Regardless, all four teams advanced to the National Select 7-on-7 Championships next weekend in Hoover, Ala.
After already having to wait out one rain delay earlier in the day, the coaches of the four remaining teams decided it was best to end the event early when lightning flashed and rain started again late in the afternoon.
“The kids had already had two long days in the heat,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “(After looking at the forecast), it was best not to hang around all night, and we didn’t want to take the chance of the kids suffering any injuries. It was better safe than sorry.”
Lassiter coach Jep Irwin echoed Queen’s sentiments.
“The decision was made for the safety of the players,” he said. “It was a great tournament up until the weather hit (Saturday), but in late July, that will happen. I think this was the most competitive tournament we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
When play was stopped, North Gwinnett had an 18-16 lead on Lassiter in the final game of the championship bracket. North Cobb, which had already beaten Alpharetta once, was beating the Raiders 23-16 in the third-place game.
That’s how the seeds were decided. North Gwinnett, behind quarterback and tournament offensive MVP Hayden Sphire, got the No. 1 seed, Lassiter No. 2, North Cobb No. 3 and Alpharetta No. 4.
Organizers were fortunate the event finished that way.
With North Gwinnett, Lassiter and North Cobb having already earned invites to Hoover — North Cobb and Lassiter as qualifier hosts, North Cobb based on its performance from last year’s 7-on-7 events — the decision to end the Georgia Invitational was an easy one once bracket play reached the semifinals.
That could have changed if Kell had won one more game.
The third-seeded Longhorns finished pool play 5-0 on Friday and won their first three games Saturday — beating Northview, North Paulding and Shiloh — before suffering a 19-16 setback to Lassiter in the semifinals of the winners’ bracket. The loss sent Kell into an elimination game against North Cobb, which it eventually lost 21-19.
A win by the Longhorns in either game would likely have forced the teams to wait out the weather and complete the event.
Duluth finished sixth, while Jonesboro and Dutchtown tied for seventh. Wheeler, Lovejoy, Cartersville and Shiloh tied for ninth.
North Gwinnett’s road to the top seed came with blowout wins over Lassiter’s “B” team and Duluth, but the Bulldogs also won a pair of one-point contests — beating Walton 13-12 and Jonesboro 26-25.
Sixth-seeded North Cobb’s road to the semifinals was a long one. After beating Eastside (S.C.) to begin bracket play, North Cobb was upset by Shiloh and dropped into the losers’ bracket. From there, however, the Warriors rolled off victories against Hillgrove’s “B” team, Flowery Branch, Wheeler, Jonesboro and Kell.
The surprise of the day may have been Lassiter’s “A” team.
The Trojans went 2-3 in pool play Friday and was the No. 18 seed for bracket play. But four straight victories Saturday against Rabun County, Lovejoy, Alpharetta and Kell — behind the tournament’s defensive MVP, defensive back Chris Murphy —allowed the Trojans to nearly reach the championship game.
“It was a play here and a play there that cost us (Friday),” Irwin said. “We were competing with more consistency, and it helped us win some close games. “We came together as a team (Saturday).”
Tenth-seeded Alpharetta started with wins over Glenn Hills and Mays before it dropped a one-point loss to Lassiter. Once in the losers’ bracket, the Raiders beat Cartersville, Dutchtown and Duluth to secure its trip to Hoover.
Wheeler beat Eagle’s Landing and Shaw in the championship bracket before being eliminated after consecutive losses to Duluth and North Cobb.
Walton and the Hillgrove “A” team each won one game in the bracket, while the Lassiter and Hillgrove “B” teams each went 0-2.