Mundy’s Mill players showoff their hardware after winning the Southside Shootout on Thursday in Locust Grove. The Tigers defeated Eagle’s Landing in the championship game of the passing league tournament.
If this were September, the next few words would’ve sent shockwaves through the Southern Crescent.
In a field that included names like Lovejoy and Stockbridge, Mundy’s Mill is the champion.
And, by just one point, Eagle’s Landing is the runner up.
This, of course, is not the Georgia High School Association state championship game we’re talking about here. But Mundy’s Mill will gladly take home its crown as the sixth annual Titan Sports/Riddell Southside Shootout champion.
“We want our kids to come out here and work hard, but we want them to have fun as well,” Mundy’s Mill coach Greg Manior said. “It’s a big win for them. Things like this help our guys to know that we can go out and play and compete with anybody.”
Which is exactly what the Tigers did at the 7-on-7 passing league tournament that took place Wednesday and Thursday at Locust Grove’s Warren Holder Park.
Mundy’s Mill had to beat Stockbridge in order to get to the finals with Eagle’s Landing. Stockbridge has a bevy of potential Div. I skill position talent returning — especially on defense — from a 2012 squad that went 11-2 before just coming up short in the quarterfinal round against Marist.
Mundy’s Mill defeated the Golden Eagles 14-13 in the championship game, scoring the winning points on quarterback Rodricus Gates’ pass to Cornell Washington on a two-point conversion with no time remaining.
That pass — and Gates’ play in general — gave Manior reason to praise the progress of his rising junior quarterback after Thursday’s win.
“We knew last year that Rodricus had a really strong arm, but we knew he had to get better and making reads and finding passing windows,” Manior said. “Those windows are starting to become open for him now. He’s beginning to put it all together.”
Mundy’s Mill did all of this without rising senior running back Rodney Smith. Smith, also a standout on the Tigers’ baseball team, is still recovering from an ACL tear in Mundy’s Mill’s regular season finale against Ola.
Smith was arguably the surprise player of the year in Clayton County after torching defenses to the tune 1,575 yards and 18 touchdowns. He averaged an eye-popping 9.1 yards per carry for a 4-6 Tigers team that was just one win away from its first playoff appearance since 2007.
Manior said Smith is currently “at about 80 percent,” and should be back in time for the beginning of fall camp in late July.
The second-year coach said the competition also gave his bunch a chance to develop other players.
“We were able to build some depth out there and see a lot of guys who are starting to step up for us,” he said.
Eagle’s Landing’s performance during the tournament, even in eventual defeat, may have been even more eyebrow-raising. The Golden Eagles — never short on offensive talent — defeated 2012 defending Shootout champ Lovejoy twice in order to advance to the title game.
Eagle’s Landing coach Joe Teknipp said he’s hoping the experience in Locust Grove can provide his team with a much needed winning swagger throughout the rest of the summer.
“Any time you’re able to win against athletes like Lovejoy, it does something to your team’s confidence,” said Teknipp, who’s Golden Eagles are coming off consecutive 1-9 campaigns. “Especially that second time around when we knew they’d be gunning for us after beating them the first time.”
Teknipp said he was especially pleased with how his defense backs guarded Lovejoy’s long and rangy wide receivers. But in true coach form, Teknipp said the close finish was nice, but not completely satisfying.
“We really would’ve liked to just win the thing,” Teknipp said. “I think that would’ve really pushed our guys’ confidence level over the top. But it was still a great experience for us.”