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Grayson finishes fourth in 7-on-7 national qualifier

SUGAR HILL -- In years past, Grayson has been known to be a force running the football.

However, at Thursday and Friday's 7-on-7 national select qualifier at Gary Pirkle Park, the Rams have shown they can throw the ball around.

While Grayson didn't finish as one of the top two teams to advance to the national championships in Hoover, Ala., later in the summer, it did show it is more than just a running team.

"We're a versatile team," said quarterback Hunter Schussler. "We can throw the ball and spread the field."

The 7-on-7 tournament featured 15 of the southeast's premier teams with three schools fielding a second team.

"We get the best of the best," said event director Dee Frye. "We have many top prospects here, including the state's No. 1 quarterback prospect, Deshaun Watson (Gainesville). The competition level is really high."

Grayson finished in fourth in the double-elimination tournament after going 3-3 (earning the No. 8 seed) in pool play on Thursday.

The Rams began Friday with a 28-27 win over No. 9 Shiloh, and then followed it up by beating previously undefeated Alpharetta 26-20.

"People view Grayson as a running team, but they showed they are more than that," Frye said. "And they weren't the only Gwinnett team to light up the scoreboard. There was a lot of good play from the local teams."

Grayson then fell to No. 12 Jefferson Co. 36-24 and was forced to try to climb up from the losers bracket. There, the Rams beat Shiloh once again 24-13, but fell to Centennial in the losers bracket final.

"I felt like we had the ability to win the whole thing," Schussler said. "It just didn't happen. We'll have a chance next year.

"The one thing I can say is that we came in as an underdog with the No. 8 seed and gave it everything we had. We never gave up and we had a lot of success."

With the pressures of following up what the last two Grayson teams have done, Schussler said he and his teammates won't let the pressure get to them.

"The coaches will have us ready for the season," he said. "They're giving us the tools to succeed."

Winning the tournament was Olive Branch High School (Miss.), which beat Jefferson Co. in the final 20-12.

Both teams will now advance to the national select 7-on-7 championships in Hoover from July 24-26.

Greater Atlanta Christian also had success in the tournament, going 4-2 in pool play before finishing in a tie for fifth place.

The Spartans dropped their opening game of the day against Lassiter 30-22. However, the Spartans reeled off wins against North Gwinnett (32-24), Alpharetta (33-21) and Archer (34-24) before falling to Centennial (32-27).

Shiloh also advanced as far as GAC after falling to Grayson A in the opening round.

The Generals beat Grayson B (37-10), Lassiter (25-17) and Gainesville (30-23) before falling to Grayson A once again.

"Overall it was a successful tournament," Frye said. "We had to deal with the weather on Friday, but we saw a lot of good action."