Mount Zion coach Ervin Starr is looking forward to using this week’s Southside Shootout 7-on-7 tournament to help develop his young talent.
Good news if you’re a Southern Crescent football fan.
You don’t have to wait until August to see how teams in the area will fair against each other.
The sixth annual Titan Sports/Riddell Southside Shootout begins today at Warren Holder Park in Locust Grove, this time hosting some of the area’s best squads featuring several high-profile, Div. I recruits.
But more than a chance for casual observers to find a temporary cure for their summer football jonsing, the 7-on-7 tournament has become a Southern Crescent fixture and an opportunity for coaches to see how their teams measure up against other top talent.
“These tournaments really do help,” Locust Grove coach Clint Satterfield said. “We went to [University of Georgia] last week and played against Stephenson, Langston Hughes, ELCA and a top team from Tallahassee. You just can’t get that kind of competition behind the school building playing against yourself.”
Back-to-back state runners up Lovejoy will be back to defend its Shootout title from last year. Other schools from Clayton County will be Drew, Mount Zion and Mundy’s Mill.
Locust Grove, Eagle’s Landing, Woodland, Stockbridge and Luella will represent Henry County.
Stockbridge followed up its first ever playoff berth in 2011 with a quarterfinals appearance last season, narrowly losing to perennial power Marist.
With nine returnees on a star-studded defense, the Tigers provide a good measuring stick for up-and-comers to determine their progress.
Mount Zion coach Ervin Starr is one who will tell you that putting his team up against the best is never an intimidating thing.
“To have the Lovejoys out there and Stockbridge — nobody has speed like Stockbridge — think we’ll compete well with those guys,” Starr said. “The longer we go into the summer, the more you see your team coming together. For the most part, as far as our receivers and backs go, this helps us alot.”
Building quarterback depth is also a goal of Starr’s going into the Shootout. Rising senior, and likely starter, Devante Dudley is nursing a broken thumb. And with two more weeks of recovery ahead, Starr said it’s a great time to see who among his other signal callers will be ready to step up.
“We’ve been having some really good competition back there so far,” Starr said. “Right now we’re trying to see where we stand and who’s going to be our backups.”
For teams like Locust Grove, it will be an opportunity to see if momentum from a 6-4 finish last season has any carried over into the summer.
“On our first day of summer practice, we had over 70 (players) coming out,” Satterfield said. “We dressed out just dressed 38 kids in our last game of the year last year against Riverdale. There’s a lot of upside to having a winning season.”
Having a stud playmaker on your side doesn’t hurt either.
Locust Grove wide receiver/cornerback Cortez McDowell will headline a group of ultra gifted athletes at the Shootout. McDowell is one of the most sought-after recruits in the nation.
That sits well, not only for the Wildcats, but for the state of Southern Crescent football as a whole.
“I’m excited,” Satterfield said. “It’s not every day that you get to coach an All-American. I think it just shows how the level of talent is growing here.
“And I think everyone is just excited about what’s happening around there. [Locust Grove] middle school won a championship. We’ve had this tournament up in Lovejoy the first three years, and then down in this area the last three. Maybe this is starting to become a football place.”