By Brian Paglia
In past years, Henry County football relished its chance to compete in the Georgia Invitational 7-on-7 tournament at Lassiter High School, the qualifying tournament for the national tournament at Hoover (Ala.) High Schoool. Eager to compete against more reputable programs, and armed with a new wealth of football weapons, they thrived.
But when the weapons don't arrive, an opportunity to make an impression is wasted.
Such was Henry County's chance this past weekend, when it could have built upon the momentum it's created with several successful passing tournaments this summer. Just last weekend, the Warhawks won a tournament at Mary Persons High.
Instead, only 11 players attended the final day at Lassiter, and thus that day ended abruptly. Henry County went 1-2 in tournament play, though they still received an invitation to attend Hoover this weekend.
"I think if we'd had all our guys," Warhawks coach Mike Rozier said, "we could've made a statement in the tournament."
Rozier anticipated many of his players would be absent. Some were participating at summer camps at colleges, a crucial part of gaining exposure in the recruiting process. Some notified Rozier they needed to be out of town for various reasons.
But some just refrained from coming after pool play on Friday, a fact, Rozier said, that was disconcerning.
"That wasn't a good sign," he said. "Some lacked a commitment of showing up. It showed a lack of wanting to compete. That wasn't good."
Rozier found some positive out of the weekend. With many absent, many more of Henry County's understudies seized a chance to get more playing time and experience.
"Some guys had to step up," Rozier said. "They got some playing time and that's going to make them better. It wasn't a lost weekend.
"The last couple of years those guys were ready to show up and compete in full-force. We faced some adversity this weekend and we didn't handle that well."
Eagle's Landing Looks Back
For Eagle's Landing coach Joe Teknipp, it is what his team almost accomplished at Lassiter that brings him the most comfort.
The Golden Eagles also competed at the Georgia Invitational 7-on-7 tournament and were eliminated swiftly after losses to eventual runner-up Lassiter and Kell, which made the semifinals. Eagle's Landing finished 2-6 for the weekend.
But how they played was more important than the outcome. After the loss to Lassiter, the Golden Eagles defeated a Kennesaw Mountain team they lost to the day before. After losing to Kell by 30 points, Eagle's Landing narrowly fell by just three points. Four times the Golden Eagles intercepted Kell.
And there were other developments:
n Teknipp lauded the play of his receivers Sam Joseph, Alex Williams and Patrick Wiley.
n Quarterbacks Tyler Teknipp and Phillip Staples showed marked improvement from Friday to Saturday, according to Teknipp. "They learned how important it was to play mistake-free," he said.
n The biggest development may have been the running backs performance catching the ball out of the backfield. On one play, fullback Chasten Burns caught a 3-yard pass and turned it into a 40-yard touchdown.