Staff Photo: John Bohn Norcross linebacker Tommy Tate stretches while taking part in a 7-on-7 football tournament hosted by Central Gwinnett High School on Saturday. Seven Gwinnett teams play seven teams from other areas of Georgia during the tournament.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- If you don't think high school football is important in the state of Georgia, then you didn't see the 2012 Gwinnett vs. Georgia 7-on-7 football tournament on Saturday at Central Gwinnett High School.
Featuring 12 teams -- six from Gwinnett County and six from the rest of the state -- the teams played in helmets, practice shirts, shorts and cleats on half-fields.
And even though it was only June 2, the competition was intense and the teams played hard as the summer sessions got off to a fast start.
In the championship game, Kell pulled out a wild 27-25 win in overtime over Collins Hill as the Longhorns completed a touchdown pass to tie it and then had to complete a mandatory two-point conversion to claim the title.
Kell finished the day with a 6-1 mark while Collins Hill was 4-3 in the competition.
Collins Hill had taken a 25-19 lead with the first possession of overtime, but the Eagles' two-point try failed.
The contest moved into overtime tied at 19-19 after a finish in regulation that was filled with controversy, rules interpretations, inadvertent whistles from officials and just plain craziness.
But that only whet the appetite for more football in August.
For Collins Hill head coach Kevin Reach, it was a matter of being so close to winning the tournament. But it was also a great opportunity to evaluate the talent that will return for the Eagles for the 2012 campaign.
"We were up and down today," Reach said. "I felt at times we looked great and other times we looked terrible. But our kids competed and we started out slow in that last game before we rallied. But looking at it overall, I'm happy with the way we competed. Still, it would have been nice to win it. For the first 7-on-7 tournament, I thought we played hard and saw some good things.
"I thought Brett Sheehan had a good day for us at quarterback. He started for us last year and he's already had some offers. And Justin Wyatt had a good day for us and then there's Daniel Fish who was very good at linebacker. Flinn Boston also played well as did Raymere Thomas. And Tyler Henderson and Ryhan England played both ways for us and did some good things."
The day began at Tally Johnson Field with pool play.
Host Central was joined in one pool by fellow Gwinnett schools Norcross and Meadowcreek along with Centennial, Eagle's Landing Christian Academy and Flowery Branch.
Alpharetta, Collins Hill, Kell, North Gwinnett, Jefferson County and Mill Creek rounded out the other pool.
Following the pool play, Kell pulled out an 18-14 victory over Norcross and Collins Hill knocked off Eagle's Landing 25-12 in the semifinals to set up the championship game.
Norcross finished at 4-2 while Eagle's Landing was 5-1 on the day.
Meanwhile, Central finished up the day with a 4-2 record with an impressive 43-8 win over Mill Creek, which completed play with a 2-4 mark.
In the matchup for fourth place, Centennial (2-4) edged Jefferson County (2-4) by a 21-20 score while Alpharetta (3-3) got past Flowery Branch 26-19 in the battle for fifth place as the Falcons finished at 1-5.
North (3-3) and Meadowcreek (1-5) battled for sixth place, with the Bulldogs taking a 24-17 win.
"It was an outstanding day with a lot of great teams here," said Central head football coach and tournament host Todd Wofford. "We couldn't have asked for better weather or better competition. I've been to other 7-on-7 competitions and I thought we could do the same thing here. So when it came time to pick teams, I just looked at some of the best teams in the state and invited them here."