OAK LAWN | With the end of another high school year barely in the past, it might seem odd to refer to the 2012 prep football season as being right around the corner.
Then again, maybe not.
Players from 10 area high schools gathered Saturday morning with just that frame of mind to partake in 7-on-7s at the Richards Bulldog Passing Tournament. Players dressed in shirts and shorts without helmets or pads to reinforce the guidelines of limited contact during the four opportunities to run and defend plays against a rotating set of foes.
"I feel coming here is very important," said Thornton Fractional South quarterback Peyton Padjen. "I feel it is important to get in reps, especially early in the summer, so you can quickly build team chemistry."
T.F. South scrimmaged against four schools during the three-hour event, a group that included Class 8A 2011 playoff teams Hinsdale Central, Marist and Sandburg. Mount Carmel also had a chance to run its plays against Hinsdale Central, who the Caravan knocked off in the first round of last year's playoffs.
The camp is one in a constellation held prior to the first days of official practice in mid-August. The Richards camp was a quick detour for players from T.F. South, who are also in the opening days of their own 18-day camp. The Rebels will conclude the camp circuit as it usually has at Bolingbrook.
"There is always room for improvement, so coming to these camps is a way to see what I need to work on," said T.F. South senior Drakkar Frazier, who like Padjen, often scrimmaged on both sides of the ball. "I'm hoping we can get past Crete-Monee first, continue to improve our play, and hopefully make it to the playoffs."
Mount Carmel coach Frank Lenti has a broader view of the summer camps. For Lenti, who set an IHSA record with his 307th game as a coach last season, the camps are merely the first step in a very long journey, a journey for the Caravan that concluded with a Prep Bowl win last season.
"Camps like these are really for yucks and giggles," Lenti said. "What gets me going is when we get to July, and we start teaching our offense and defense and our kicking game. This is really just to let the kids run around, have fun and get to know each other."