“All I know is we’ve always done really well,” said Lassiter coach Jep Irwin, who will have a team competing in the competition for the ninth straight year — the first seven at Pelham (Ala.) and the last two with the Trojans. “The competitiveness of the field is where you get better. With this field, every mistake is magnified. It’s intense. I do think (success in this tournament) can translate to the season.”
As competitive as the Lassiter-hosted qualifier has been in the past, this year’s field of 32 teams may be the strongest yet. Valdosta, Lovejoy, Grayson, Alpharetta, North Paulding and national power Hoover (Ala.) are just a few of the teams coming from outside the county to compete.
Joining Lassiter among Cobb County programs are Hillgrove, Kell, North Cobb, South Cobb, Walton and Whitefield Academy.
The winner of the two-day tournament will earn a spot in the national tournament next week in Hoover, Ala.
“Last year’s field was pretty strong,” Irwin said, “but I really think this may be the strongest we’ve ever had. This year, only Valdosta is fielding a ‘B’ team, and they are going to be pretty good. Last year, we had 28 teams, with four ‘B’ teams, so this is an improved field, even with the loss of North Gwinnett. Grayson took their spot, and we had to turn some good teams away.”
Some of the premier players expected to be in the event include: Hoover running back Bradrick Shaw (committed to Auburn) and linebacker Darrell Williams, Lovejoy receiver Preston Williams (Tennessee), Shiloh receiver Cameron Stewart (Central Florida), Valdosta linebacker Brian Bell (Florida State) Jefferson quarterback Evan Shirreffs and North Cobb quarterback Tyler Queen (Auburn).
A 7-on-7 tournament matches the offensive skill position players against a defense’s linebacking corps and secondary. Play starts at the 40-yard line going in, and once the quarterback has the ball, he has 4 seconds to get off a throw. Touchdowns are worth six points, with an extra point earned by completing a 10-yard pass into the end zone.
For the defense, interceptions are worth three points, and one returned for a touchdown is worth six. A play ends when the ball hits the ground, or when a defender pulls an offensive player’s flag. Tackling is not allowed.
The tournament will run today and Saturday. Today’s pool play will be split into morning and afternoon waves. After the completion of pool play, teams will be ranked from 1 through 32 and placed in the tournament bracket.
Double-elimination tournament play will start Saturday at 9 a.m., and a championship game is scheduled for around 4 p.m.
Games will be streamed live at www.select7on7.com, by selecting the “NFHS Network Broadcasts” link and then finding the Georgia qualifier.
Updates on scores and bracket play will be available via a mobile app, by visiting the Select 7-on-7 website and selecting the Georgia qualifier.