The Spartanburg Vikings won their first 7-on-7 event of the summer in the North Gwinnett National Select 7-on-7 Qualifier in Sugar Hill, Ga on Friday. The Vikings were the most explosive team in the field behind the play of junior running back Tavein Feaster and junior wide receiver Tavaris Scott. The explosion started in pool play for the Vikings who put up a field-high 177 points while posting a 5-1 record playing their first two games without star running back Tavein Feaster.
In bracket play the Vikings continued their explosion by scoring 33 or more points in their first three bracket games however fell 41-36 to North Gwinnett in their third game of the winners bracket sending them to the losers bracket of the double elimination tournament. The Vikings would take on a familiar foe in the losers bracket in state rival Hillcrest.
The intensity was felt from the beginning horn between Hillcrest and Spartanburg as both teams battled to the final horn literally. In what proved to be one of the more dramatic games of the entire event, Spartanburg overcame a 15-point deficit in the final 4:25 to survive 31-29 with an Austin Scott to Tavaris Scott (no relation) touchdown pass as time expired for the win. After the game Hillcrest was very classy but did chant “see you in two weeks”.
“What I focused on was the ball, catching it and keeping my feet in,” Tavaris Scott said. “We had lost earlier and I didn’t want to lose and go back home with a loss.
The win over Hillcrest kick-started the Vikings for the remainder of bracket play with revenge being the theme. Spartanburg’s only loss in pool play was to Central Gwinnett 24-22. In bracket play the Vikings hammered Central Gwinnett 31-6. They would get more revenge defeating North Gwinnett 19-15 to advance to the finals against Alpharetta.
Alpharetta went 3-3 in bracket play and were seeded right in the thick of the heavyweights for bracket play. The Raiders defeated one-loss Desoto Central to get rolling before taking out one-loss Grayson, undefeated Central Gwinnett and one-loss North Gwinnett to advance to the championship game in the winners bracket.
Alpharetta needed only one win over Spartanburg to claim the championship whereas Spartanburg needed to defeat Alpharetta twice to claim the championship. Spartanburg had played three straight games as is common for teams coming through the losers bracket while Alpharetta was well rested having not played for over 90 minutes when the finals began. Feaster sparked Spartanburg in the first game with a dazzling display of speed on a 35-yard touchdown reception on basically what was a legal screen pass. Feaster caught it then used his speed to split to defenders and out race the Alpharetta defense to the end zone, something clearly uncommon in 7-on-7 football where all the defense has to do is touch the ball carrier for them to be down. Spartanburg went on to win game one 27-10 setting up the winner take all championship game.
“Honestly I didn’t know I was going to score, I just took off with the ball and they couldn’t catch me,” Feaster said about that touchdown. “I’ve been playing touch football in the backyard for a long time so it’s just an instinct to take off with it.”
In the final championship game Alpharetta led 16-15 with just over 1:30 remaining before the Vikings brightest star shined again as Feaster scored the eventual game-winning touchdown with 22 seconds left putting Spartanburg ahead 21-16. The Vikings held Alpharetta out of the end zone on their final possession to prevail 21-16.
All total Spartanburg finished 12-2, verge 29.35 ppg, scored a field-high 411 points while Tavaris Scott tallied 23 touchdowns and Feaster tallied 20.
“These guys are growing and they’ve grown so much from last year to this year. I can tell a difference in the weight room in how these guys are working and the things were doing in 7-on-7 practice,” Spartanburg head coach Chris Miller said. “I told them our biggest test is when we go against each other. We going against each other and beating up each other and it paid off today. We played some pretty good teams but I don’t think that those guys feel they played the best because they play each other everyday.”
It was Miller’s second North Gwinnett National Select Qualifier win in the past three seasons. Miller led Byrnes to the championship in 2012. 2014 also marked the third straight season a non-Georgia team won the North Gwinnett National Select 7-on-7 Regional Qualifier, Olive Branch (MS) won it in 2013.
Spartanburg qualifies for the National Select 7-on-7 Championships next month in July by virtue of winning the North Gwinnett Regional Qualifier and will host the South Carolina Qualifier in two weeks, June 26th and 27th in Spartanburg and Hillcrest will be in the field. It may only be summer 7-on-7 football but the competition is serious and something could be brewing with Hillcrest and Spartanburg. For now Spartanburg will enjoy their victory and get ready for the South Carolina Qualifier.