A total of 32 teams will compete in four pools in the tournament, which begins with pool play today and concludes Saturday with a champion crowned in the double-elimination portion of the event.
Each team will play seven games in pool play — four today and three Friday — and will be seeded for the double-elimination portion according to their record.
Each game will run 22 minutes — continuously for the first 20 minutes before stopping according to the rules during the final 2 minutes.
The trip to Hoover is the final summer event for both North Cobb and Lassiter, who will start fall practice — along with the rest of Georgia’s high school football teams — Wednesday.
It will be the first appearance in Hoover for North Cobb, which qualified with a runner-up finish at the regional competition held last week at Lassiter. The Warriors lost to Hoover 31-12 in the finals.
“To go play against national competition — against the best teams in the country — is a great opportunity for our kids,” North Cobb coach Shane Queen said. “It will only make our kids better and, hopefully, that will carry over into next week (when fall practice begins).”
Lassiter, on the other hand, is a veteran of the national tournament. It will be the fifth appearance in a row for the Trojans, who have achieved automatic bids by serving as host of the regional qualifier.
“It’s a reward for the kids, but it’s also a tough challenge,” Irwin said. “There are so many good teams in this tournament, so it will be a challenge. We’re going to go there and have some fun, and we’re going to do the best we can.”
North Cobb will get things under way in Pool B today against Carver-Montgomery (Ala.) at 2:30 p.m. The Warriors will then play Wheaton Warrenville South (Ill.), Lexington Catholic (Ky.) and McGill-Toolen (Ala.).
On Friday, North Cobb will take on Fayetteville (Ark.), Central Valley (Pa.) and Olive Branch (Miss.).
“I did see Lexington Catholic and Carver, and I know there are some very athletic teams that are going to be there,” Queen said. “For our kids to play against that level of competition will help us get ready for the season.”
Lassiter will be seeing a familiar face in it Pool D opener — its former coach, Chip Lindsey. Lindsey, who coached the Trojans in 2008 and ’09 before spending one year as an assistant at Troy University, will lead Spain Park (Ala.) against Lassiter at 3:30 p.m.
For Lassiter, it will be its second meeting with Lindsey and Spain Park in as many years, with the Trojans losing to the Jaguars in pool play last year.
“Coach Lindsey and I are good friends, and we have some players who were freshmen when coach Lindsey was still coach,” Irwin said. “It was kind of a neat deal to play against him last year.”
One of those freshmen was the Trojans’ current quarterback, Eddie Printz. The UCLA commitment was a backup to current Georgia passer Hutson Mason that year.
After facing Spain Park, Lassiter will play south Georgia power Colquitt County, Liberty (Ohio) at 4:30 p.m. and Christian Brothers (Mo.).
On Friday, the Trojans will play Whitehaven (Tenn.), Daphne (Ala.) and West Monroe (La.).
For both Irwin and Queen, simply avoiding turnovers is among the biggest keys to making a deep run in Hoover.
“We committed way too many turnovers last weekend (at the regional tournament),” Irwin said. “Interceptions are a killer, so we need to avoid those. Our defense can’t give up fast scores. We did a good job defensively in the (regional) tournament, and we need to keep doing that, so we need to avoid turnovers on offense and giving up early scores on defense.”
Added Queen, “Obviously, we can’t turn the ball over, and we have to make stops on defense. If we don’t turn the ball over, and we make stops on defense, we can do well in this tournament.”