The 32-team tournament — the largest field of the Georgia Invitational’s six-year history — featured four eight-team pools, with each team playing five games within its pool.
North Gwinnett, Lovejoy and Kell each went 5-0 in their respective pools, leaving the seeds to be determined on a tiebreaker of fewest points allowed. North Gwinnett earned the No. 1 seed, with Lovejoy and Kell following.
Jefferson (4-1) is the No. 4 seed for tournament play.
The double-elimination tournament will begin today at 9 a.m. with games split between Lassiter and Kell. Play will continue until the finals begin at 3:30 p.m. at Lassiter.
The winner of the invitational — or the top-performing team after previous national qualifiers Lassiter, North Cobb and North Gwinnett — will earn a berth to next week’s National Select 7-on-7 Championships in Hoover, Ala.
“This has been a very competitive field,” Lassiter coach Jep Irwin said. “A lot of the games have been really close. I think this is the toughest it’s ever been.”
Kell beat Lassiter’s “B” team, Northview, Walton, Dutchtown and Flowery Branch to win its pool. The Longhorns had two close games in beating Walton 25-21 and Dutchtown 26-22.
“I think the kids did a great job competing,” said Kell offensive coordinator Jonathan Gordon, filling in for Longhorns coach Derek Cook. “We do a lot of these (7-on-7 games) over the summer, and it was good to see the kids understand the concepts of the offense and execute them.
“We tend to start out slow in these events, but that wasn’t the case (Friday). It was nice to see the guys come out and play crisp football from the start, and they got going.”
North Cobb, the runner-up in its pool with a 4-1 mark, earned the No. 6 seed and could meet Kell in the third round. The Warriors had an identical 4-1 pool record with Alpharetta, but won the tiebreaker based on their head-to-head victory over the Raiders.
North Cobb’s lone loss was its 24-22 setback to Lovejoy, the same team that eliminated the Warriors from the semifinals of last year’s Class AAAAAA state playoffs.
“Every year, we have newcomers come in, and it’s about the quarterback and the wide receivers getting their timing down and making plays,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “We had some come-from-behind wins (Friday), but I’d like to see us get up on a team and learn to put them away. That’s something else we’re trying to teach.”
Walton (2-3) is seeded 17th, while Lassiter’s “A” team (2-3) is 18th.
“We lost two close games to Shiloh and North Paulding where we didn’t do a good job offensively, but I think our defense played well,” Irwin said. “We did enough to win in those losses, but we just couldn’t score in the red zone.
“We were inconsistent and showed some of our inexperience (Friday). I felt we played well in three of the five games, and our defense played well in the two losses.”
Irwin also offered a preview of his starting rotation Friday, confirming that offseason transfer Will Anderson would be the Trojans’ first-string quarterback, beating out Russell Aarons for the job. Anderson, who came from Wesleyan, quarterbacked Lassiter’s “A” team Friday.
Wheeler and Hillgrove, which both went 2-3 in Pool C, were seeded 21st and 24th, respectively.
“We accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, which was to get some of our substitutes some exposure,” Wheeler coach Mike Collins said. “A lot of our (starters) were out of town, so the rotation of young players in will help with our depth in the future.
“Getting those guys in now helps them understand coverages and blocks up field. It was a good day for us.”
Hillgrove and Lassiter both fielded two units, with the Hawks’ “B” team (1-4) seeded 28th, and the Trojans’ “B” team (0-5) seeded 32nd.