EDWARDSVILLE – It was a first look at a new season of Monday Night Football, high school style, at the Edwardsville Sports Complex.

The Tigers’ football team had their first seven-on-seven passing scrimmages Monday night as preparations for the upcoming 2018 season swung into high gear. Edwardsville and five other schools – Civic Memorial, Cahokia, Belleville Althoff Catholic, Highland and Gateway STEM of St. Louis – participated in the scrimmages, which were 30-minute segments consisting of all-passing plays only backs and receivers on offense and linebackers and backs on defense.

“Oh, well you know what? We probably played the most kids we’ve played in seven-on-seven,” said Edwardsville coach Matt Martin. “We had first, second and third team kids in there, so there was a lot of positive. A lot of kids had the opportunity to show what they could do.”

The drills also gave the players and coaches a chance to see how other schools and systems work.

“Sure, it breaks up the monotony of training during the summer, too,” Martin said. “This is fun. You know, the weight room in practice is not always fun, so this is fun.”

And while the players are excited to go up against the other schools, it’s also important to play within your own system as well.

“If you want to win seven-on-sevens, you can get into two-man coverage, you would never be able to stop the running game out of two man,” Martin said, “but it’s a pretty good seven-on-seven defense. We don’t do that. We play what we play. We’re playing man in situations, we know it’s going to be tough. We’re playing zone in situations where it’s going to be tough, but we’re playing the coverage that we’ll play on Friday nights.”

And Martin is looking forward to a trio of returning running backs – Justin Johnson, Dionte Rodgers and Antonio Thigpen, Jr. – who each bring something different to the Tigers’ offensive schemes.

“Yeah, Justin, Dionte and Antonio Thigpen, they’ve all done a great job,” Martin said. “They’ve had great maturity level, worked very hard this summer. I’ve been very impressed with all of them. Coach (Bryan) Young does a good job with those guys.”

The trio has also competed with each other as well, which has brought out the best in them.

“You know what? Competition brings out the best in most of us, doesn’t it?,” Martin said. “It’s human nature to kind of rest on your laurels a little bit, but when you can create competition, it makes people have to compete.”

And you can look for Johnson, Rodgers and Thigpen to play key roles in the Tigers’ passing game this fall.

“I’ve been impressed; they’ve done a good job so far,” Martin said. “And we’re going to use them all in the passing game a little bit more, and I really think Dionte can shine in the passing game. He’s a kid that’s very difficult to guard his space.”

Dan Brannan also contributed to this story

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