The Grayson Rams became the first team to navigate the entire loser’s bracket to win the National Select 7-on-7 Georgia Qualifier hosted by Lassiter in Marietta.
Grayson is known to make runs in 7-on-7 events in previous summers however this run stands alone by itself. Grayson entered the tournament portion of the event with a 2-1-1 pool record and drew Lovejoy in the opening round of the tournament. Lovejoy won in thrilling fashion 22-21 after scoring a touchdown with less than 10 seconds remaining to send Grayson to the loser’s bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
The Rams went on to defeat Jackson County, Alpharetta (undefeated in pool play), Rabun County, Northview (undefeated in pool play), Villa Rica, North Cobb, Hillgrove and Hoover (AL) (undefeated in pool play) to advance to the championship against Valdosta.
Valdosta entered the tournament with a 2-2 pool play record and won the winner’s brackets by defeating Alpharetta (undefeated at the time), Jonesboro, North Cobb and Hoover meaning Grayson had to defeated them twice to win the championship.
The Rams continued to ride their momentum making a defensive stop with less than a minute remaining to win the first championship game 18-17. In the winner-take-all championship, Grayson wouldn’t need any late-game heroics as they jumped out 15-0 and never looked back, defeating Valdosta 31-9 capping the historic tournament run.
“I take full ownership in the Lovejoy loss. We were up with 10 seconds left and we went prevent and it was a terrible thing to do,” defensive coordinator Lenny Gregory said. “We have great kids and I should have had more confidence in them. I told the guys that (loss) was on me now the rest of the day I’m begging you to make it right. They fought and played lights out the rest of the day”
Gregory along with offensive coordinator Richard Gillespie ran the Grayson team after head coach Mickey Conn left earlier to attend his son’s youth baseball game.
Coming through the entire loser’s bracket is no easy feat. Teams must play back-to-back games with very little, if any rest in between. Grayson played and won seven straight games over a three and-a-half hour span from 1:00pm to 4:30pm. Gregory admitted that he was concerned with fatigue as the day wore on but turned to his seniors.
“I asked my seniors if I should rotate them or keep them in and they said ‘coach your not taking us out’,” Gregory said. “If they tell me they can go and they can suck it up and get it done then I’m going to win or lose with them.”
Win they did. Grayson finished on a 10-game winning streak, went 12-2-1 overall and clinched a spot in the National Select 7-on-7 National Championships next week in Hoover, Al.
Valdosta (7-4 overall GA Qualifier record), North Gwinnett and Lassiter will join Grayson as representatives from Georgia in Hoover next week. Valdosta was invited and accepted after finishing second at the Georgia Qualifier while North Gwinnett and Lassiter did not win a qualifying event, earned invites by hosting qualifying events. Kenton (OH) is the defending champion and was the first team from Ohio to win the National Championship last year defeating Byrnes (SC). No team from Georgia has ever won the National Championship.