GLASGOW, Kentucky – The Macon County High football program is run-oriented.

However, the Tigers have been pass-happy in July as they’ve been preparing for the upcoming season with 7-on-7 competitions.

“At the end of the day, we are a run-first football team,” Macon County head coach Kyle Shoulders said. “It’s extremely valuable for us for the simple fact of learning how to compete. I feel like that may be something Macon has struggled with for some time.

“We got great effort last year, but we have to continue to learn how to compete.”

The Tigers competed in a three-team 7-on-7 with host Barren County (Kentucky) and Hart County (Kentucky) on July 16.

MCHS sent most of its varsity players to Murfreesboro five days earlier to compete in the Riverdale Warriors 7-on-7 Challenge, while many of the younger players went to Jackson County on the same day for 7-on-7 competition.

“Sending a team to Jackson County and being able to utilize our JV (junior varsity) again (at Barren County) … they’ll enjoy being able to come out and compete instead of staying home and just working out,” Shoulders said. “It’s invaluable in learning how to compete, getting some experience and getting in shape.”

Then, Macon County concluded its passing competition by competing in the Best of the West 7-on-7, a 20-team event held last weekend in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The Tigers reached the semifinals in that event.

“It’s an opportunity for us to see talent we may not see until the first, second or third round of the playoffs,” Shoulders said. “We haven’t cowered down to the talent. At no point did I feel like we were intimidated.

“Seeing the talent in Riverdale and Hopkinsville, hopefully, by Aug. 23 (the date of the team’s season opener), the game slows down a little.”

The Tigers didn’t give up a touchdown on its opening, 10-play defensive series against Barren County, with junior Ethan Jenkins intercepting a pass at the goal line.

Then, Macon County turned around and scored on three of its first eight plays against Hart County, with Jenkins catching a 40-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jon Mark Gammons on the first play.

Gammons received the majority of the snaps at quarterback, after he and Jenkins alternated series during the team’s spring scrimmage at Greenbrier.

Six plays after Jenkins’ touchdown, Mercer caught a 17-yard touchdown pass in the back of the end zone and followed that up by leaping over a defender for a 40-yard scoring reception on the next play.

On the Tiger offense’s second series of 10 plays against Hart County, Jenkins caught a 3-yard touchdown pass before Mercer made another leaping touchdown catch for a 28-yard score.

Mercer is playing football for the first time since junior high.

“In the passing game, he has shown that he is one of the most dynamic pass catchers we have,” Shoulders said. “I’m interested in seeing how he reacts when we put the pads on. We’re going to ask you to block in the run game as much as catch in the passing game, but I feel confident throwing any route to him because he is so aggressive with his hands.”

Hart County scored once on its ensuing series of downs, but Jenkins also had an interception during that 10-play series.

“We talked about starting fast after we started slow the other day (at Riverdale), and we responded and did that,” Shoulders said. “In return, we kind of dwindled off at the end. That’s part of our lack of experience. The other day, once we got started, we kept rolling. Hopefully, we can put it all together.

“We have grown since our competition at Riverdale.”

The teams alternated 10-minute sessions later in the evening, with two teams playing for 10 minutes before a third came on to the field for another 10-minute competition.

Macon County was victimized offensively by a pair of interceptions.

However, Mercer grabbed a 27-yard touchdown, and junior tight end Landon Whittemore had touchdown receptions of 11 and 9 yards.

On the final play of the evening, Hunter Herron caught a quick pass from Jenkins in the left flat and split a pair of defenders, racing to the end zone to complete the 40-yard score.

“Last year, I felt like I had one dude (senior wide receiver Chris Oliver) to go to in the passing game,” Shoulders said. “Now, I feel confident going to any of them. They all have playmaking ability from sideline to sideline.”

Whittemore and senior Isaac Belton also intercepted passes later on during the competition.

“We’re miles ahead of where we’ve been,” Shoulders said. “From a mentality standpoint, we have talked about the work we put in the weight room to get stronger. We have to become more mentally strong too. That comes with maturity.

“Starting slow or finishing slow … a lot of that goes back to our mindset.”

The Tigers have three scrimmages this fall – against Forrest, Portland and Rhea County – before hosting the Industrial Bowl. On Aug. 16, Macon County will face Christ Presbyterian Academy in the Industrial Bowl, which will also include Hendersonville, Lincoln County and Red Boiling Springs.