July 13, 2013

Tearing up the turf

All teams bring something exciting, unique

By Sports Staff

— Forty-two teams will compete at The Daily Citizen’s third annual Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship starting today.

They come from a wide range of locations, bringing with them many different stories.

One of them will have another story to tell when they take home a trophy saying they were the best this weekend.

Teams are divided into seven pools for the event, which is sponsored by AstroTurf. Beginning at noon today they’ll play a round-robin schedule that will last late into the evening.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, the top four teams from each pool will advance to the double-elimination championship bracket, while the bottom three teams will compete in the double-elimination consolation bracket.

Northwest Whitfield High School in Tunnel Hill and Christian Heritage School in Dalton will provide fields, facilities and volunteers for Pools E and F, respectively. The Dalton Parks and Recreation Department will lend fields at James Brown Park, adjacent to the DPRD’s John Davis Recreation Center at 904 Civic Drive, for Pools A, B and C, and the Mack Gaston Community Center at 214 Fredrick St. in Dalton will host Pool D.

The tournament championships for both the championship and consolation brackets are 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. For a complete schedule with field locations, visit southeastern7on7.com.

There is no charge to attend the tournament.

The 42 teams come from 36 schools, with six showcasing a “B” team.

Here are 36 facts about the schools competing — one for each:

1. Cartersville: The Purple Hurricanes’ success in last year’s Southeastern was a harbinger for the fall season. Cartersville won the 2012 event, defeating Atlanta’s Martin Luther King Jr. 24-12 in the championship. When August rolled around, the Purple Hurricanes went undefeated all the way to the Georgia High School Association Class 3A state semifinals, but lost 21-10 to Buford.

2. Bowling Green (Kentucky): No “hurricanes.” Just “The Purples.” While Bowling Green is without a true mascot, it has experienced plenty of success. The Purples won the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Class 5A championship for the second straight season in 2012. Bowling Green has won 30 straight games.

3. Florence (Alabama): Head coach Jamey Dubose led the Falcons to just their second home state playoff game in 2012, his first as the program’s coach. A 7-4 finish in Alabama’s high school landscape came after a trip to Dalton, as last year also was the first time Florence competed in the Southeastern.

4. Christian Heritage (Dalton): Bringing in a third-year starting quarterback in Trevor Brown, Christian Heritage enters its second season in the GHSA after playing several seasons in the Glory For Christ Football League. Three-year starters who graduated in 2013 were Dalton’s Cole Calfee, who led the Catamounts to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs, and North Murray’s Brady Swilling, who gained more than 1,500 yards throwing and rushing.

5. Coahulla Creek (Varnell): In program years, the Colts are the youngest of any team competing in this year’s tournament. Coahulla Creek as a school is entering its third year, and the football program is set to begin its second season of varsity competition. Last season, the Colts finished 2-8, which came after the team competed in the Southeastern.

6. Dalton: For the first time in three years, the Catamounts will feature a quarterback not named Cole Calfee. Dalton could use junior Payton Veraldi or sophomore Jase Chastain at quarterback in this year’s Southeastern. Maybe even freshman Zek Cobb sees some time taking snaps in the seven-on-seven, no-linemen format.

7. North Murray (Chatsworth): It’s another quarterback battle for a local team. With the graduation of Swilling, Hinton McConkey and Peyton Swilling are atop the depth chart and looking to secure the top spot. Peyton is the cousin of Brady and the son of former Murray County and Furman quarterback Hugh Swilling. McConkey’s father is former Dalton quarterback Benji McConkey.

8. Northwest Whitfield (Tunnel Hill): The Bruins had a rollercoaster ride of a final game in 2012. Trailing by 14 points in the Class 4A “play-in game” at home versus Gilmer, Northwest scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes to send it to overtime, and it took three overtimes before Gilmer won 40-37.

9. Southeast Whitfield (Dalton): Rhett Harper and Blake Foster both enter their fourth seasons starting for the Raiders and they have shared different roles in their high school careers. Both were wide receivers their first two high school seasons, but Harper played multiple positions last year and Foster got the most starts of anyone on the team at quarterback.

10. Griffin: The team seems to have an identity crisis and can’t pick between two fierce NFL rivals. The program sports helmets identical to the Green Bay Packers. Yet, they are called the Bears. Regardless, Griffin has no shortage of success on the scoreboard. The Bears have advanced to the GHSA playoffs 16 of the past 17 seasons.

11. Paoli (Indiana): For the first time in the Southeastern tournament’s history, Indiana will be represented. And the Rams of Paoli will be the most northern school out of the 36 competing. According to Google Maps, the city of Paoli is 382 miles from Dalton. The estimated travel time is five hours and 53 minutes, and it includes crossing a time zone.

12. Lake Cormorant (Mississippi): While it isn’t as far north, the Gators still have just as long and far a drive from their hometown to the Carpet Capital. Lake Cormorant is in the Northwest corner of Mississippi and is 389 miles from Dalton, according to Google Maps, which includes a travel time of five hours and 46 minutes.

13. Ridgeland: Of all of the Northwest Georgia teams competing in this year’s Southeastern, the Panthers were the most successful last fall. Ridgeland finished 13-2, losing the first and last games and winning all others between, and fell 45-10 to Sandy Creek in the Class 4A state championship game. The Panthers only other loss came to Calhoun, arguably the kings of Northwest Georgia football, in a 45-38 thriller.

14. Baylor (Chattanooga): Coach Phil Massey connected the Red Raiders’ appearance in the 2011 Southeastern to the team’s success later that fall. He mentioned how the team finished 3-3 in the inaugural version of the tournament then later played in the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association Division II-AA state championship game.

15. Cedar Grove (Ellenwood): For a decade, the Saints had stability at head coach. But Ray Bonner’s retirement after 35 years left the door open for Jermaine Smith, who takes over a program that finished 6-5 and lost in the first round of the GHSA Class 3A state playoffs last season.

16. Jackson (Missouri): Brent Eckley took over a program that was less than stellar prior to last season, and he won seven games, more than the previous three seasons combined. The Fighting Indians come to Dalton for the Southeastern for the first time, and will travel more than six hours to do so.

17. Pace Academy (Atlanta): The Knights first-year coach, Chris Slade, spent nine years in the NFL as a defensive end. He played eight seasons with the New England Patriots and one year with the Carolina Panthers. His career highlights include making the All-Rookie Team, All-Pro team and the 1997 Pro Bowl.

18. Brookwood School (Thomasville): Shane Boggs returns to coach the Warriors, who won four state championships and six region titles in Georgia Independent School Association competition. The last of those was in 2007, which was the final season of Boggs’ first stint at Brookwood. He left to coach in Florida and then in Tennessee.

19. Scotlandville (Baton Rouge, La.): The Hornets are the most western school competing in the Southeastern, and they’re also the first team from Louisiana. One of their players is running back Dontrell Hilliard, who is related to former New Orleans Saints running back Dalton Hilliard.

20. Knoxville West (Tennessee): The Rebels’ prior experience in the Southeastern involves a one-day event after four pool-play games. That was in 2011, when the tournament included 20 teams. Knoxville West finished 2-2 in pool play and left following that Saturday, as there were four pools of five teams and the only ones advancing to the championship bracket were the pool winners.

21. McMinn County (Athens, Tenn.): The Cherokees were a last-minute addition to last season’s Southeastern tournament, finishing 2-2 in pool play. However, because of Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules, McMinn County could not participate in the second day of the event.

22. Fletcher (Neptune Beach, Fla.): The Senators are coached by Josh Corey, who has quite the experience from his college-playing days. He earned two letters as a center for the University of Florida during the mid-1990s, when he was coached by the legendary Steve Spurrier.

23. East Hall (Gainesville): The Vikings posted winning seasons for 16 consecutive years, from 1980 to 1995. The stretch included 12 playoff appearances and four double-digit win seasons. Last year didn’t include any of those, as East Hall finished 5-5 and missed the stateplayoffs.

24. Maplesville (Alabama): The Red Devils’ 2013 graduating class posted a four-season record of 35-4, including a 12-2 mark in 2012 and a trip to the quarterfinals of the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class A playoffs. The program graduates an average of 12 players each season.

25. Jeffersonville (Indiana): The Red Devils’ city, Jeffersonville, is just north of Louisville, the Ohio River and the Indiana-Kentucky border. John Schnatter, the founder and CEO of Papa John’s pizza, is a 1979 graduate of Jeffersonville. His first pizza business was in a broom closet in a tavern his father owned in the city.

26. Cedar Shoals (Athens): The Jaguars’ last winning season was in 2008 and the program welcomes Chris Davis, its third coach in as many years. Last year, Cedar Shoals finished 4-6, capping a 13-17 stretch under the coaching of Xarvia Smith in 2010 and Dreco Thomas in 2011.

27. Faith Academy (Mobile, Ala.): Five years ago, the Rams made a decision similar to the one Christian Heritage made. Faith Academy switched from the Alabama Independent School Association to the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The Rams won the 2007 AISA title, but have gone 15-35 in five seasons in the AHSAA.

28. Villa Rica: The Wildcats have been playing football since 1947 and have an overall record of 346-330-18, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians website (ghsfha.org). In 1986, Villa Rica defeated Worth County 13-0 to win the GHSA Class 3A state championship.

29. Cherokee (North Carolina): The Braves’ coach, Kiah Smith, is part Cherokee Indian. His new school is on a site proven by archaeologists to have had Cherokee habitation for more than 500 years, according to the school’s website. Despite finishing 4-7 last year, the Braves reached the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Class A playoffs.

30. Jefferson (Montgomery, Ala.): Of the programs competing in this year’s Southeastern, the Volunteers are the only ones that can’t dip any lower. Jefferson finished 2012 with an 0-10 record and welcomes new coach Lee Carter into the fold. In 2011, the Volunteers finished 6-5.

31. Howard (Chattanooga): The late Reggie White is one of the Tigers’ alumni. White, who played 15 seasons in the NFL as a defensive lineman with the Eagles, Packers and Panthers, graduated from Howard School of Academics and Technology in 1980. White played at the University of Tennessee. He is a member of the college and NFL hall of fames.

32. Brainerd (Chattanooga): The Panthers’ new coach, Bryan Gwyn, has experience facing one of the local teams in this year’s Southeastern tournament. Last season, Gwyn was a wide receivers coach at Carver. In the first round of the GHSA Class 4A playoffs, Dalton defeated Carver 17-14.

33. Victory Christian (Charlotte, N.C.): The Kings are the only of the 36 schools entering on the heels of a state championship. Victory Christian won the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III championship last year, defeating Southlake Christian Academy 26-21 in the final game.

34. Chamblee: Despite winning eight games, the Bulldogs did not reach the GHSA Class 4A state playoffs. Chamblee won its first eight games, but lost its final Sub-region 6A matchup to Marist and then lost 39-20 to Washington in a play-in game to miss the postseason.

35. Banneker (College Park): The Trojans’ football alumni include NFL players Greg Blue (Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions) and Darius Watts (Denver Broncos). Blue was an All-American free safety at the University of Georgia before the Vikings selected him in the 2006 NFL Draft.

36. Colquitt County (Moultrie): The Packers’ coach, Rush Propst, is an innovator of the large-scale seven-on-seven tournaments. Propst started hosting a national seven-on-seven competition when he was the coach at Alabama’s Hoover High in the early part of the 2000s. He became nationally known thanks to the MTV reality series “Two-A-Days,” which aired in 2006-2007 and followed his Hoover program.