Middle Georgia teams take on state’s best in summer showcase
With all the turnover that has affected the Houston County football program, it would have been easy for Ryan Crawford to lighten the load a bit and not go up against so many of the state’s elite teams this summer.
Crawford, who took over the Bears’ program following Von Lassiter’s move to Bleckley County, didn’t back down following graduation and transfer losses that included Jake Fromm, now a freshman quarterback at Georgia. He kept the team’s spring game at GHSA Class 5A runner-up Buford on the schedule, and he brought his team to Roswell on Friday to participate in the Corky Kell 7-on-7 Tournament, one of the top summer showcases in the state.
Sure, Houston County took some licks. The Bears wound up the 29th seed out of 30 teams following pool play, and they were eliminated in the first round by fourth-seeded Carrollton. But the five 7-on-7 games allowed Houston County to run passing routes — and play pass defense — at speeds they couldn’t otherwise match.
“That’s the thing about coming up here, you know the competition that you’re going to get, and that’s what we’re looking for,” Crawford said. “We’re not looking for wins and losses in this stuff, we’re looking for competition. We have a lot of kids who have never had the opportunity to be in this type of atmosphere, so that’s why I like coming up here and being involved and getting our quarterback, our receivers, our secondary some game speed that we’re going to see on Friday nights. That’s what’s important, and our guys did well.”
Summer 7-on-7 tournaments are essentially half-field touch football games. No equipment is worn other than helmets, and any contact deemed a shove or harder is penalized. Every play is a passing play, and games last slightly longer than 20 minutes each.
Any on-field time right now benefits Houston County immensely. The Bears start the season early again, opening Aug. 17 at Five Star Stadium against Jones County in the Corky Kell Classic. The big-name competition during the spring and summer figures to help in that development.
“When you go from a lot of guys that we had in the past that played a lot of ball to some guys that are getting their feet wet, it’s very important to get out here in a stage like this where it means something but it’s not the end of the world,” Crawford said. “You’re playing big-time ball, big-time players, you kind of see where you’re at, and you go back home and go to work.”
Houston County’s linebackers and defensive backs definitely were tested. In pool play Friday morning, the Bears faced Class 4A champion Cartersville, who had the nation’s top player, Clemson-bound quarterback Trevor Lawrence, lined up under center. They also faced Norcross, Mountain View and Cherokee.
Jones County, meanwhile, also got to pair up against some top-flight opponents.
The Greyhounds, who did not bring their whole skill player roster because of other commitments this week, took on Central Gwinnett, Class 5A semifinalist Kell, West Forsyth and Class 7A semifinalist Mill Creek in pool play, going into knockout play as the No. 22 seed. Buford eliminated Jones County in the first round.
“We’ve got a young bunch, a lot of young guys,” Jones County head coach Justin Rogers said. “We’re proud of the way they competed. A lot of them, this was their first time in 7-on-7. I was really proud of the way they competed.”
Other teams participating included Class 7A runner-up Roswell and Class 6A runner-up Tucker, as well as perennial south Georgia power Colquitt County. Central Gwinnett, led by Kentucky quarterback commitment Jarren Williams, beat Archer 26-12 in the final.