to be rooting for him every game but one.”
Fifty-nine Pinecrest players returned from a team camp at Appalachian State on Thursday.
“We got up every morning at 4:23 on the dot,” senior tight end Steven Dean said. “We were up on the field at 4:50. I think we were the best team up there and worked the hardest. The last day of scrimmages gets us hyped up, sets our season.”
After starting at quarterback for the Patriot freshmen team in 2008, Scales took only a handful of snaps as one of the backups to Ben Williams last season. As the starter at right outside linebacker, he led the Patriots with seven sacks and was among the leaders in tackles. The 6-1, 200 pounder thinks the experience of being a defensive regular will help make him a better quarterback.
“When I played freshman ball, all I tried to do was juke and break past people,” he said. “I’m more of a physical player now, trying to run people over like a ball carrier.”
With no tackling permitted on Saturday, analysis of defenses and execution was the order of the day. Seniors Patrick Moore, Kyle Ocheltree, Alston and Smith, and junior Dannie Monroe were Scales’ main targets. In the quarterfinal loss to Hillside, Scales was out-pitched by Vad Lee, one of the state’s top college prospects.
“What you get out of 7-on-7 is you see every coverage known to man,” Metzger said. “You see different looks, you see different disguises. It allows Travis to grow as a quarterback and a leader.
“He has the rare mixture of touch and a strong arm. He’s willing to listen and learn and obviously he’s got a great pedigree.”
While Travis was a freshman in 2008, his brother Josh, now a member of the football team at Fayetteville State, was the varsity quarterback and a team leader. A more emotional athlete, Travis admires his brother’s calm demeanor.
“Josh taught me most of my techniques,” Travis said. “He knows how to let it go and not get caught up in anything. When they beat Richmond (2008), he showed no emotion. I’ve learned from stuff like that.”
Scales is scheduled to attend one-day camps at South Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest. With the fielding of a second squad in Saturday’s tournament, rising sophomores Matt Epley and Eli Black also saw action at quarterback for the Patriots.
“We’re real happy with the kids’ attitude and effort,” Metzger said. “They got a lot of football in last week.”
Pinecrest host Union Pines, Jack Britt and Green Hope for a tournament Wednesday at 6 p.m.
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