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The St. Helena High football program hosted a 7-on-7 passing league competition against Napa High last Wednesday.

During the 75-minute session, the two teams took turns running offensive plays against their opponents’ defense. Each team got seven possessions on both sides of the ball.

No score was kept because the primary focus was on proper alignment, techniques and execution.

After struggling in the opening minutes, which the coaches attributed to nerves, the Saints improved throughout the remainder of the competition.

The Saints scored twice on the day with quarterbacks Daniel Martinez and Spencer Printz connecting with Henry Dixon and Cody DiTomaso punctuating the third and fourth offensive possession, respectively.

Saints, head coach Brandon Farrell was pleased with his team’s improvement throughout the course of the competition.

“It was a pleasant experience to see the kids grow and ascend throughout the whole scrimmage,” Farrell said. “We started out a little tentative, which I thought that we would not be as tentative coming out because we have some experienced players out there even though some of them are still young.”

St. Helena starting quarterback Daniel Martinez said that Napa looked different this year in drills than they did last year.

“They looked a lot more prepared and I think we just weren’t expecting that, and personally, I had the jitters at the beginning,” Martinez admitted, reflecting on the scrimmage after Monday’s practice. Martinez, like all of his teammates, improved as the competition progressed.

Farrell was also pleased with the play of the Saints’ JV players last Wednesday. He was reluctant to praise any player individually saying every player in attendance made plays. He added that the competition helped him and his assistant coaches begin to discover who they can get the ball to on offense in certain situations this season.

Farrell also said he has been pleased with the program’s progress this summer with an eye toward the season opener on Aug. 23 when the Saints will host St. Patrick-St. Vincent High of Vallejo.

“It’s been a really positive summer,” Farrell said. “The kids are getting stronger. That’s first. Team camaraderie is pretty high. We’re working hard. We’re really focusing on some different things than we ever have in the summer just because we know where we have to be and what teams we have to compete against to be able to be good. So we’re really concentrating on those things and I think that will pay dividends when we get into the season.

“But for us to come out and compete against some pretty good quality athletes that Napa has is a good thing, and we definitely played better at the end than we did at the beginning.”

Farrell is, however, keenly aware there is still much work to be done. Wednesday was just one of the first steps to build towards the season, and the Saints will continue to work hard in upcoming practices and ensuing 7-on-7 competitions. They’ll have two more 7-on-7 scrimmages – the first July 24 at Napa and the second at Justin-Siena on Aug. 1 – before the practices can officially begin on Aug. 5.

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