Some of the best high school football talent in New England will gather at Exeter (N.H.) High School on Saturday, where the third annual Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 tournament will kick off with the North Regional.
Exeter is one of three tournament sites. The South Regional will be held Sunday at Oliver Ames High School in North Easton, and the East Regional will take place July 27 at Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody. Each site will feature 40 teams.
“These 7-on-7 tournaments are really big in other parts of the country, and they're starting to grow here,” Dover (N.H.) coach Ken Osbon said. “If other teams are doing it, you have to do it or you're going to be left behind.”
The finalists from each regional and four wildcard teams will advance to the New England 7-on-7 championship, which will be held July 30 at Bishop Fenwick.
Three states -– Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire -– will be represented in Exeter. Each team is guaranteed four games in pool play, and then two teams from each pool will advance to the single-elimination portion of the event. The first games are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.
St. John's Prep of Danvers and Exeter are among the teams that will compete in the North Regional. St. John's Prep, which won last year's Division I Super Bowl, has the top-ranked recruit from Massachusetts in running back Johnathan Thomas. Thomas has committed to the University of Maryland.
Exeter has defeated Pinkerton Academy of Derry in New Hampshire's last two Division I championship games. For Exeter, which runs a Straight-T offense, competing in 7-on-7 tournaments is as much about defense as it is the passing game.
“There are a lot of spread teams out there,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said. “It helps your linebackers and the secondary.”
The field also includes Methuen, which defeated The Pingree School of South Hamilton to win last year's North Regional.
Marshwood High School of South Berwick, Maine, reached the Class B championship game last season and is also entered. Former Longmeadow coach Alex Rotsko is entering his second year as Marshwood's head coach. Rotsko guided Longmeadow to 11 Super Bowl championships in 19 seasons.
“We came last year and the kids loved it,” York, Maine, coach Randy Small said. “It allows your quarterback and his receivers to work on their timing. The competition is great. Makes you better.”