EXETER, N.H. – No team showed better timing at Saturday's Northeast 7-on-7 Tournament than Methuen High School.
The Raiders were 28 yards from the end zone with eight seconds to play in the championship game, but scored as time expired to pull out a 26-25 victory over the Pingree School to win the tournament's North Regional at Exeter High School.
Methuen finished the tournament with a 6-1 record. The only loss came against Winthrop.
“This was a great experience,” Methuen coach Tom Tone said. “At some point during the season you're probably going see something that makes you say, 'Remember that 7 on 7? This team is running the same thing.' We played seven games and we saw seven different things.
“If you're not doing this stuff I think you're at a disadvantage, just because of how much you throw the ball in high school football these days. Especially in our league [Merrimack Valley]. You'd be a step behind.”
Saturday's event featured 32 teams from four New England states. There were 17 teams from Massachusetts, 10 from New Hampshire, four from Maine and one from Vermont. Salem and Essex, Vt., were the other semifinalists.
Pingree played with seven players, one of whom is an incoming freshman. At one point in the championship game Pingree was down to six players because one player was battling a cramp.
Exeter is one of three sites for the Northeast 7-on-7 Tournament. The tournament's East Regional will be held July 21 at Bishop Fenwick High School, and the South Regional will be played July 22 at Franklin High School.
By reaching the championship game, Methuen and Pingree each earned a trip to Gillette Stadium to compete for the New England championship on July 27.
Methuen's victory came one week after it lost to Central Catholic in the championship game at the Saint Anselm Shootout in Manchester, N.H.
“To be honest with you I was hoping to go to Gillette sometime in December, but I'll take another trip now,” Tone said.
FEELING DUCKY: It was a busy football weekend for Dover (N.H.) coach Ken Osbon, who was among the New Hampshire high school coaches who participated in Oregon coach Chip Kelly's golf tournament on Friday and then coached in Saturday's 7-on-7 event.
Kelly, who was born in Dover, attended high school at Manchester (N.H.) Central and was an assistant coach at the University of New Hampshire, spent the last few days in Portsmouth (N.H.) to visit friends and family. Osbon said he's happy to see the growth of 7-on-7 football in New England.
“Kids don't always throw the ball on their own, and this is an opportunity for them to throw the ball with their teammates,” Osbon said. “It gives the kids a chance to get our offense under their belt a little bit. When a kid makes a mistake you also get a chance to correct it immediately on the field, which is something you can't do in game situations. When we come to camp a lot of this stuff will carry over.
“These events are becoming more and more popular up here, but they've been popular down South for a long time. If other teams are going to do it you have to match up and compete or you're going to be left behind.”
END OF THE LINE: Buckingham Browne & Nichols tight end Brendan O'Neil was with his team in Exeter on Saturday, but didn't participate in the 7 on 7 because of a hamstring injury. O'Neil committed to Wake Forest in mid-June.
“We go to a lot of 7 on 7s and some we like more than others,” O'Neil said. “A big tournament like this is awesome, because you get to test yourself against good competition.
“Our offense is a mix of 7-on-7 plays and our regular plays we'll run this season. We have a sophomore quarterback and he has to get his timing down. We're putting in a whole new defense. We've already had a couple of meltdowns. It's better to have those meltdowns -- those breakdowns in coverage -- here, than during the season.”
GEARED UP: Players and coaches from each of the 32 teams received merchandise from Under Armour, the event's primary sponsor.
“I think the major draw for the tournament is the gear for the kids, as well as the competition,” tournament director Steve Dembowsksi said. “Exeter High School was an outstanding venue for this event and there were teams from four different states, so that will help this grow in New England. If Under Armour continues to support us we'll be back here next year, and this tournament is going to get bigger and better.”