The Georgia Invitational 7-on-7 tournament was cut short in the semifinals, but four teams solidified tickets to Hoover, Ala., for the national championship this weekend. North Gwinnett led host Lassiter by two points with 52 seconds remaining in the game with the football. A close lightning strike stopped play, and then the skies opened up, causing officials to stop the tournament.
The Lassiter-North Gwinnett semifinal was one of the better matchups of the tournament. Bulldogs quarterback Hayden Sphire was on target and finding receivers Josh Imatorbhebe and Caleb Scott. The towering duo got North Gwinnett up early, and Scott held off the Trojans' comeback attempt with a diving, one-handed grab on the critical third-down play. Sphire will have an added spotlight on him heading to the national bracket, after his play earned him the offensive MVP of the weekend.
New North Gwinnett defensive coordinator Robert Andrews was formerly with Grayson, but joined the North Gwinnett staff earlier this month. A miscommunication between the safety and corner allowed a wide-open Lassiter touchdown but, overall, this defensive unit was swarming the field. Andrews appears to have no problem getting this athletic group in position to make plays, and this was a big victory for the new coach. Two sure Lassiter touchdowns were batted down, by this polished secondary.
North Cobb certainly stood out from the competition and the defensive effort matched the incredible quarterbacking from rising junior Tyler Queen. On defense the Warriors lost a lot from their semifinal team in 2012, but the biggest losses were on the defensive line. With their current secondary and linebackers like Jalil Kuku, they are still going to be a sound unit.
Tyler Queen was on target, and was keeping the Warriors alive after they fell into the loser's bracket. After the 27-17 loss to Shiloh, they beat Hillgrove-B, Flowery Branch, Wheeler, Jonesboro and Kell. Alpharetta made it to the finals of the losers bracket as well, but fell to the Warriors.
Alpharetta's fourth-place finish earned them a trip to Hoover this weekend. The Raiders beat Glen Hills and Mays, before falling 22-21 to Lassiter. In the losers bracket they eliminated Cartersville in a 35-28 shootout and beat Dutchtown 24-17. The Raiders' offense was spreading the ball out well, and made the most back shoulder throws and difficult catches I saw on Saturday. Without quarterback Joshua Dobbs (now at Tennessee), it appears this offense will still be capable of lighting up the scoreboard.
Lassiter was one play away from winning its third Georgia Invitational in the last four years. Former Trojans quarterback Eddie Printz won two of three years as the starting quarterback. This year, the focus shifted to the new quarterback filling in for Printz, who is now a Missouri Tiger. New Trojans QB Will Anderson transferred from Wesleyan after his junior season , and his work this offseason showed. The Trojans were spreading the ball out well, and had North Gwinnett on its heels. Ultimately the two touchdowns that were caught by Lassiter, but fumbled away after cost them. The new quarterback had a great tournament however and the Trojans will have a chance to contend on an even bigger stage this weekend.
Matthew McGuin and the Kell Longhorns fell just short of earning a trip to Hoover, but look ready for the 2013 season. Jay Moxey and Julian Buress were as advertised and Kennesaw State commit Taylor Henkle added to the successful run on Saturday.
Jefferson County will be the fifth team representing Georgia this upcoming weekend. The Warriors did not compete in the Lassiter tournament, but finished second place in the North Gwinnett qualifier a month ago. Jefferson County also won the Mark Richt 7-on-7 this summer.