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Published 2:28pm Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Washington competes in up-tempo Cam Newton 7-on-7 tournament

CHARLOTTE — Since coming to Washington in 1996, head coach Sport Sawyer’s offensive methodology has been built upon his athletes’ ability to run the football. Throwing for just 917 yards, the conference champion Pam Pack tallied over 4000-yards rushing en route to a 12-3 overall record in their first season in the Eastern Plains Conference.

While Sawyer’s squad has ventured out of its comfort zone before, competing in Elon University’s passing league the last two offseasons, last week the Pam Pack set their course for The Queen City to try their luck at the Cam Newton Foundation 7-on-7 High School Tournament.

Washington competed in nine, 20-minute games against private and public schools from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, finishing the camp with a 3-5-1 record and ranked No. 14 out of 24 teams. For its effort, the team received a commemorative plaque, along with some Under Armor gear.

On the surface, the record may seem disappointing, but Sawyer says the up-tempo gameplay tested quarterback Patrick Thompson, who sat out last season to concentrate primarily on baseball.

“This camp opened up our eyes on some things that we need to adjust and do differently, but I thought the guys played really well,” Sawyer said. “If we had a couple weeks to go back and do things again, we would have done better. There were some true passing-type teams competing.”

Leaving the linemen at home, Washington’s receivers and defensive backs faced off against high-octane western competition, which included teams like Shelby, Butler and Spartanburg Dorman, a South Carolina team that would eventually take the 7-on-7 championship.

Under pressure, Thompson was forced to throw the ball in under four seconds, or the play would result in a sack. The secondary could also earn points through defensive stops and interceptions.

“I thought the defense did well,” Sawyer said. “We played mostly man, but we did some zone coverage as well. There are some things we need to work on, but we have Patrick, who looked good at times. So did the receivers.

Sawyer says Thompson benefitted from the increased pressure and the coaching staff liked what they saw out of their rising senior. Playing off Thompson’s strong arm and performance, the staff will likely work more passing plays into the offense for the upcoming season.

“We need to run sharper routes and define our routes a little bit better,” Sawyer said. “Patrick hasn’t done a passing league in over a year and he looked impressive.”

Tactics aside, the Washington players drew inspiration from the 6-foot-5 Panthers quarterback, as Newton encouraged students to focus primarily on academics and let football be a secondary undertaking.

Newton, who is recovering from ankle surgery, was without a cast and even jogged some route in the field.

Taking the week off, the Pam Pack will return to their condensed preseason workouts next week and will face Pamlico County in Bayboro July 10.

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