The Trojans are one of 32 teams vying for the title at the National Select 7-on-7 championship, which begins today in Hoover, Ala.
The National Select competition began with nearly 400 teams competing in 16 qualifying tournaments across the country. The 32 teams in Hoover will compete in four eight-team pools today before competition concludes with a double-elimination bracketed tournament Saturday.
Each team is guaranteed seven games during pool play, and teams will be seeded for the championship rounds based on their pool-play record. Pool games begin at 9 a.m. Central today and will continue throughout the day. Saturday’s tournament games start at 9 a.m., with the championship slated for 4:30 p.m.
Each game will run for 21 minutes — continuously for the first 20 before stopping according to the rules during the final minute.
Lassiter, the lone Cobb County team still alive, is making its seventh consecutive trip to the event. The Trojans advanced as the host of last week’s qualifier, which Grayson won to advance. North Gwinnett and Valdosta are also representing Georgia.
“Every year, it’s been somebody different (from Georgia),” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “Alpharetta and Centennial have been here in the past. North Cobb was here last year. There are 15 states represented, anywhere from the Northeast to the upper Midwest to Arkansas and Louisiana, so I think this is probably the most nationally, broadly represented field, from what it looks like.
“Used to be there would be five, maybe six, Georgia teams and seven or eight Alabama teams. I know there have been qualifying tournaments added to the circuit over the summer, and ours is one of the oldest, going back to 2008. But I think with, the additional qualifiers, they’ve been able to bring in schools from other places, and it’s good to see that happen.”
Lassiter’s pool includes Blackman (Murfreesboro, Tenn.), Desoto Central (Southaven, Miss.), Havelock (N.C.), Naperville (Ill.) Central, Niceville (Fla.), Opelika (Ala.) and Hoover’s Spain Park.
The Trojans will open play against Spain Park before concluding the morning session with Opelika, Desoto Central and Havelock. They will take on Naperville Central to start the afternoon session, followed by Blackman and Niceville.
Games will be split between Hoover High School, and the adjacent Regions Park, a baseball stadium Hoover occasionally uses as a game venue.
“We want to go out and compete a little more strongly and consistently than we did last week (at our tournament),” Irwin said. “We played nine games last week. I thought we competed really hard in six of those games. One of the games, we won, mostly, because of the competition we played. Two other games, we didn’t compete well. We have a young team. We’re still working to establish who our starters and immediate backups are. The big thing for us is to learn to compete more consistently and execute better.”
Irwin hopes his team will learn a lot from the experience as they prepare for the upcoming season. The Trojans enter 2014 with a lot of unknowns, and this tournament can help answer some questions.
“In 7-on-7, every play matters and every possession is crucial, even more so than a regular football game, because the games are so much shorter and you can score on defense,” Irwin said. “We want to figure out what our quarterback, Russ Aarons, does well — who his favorite receivers are — and try to get some more chemistry from the offense, because we have so many new parts there.
“We also want to figure out our defense. Our secondary is very young. They’ll see a lot of balls thrown their way over here. This is the first year in about three years where we’re not really sure who’s going to be the guy at certain positions on defense.”
Irwin added that players from all teams will receive a pep talk during today’s lunch break from Mike Lutzenkirchen, the father of former Auburn and Lassiter star Philip Lutzenkirchen, who died in an automobile accident last month.