INDIANAPOLIS – Since taking over the Southport High School football program, Bill Peebles has been in a non-stop process of building.
At first, there was trying times with the Cardinals winning just two games during Peebles first three seasons.
Over the last five years the building has added layers of five straight seasons of at least .500 football with 9-2 and 8-4 records sprinkled in.
Peebles can now add another foundation to his building after Southport represented the Indianapolis Colts at the NFL's National 7-on-7 Tournament earlier this month.
The four-day event involved 32 teams (one for each NFL team) and took place at the Cleveland Browns training facility.
"It was a tremendous growth experience," Peebles said. "To walk into that atmosphere and see some of those athletes, I think was an eye opener early and our guys eventually responded really well to it. We competed at the end very favorably against some really good teams."
Southport qualified for the national event after capturing the regional competition held at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center.
Even with a sophomore quarterback leading the Cardinals' offense, Southport knocked off Cathedral High School in the finals of the 16-team regional tournament to earn a spot in nationals.
"I think I was surprised with how well we played at the Colts 7-on-7," Peebles said. "Our sophomore quarterback had a really sharp learning curve. He has a very, very bright future and our skill kids believe in Luke (Johnston)."
"In both cases we went in there to get better, to learn, to try and win every singe game but the most important thing that we got out of both of them is that we improved from beginning to end at the Colts complex, and we improved from beginning to end out in Cleveland."
Last year, the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center became the first NFL team to host all 32 teams for the national 7-on-7 tournament, in a format that is continuing to develop high school football.
"Seven-on-seven is a teaching tool," Peebles said. "It allows you hone in on certain aspects of the game. It's a tool to get better and it's improved Indiana football and improved our kids knowledge of the game in a very significant way."
"It's improved football, and the passing game specifically, immensely."
In earning a spot at the Browns facility, Southport received an all-expense paid trip for 12 players and two coaches along with playing against some of the top high school talent from across the nation.
For the Cardinals players, the experience provided a glimpse of life in the NFL and a chance to see what the future could hold in the game of football.
"First of all, to play into those facilities for our guys is really neat," Peebles said. "It's something different, something they aspire to do so it kind of motivates them a little bit to do well in those types of places."
"When we were in Cleveland to see the pro players that were there and to go through some of the programs they put our kids through, I think were defining moments for a lot of them. They had some pretty cool programs for the guys while we were there and I think it changed a lot of perspectives on a lot of things."