There was something out of the ordinary that happened last weekend in high school sports -- a seven-on-seven all-star passing competition that took place the week after the Super Bowl.
Welcome to the era of year-round football.
According to Ron Allen, founder of B2G Sports, which bills itself as an "event production company" specializing in camps and training athletes, there are more than 40 teams in Southern California alone set to compete in all-star passing events.
Some are teams made up of players from a single school, such as Alemany High, which will be the "Mission Hills Warriors." Others are private organizations, such as B2G, which puts together all-star teams from players participating in its training program.
This isn't new but the proliferation of passing competitions in February, March and April, long before the real football season begins or even spring practice starts, has lots of high school coaches scrambling to adjust.
"These kids are going to play with club teams and I'd rather them stick together as a team," Alemany Coach Dean Herrington said. "If I have to take a few more weekends out of my time, oh well."
And that's what Herrington did last Saturday. He spent seven hours at Oxnard Rio Mesa, where his team won a passing competition, beating an all-star team from the Inland Empire. Herrington said each player paid $10 to participate. Herrington brought a camera to take video but forgot to bring the memory card. Hey, it was the earliest passing competition ever for the Warriors, so it's going to take some time getting used to.
These all-star events are looking more and more like an emulation of AAU basketball in putting together tournaments that feature all-star players while hoping to create buzz and exposure for athletes from college coaches.
"Everybody I talk to from high school to college coaches are concerned about it," Sherman Oaks Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney said. "Most of us would rather not have our kids involved, but you can't fault them for wanting to get better. I'd rather have them working with our receivers and our quarterbacks. We've had guys get hurt and the coaching they get is different."
While college coaches can't attend the events (it's a dead period), that doesn't mean video isn't shot and passed around, and with lots of college recruiting sites needing material to fuel the appetite of their readers, they're more than happy to come out and provide exposure to the events.
And parents and players love exposure. Some think starring in an all-star seven-on-seven passing event where there's no tackling will lead to a college scholarship.
But Allen said, "The main way a person earns a scholarship is a college coach watches game film [with the player in pads], makes an evaluation and brings in the rest of staff. It's a very lengthy process."
Some schools have seen players transfer after playing on all-star teams with players they became friends with, a common occurrence in high school basketball.
Allen said, "There's people posing as people of influence and trying to operate as agents."
His organization is sponsoring a passing competition on Monday at San Juan Capistrano JSerra, but he insists seven on seven isn't the main focus of B2G.
"What we are doing is preparing kids by teaching them skills so they can be better prepared for the high school season and college season, and that's what helps them earn a scholarship," he said.
Jordan Riordan, a standout defensive back from Los Angeles Loyola, is playing on an all-star team that includes players from Santa Margarita and La Puente Bishop Amat.
"I think it's good competition," he said. "I believe it gets you better for actual pads."
Perhaps the biggest concern of coaches is athletes working out too much. They practice with their school team during the week, then with their club team on the weekend. Stress fractures can occur from overuse of their bodies.
"When you've already worked out, you're over training," Corona Centennial Coach Matt Logan said.
Centennial was Southern California's No. 1 team last season but rarely competes in passing competitions. Logan holds workouts for his players.
Maybe others will follow Centennial's lead and hold off until the summer. But with passing tournaments already underway, it appears year-round football is here to stay.