High school football teams from several states will converge on Dalton next weekend for the third edition of The Daily Citizen’s Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship, presented by AstroTurf, with one final goal in mind.
For one team, that goal will be realized soon by winning this year’s tournament and following in the footsteps of previous champions Bob Jones of Madison, Ala., (2011) and Cartersville (2012).
For the rest of the squads in this weekend’s competition against schools from near and far, their hope is that this tournament is just one step on their journey to a title of their own — of the region, district or even state variety.
The action begins on Saturday with six pools of play taking place at four different locations. Harmon Field, Christian Heritage and the Dalton Parks and Recreation Department’s James Brown Park and Mack Gaston Community Center. Sunday will feature consolation and championship brackets.
Every team at the Southeastern is looking to take its own steps. For some, it’s about looking for that perfect leader to take the rest of his team to a higher level.
For others it will be about solidifying the parts of a receiving corps to make an offense operate at peak performance. And for some it may be about finding that lockdown corner who is the final piece of a championship puzzle.
“We will have a battle at free safety, and we have about four kids competing for one linebacker spot,” Griffin coach Steve Devoursney said. “It will be a good time to see how they work in passing situations and get a gauge of where we stand heading into the fall.”
They all have a journey, whether it is the beginning or the middle or the end. The journey is ongoing.
Some teams are at the Southeastern for the first time. Others are veterans of the competition.
Fletcher coach Josh Corey has brought his team back again — the Senators made the trip from Neptune Beach, Fla. — for the competition and the bonding experience it provides.
“We had a great experience when we came up to Dalton last year for the first time,” Corey said. “It was a first-class event all the way. I’m just really impressed with their organization. The people are very friendly. ... We throw with some of the schools around here. However, the tournaments are not organized. Dalton will be our only organized tournament of the summer.”
Chad Frazier has taken over during the offseason at Villa Rica, and in his first season as coach, he sees this year’s Southeastern as a test for his new charges.
“I thought going to the Southeastern would be perfect for us,” he said. “We are doing some things early where I feel like we are playing some folks who we match up with well and are competitive with. We wanted to do that early because when we get to Dalton it will be game on. Knowing the quality of competition that is going to be there was a big draw for us.”
Competition is a key word for all of the coaches in this year’s event, which starts with pool play on Saturday before moving to brackets on Sunday. Whether their team is stacked with returning starters or players within the team are competing for starting positions, the competition is the key.
“Seven-on-seven is very helpful,” said Lee Carter, who’s entering his second season as coach at Jefferson Davis in Montgomery, Ala. “It allows you to see which kids are going to compete. When you’re doing seven-on-sevens, you’re playing games back to back. I’ve done some where we’ve played 12 games in a day. It gives you an early view of who is coachable.”
And it gives a view of who can rise to the competition.
“The caliber of competition our guys will see up there is what I’m looking for,” said Shane Boggs, coach of Brookwood School in Thomasville. “We want to put our kids in summer situations where there is very little margin for error. I’m excited about it.”
That excitement has drawn teams from all across the Southeast and beyond. One of those is Faith Academy, which will travel 420 miles from Mobile, Ala., to the Carpet Capital of the World.
“We punched in some dates and checked things out on the Internet,” Mason said. “The Southeastern came up and we looked into it for teams we might know of. We thought it would be an awesome experience to go against some good opponents and see some really good talent.”
— Compiled by Chris Whitfield, Devin Golden, Larry Fleming, Doug Hawley and Lindsey Derrick