NEWCASTLE — Newcastle football coach Keith Bolles calls it a blessing for his team the way it’s getting a chance to improve.
The Racers have advanced to the NFL National 7-on-7 Tournament starting Monday in Indianapolis as 1 of 32 teams.
“It’s better for our team to get together and go out of our comfort zone not doing what we’ve done before,” senior quarterback Casey Freeman said. “It’s been great.”
Newcastle is representing the Dallas Cowboys in the tournament, which features teams representing each NFL team from across the country over a three-day span.
The Racers won a 7-on-7 tournament in Dallas for the right to play for the Cowboys last month. Now they get an all-expense paid trip to the tournament.
“I know the kids are excited and that’s worth a lot,” Bolles said.
The experience will be memorable for the team, but the improvement on the field is what’s standing out right now.
The Racers went 8-4 last season, but this season move up to Class 4A District 1, which features defending champion Anadarko and perennial power Clinton.
“I think teams will know us more and I think we’ll be really prepared,” Freeman said. “It’s a stepping stone for us to get better for the higher competition because 4A is going to be better.”
Bolles said his team is improving on both sides of the ball, and it’s in large part to the varying type of athletes they’ve seen during this run.
“Defensively we see improvement because it’s automatic they know where to drop to in their zone coverage, they know who they have in man,” he said. “Offensively, truly it’s been great with the timing. It’s really helped us with our timing.”
Freeman, who threw for 1,289 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, said he feels more comfortable with receivers like Brady Davis, Gavin Garner, C.J. Hill and Kevin Rice among others on the 12-man 7-on-7 roster.
And if that chemistry keeps improving, the Racers are closer to being prepared for the rugged season that’s quickly approaching.
“It’s a big confidence booster,” Freeman said. “It would be big and a big statement to us that, ‘Here we are,’ (if we win it).”