Starting today, they will see what they can do against a talented field in a National Select 7-on-7 qualifier at east Cobb’s Lassiter High School.
The two-day tournament will serve as a qualifier for the national tournament, which will be next week in Hoover, Ala.
Cherokee coach Josh Shaw said the field is always competitive, but this might be the best one yet. Among the 32 participants are Grayson, North Paulding, Lovejoy, Walton, Kell, Hillgrove, Lassiter and Valdosta. National power Hoover (Ala.) will also be attending.
“It’s very competitive,” Shaw said. “Lassiter has great facilities. They took 32 teams, and (Lassiter) coach (Jep) Irwin told me they had a waiting list.”
The Georgia High School Association allows teams to begin holding conditioning practices as early as July 25. That means, for many teams, this is the final 7-on-7 tournament they will participate in.
Terry Crowder will be bringing a team from Creekview for the first time, but he has prior experience with the tournament after coaching Chattahoochee to a second-place finish two years ago.
While the Grizzlies have played in other 7-on-7 tournaments this summer, they were missing key players each time.
“We kind of took it on the nose at the Corky Kell 7-on-7, because we didn’t have Kyle or Chandler (Wold),” Crowder said. “I’m excited to see what we can do, now that we have everybody and will be a full strength.”
Like other 7-on-7 tournaments, the offensive skill players — mainly quarterback and receivers — will match up against opposing defense’s linebackers and secondary. Teams do not use linemen and do not wear pads in the non-contact adaptation of football.
Possessions begin at the 40-yard line. Quarterbacks have 4 seconds to pass the ball, and a player is considered “down” when his flag is pulled by an opposing player.
The defense also has a chance to score points, with each interception counting for three points and an interception returned for a touchdown as six.
Games last 21 minutes, with a running clock for the first 20 minutes and regular rules during the final minute. Touchdowns are six points, and an extra point is then earned by completing a 10-yard pass into the end zone.
Shaw said none of the pools are easy. His team will be in a pool with Alpharetta, Eastside (S.C.), Grayson, Heritage, Hoover, Jefferson and Valdosta’s “A” team.
“We have been having some practice days to get ready for it, but it’s very competitive,” Shaw said. “We are going to have our hands full with our schedule.
Creekview is in a pool with Centennial, Duluth, Hillgrove, Jonesboro, Lassiter, Shiloh and Whitefield Academy.
“I don’t think any pool is better than another,” Crowder said. “Eventually, you have to play all those guys. There isn’t anyone in there that we are afraid to play.”
The tournament will continue through Saturday. Today’s pool play will be split into morning and afternoon sessions.
Following pool play, teams will be seed from 1 through 32, based on their records, and placed in the tournament bracket.
Shaw said the goal today is to earn a bye in the first round for Saturday’s championship bracket.
“I think the top six or eight teams get a bye, and that is definitely a benefit,” Shaw said. “You want to try to get one of those byes.”
Getting a bye is even more desirable for the Warriors because they will be playing without rising junior Brittain Brown on Saturday. Brown will be attending the Rivals250 Underclassman Challenge in Jacksonville, Fla.
The double-elimination portion of the event will begin Saturday at 9 a.m., with the championship is slated for 3:45 p.m. Each team is guaranteed at least five games Friday and two more Saturday.
“It’s a long, long two days,” Crowder said. “The guys have to stay fresh. In the end, it’s those guys that can compete, and that are in the best shape, that end up doing pretty well.”
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.