North unbeaten in 7-on-7 tournament

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

SUGAR HILL -- North Gwinnett football coach Bob Sphire was happy when he heard his team locked up the No. 1 seed of the North Gwinnett Select 7-on-7 Qualifier.

His mood changed when he heard his team's potential first-round matchup.

"Langston Hughes vs. Olive Branch winner? Wow, that's a tough first game," Sphire said. "I don't know if it was worth getting the No. 1 seed."

Olive Branch (Miss.) won last year's 7-on-7 tournament, which is a qualifier for the national meet in Hoover, Ala., on July 21-23.

North was one of three teams to go 5-0 in pool play Thursday at Gary Pirkle Park. Jonesboro and Jefferson County were also undefeated, but North secured the top seed based on points allowed.

"The ebb and flow of 7-on-7 can change in a second," Sphire said. "That's a tough first game to get Olive Branch. You have to come ready to play."

Thursday's pool play featured 24 teams, including eight from Gwinnett. North and Grayson each had two teams, while Norcross (3-2), Dacula (4-1), Central Gwinnett (4-1) and Mountain View (1-4) are also in the tournament. North's B team went 1-4. Grayson was 4-1 and its B team went 1-4. The tournament resumes today with a double elimination bracket.

"I saw a bunch of good football teams out here today," Sphire said.

North's biggest win was a 31-20 victory over South Carolina power Byrnes. The Bulldogs also defeated Chattahoochee, last year's Class AAAA state champions, 17-14.

"They are a very talented team," Sphire said of Byrnes. "It's not real football, but it's always nice to compete against a team like that."

Falcons break in spread

First year Dacula coach Jared Zito installed the spread offense during the Falcons' spring practice last month. Now Dacula is testing it out against different opponents.

"I like what the offense is doing. We're running routes, catching the ball and throwing like we're supposed to," Zito said. "We've come along way from where we started to where we are now."

Dacula has practiced in the Gwinnett County passing league and competed in the UGA passing tournament last week. The Falcons faced a lot better competition during Thursday's North Gwinnett 7-on-7 tournament. Dacula went 3-2 during pool play.

Dacula has run the veer offense in the past under former head coach Kevin Maloof. This year's team, which is loaded with seniors, has picked up on the offense rather quickly. Last year's quarterback Rocky Capobianco has moved to running back/receiver, while Brandon Goodson has taken over the QB duties. Capobianco will still see some time at quarterback during the regular season, but is enjoying his new role.

"It's a lot different," Capobianco said. "The offense has changed, so we can run a lot more different stuff. It's a lot more fun."

Schuessler proves Rams can pass

Grayson is regarded around the state as one of the best programs at running the wing-T offense. Quarterback Nick Schuessler has shown during North's 7-on-7 tournament it is not just a running team.

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Schuessler guided the Rams to a 4-1 record during Thursday's pool play. One of the wins included a victory over Olive Branch.

"This is the the fun stuff," Schuessler said. "We've installed some new stuff on offense to try and allow me to pass it more."

Now the tough part is convincing head coach Mickey Conn to call more passes than handoffs.

"He loves to running the ball, but we have to prove to him that we can throw it," Schuessler said. "I think we gained a lot of trust."

One of Schuessler's biggest targets has been running back/receiver Korey Jones. The duo have grown up together since the second grade.

"I trust him with my life," Schuessler said. "When I need to make a play, I go to him."

Bears end day with win

Mountain View will enter its third year of football and some things are still new to the program. Like 7-on-7 passing tournaments.

Thursday's tourney hosted by North was the first for the Bears and the team took its lumps. Mountain View had a narrow 22-19 loss to Chattahoochee in the opener and was winless going into the final game.

The Bears defeated Alpharetta's B team to get their first win of the tournament.

"This is great competition," head coach Tim Hardy said. "There's great teams from Gwinnett, Georgia and other states here. You get the opportunity to compete and get better."

Croom likes attention

Norcross wide receiver Jason Croom said he receives Facebook messages from college recruiters daily. Recruiting services and reporters contact him every other day.

It's a lot of attention, but the standout receiver doesn't mind it.

"No, I like it," Croom said. "It means I'm doing something good."

Croom has scholarship offers from dozens of colleges, but he has not narrowed down the schools. He's visited Mississippi State and Alabama and will visit Miami and Tennessee next week.