July 6, 2014

Bringing in the best

Top teams keep coming back for Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship

When high school football coaches look for events to take their teams to during the summer, they are looking for three things — top competition, organization and hospitality.

For The Daily Citizen’s Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship, the Dalton community and local business leaders take care of the latter. The tournament officials work tirelessly to provide the organization. And the two combined assure the top competition will show up.

The high school football teams in the Southeastern 7-on-7 Championship come from many directions and states.

However, all those who are returning this summer for the fourth-annual tournament do so because of positive experiences in years past.

And the new sign-ups, having heard of the splendid reviews second hand, want to see whether it lives up to the hype.

The tournament, sponsored by Astroturf, returns Saturday and Sunday with 32 teams coming to the Carpet Capital from 10 states. Twenty teams are returning and some have bookmarked the tournament as a must-do each summer.

“I thought it was a really good experience,” Jackson (Mo.) coach Brent Eckley said. “It was outstanding for our kids to come down. It was great facilities and well organized. ... The neat thing was we had parents who wanted to come down, so it ended up being a neat family experience for us.”

Seven-on-seven competition is the pass-only version of football. There aren’t any offensive or defensive linemen, and the quarterback has a slew of wide receivers and running backs cutting, slanting, curling and sprinting through routes against the opposing side’s linebackers and defensive backs.

It’s a pass-oriented drill, which many coaches say helps with timing between quarterback and receiver. Teams incorporating spread passing attacks don’t need to change their styles to fit the seven-on-seven model.

While the number of seven-on-seven tournaments is growing — Northwest Whitfield, one of the five local teams in this year’s tournament, hosted a seven-on-seven tournament for the second consecutive summer — some coaches are wary of competing in too many during the offseason.

“To be honest, I’m OK doing one or two seven-on-seven tournaments a year,” Pace Academy coach Chris Slade said. “I like going to the Southeastern one. I think it’s well organized.”

Colquitt County, the defending champion, returns to the field for a second summer.

“We put a lot of stock in it,” said coach Rush Propst, who won five state titles at Hoover (Ala.)  High School before taking over at Colquitt County in 2008. “It was a good tournament and well-run with a lot of good teams. We feel good about it, and it is a fun tournament. The competition is outstanding and we get a lot out of it.”

The tournament’s field includes 15 schools from Georgia. Other states represented are: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee.

“Coming to a great tournament like the Southeastern, you’re able to play against different styles,” Victory Christian (N.C.) coach Dee Brown said. “It’s different schemes and areas you’ve never heard of. For a quarterback, it’s great. You shouldn’t do a lot of them, but it’s still great. It gives the quarterback a realistic look at what happens for the routes in the plays.”

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