ROSWELL — The path to the championship of the Corky Kell 7-on-7 Invitational was not an easy one for Marietta or Kell.
The Blue Devils ended up prevailing in the all-Cobb County title game 22-14, but they entered the tournament as the No. 16 seed. The Longhorns were ranked No. 14. The seeding was based on the results from the pool play in the morning.
After winning its first two games of the day, Marietta dropped its final two pool play matchups against Mill Creek and Denmark by a combined 13 points.
Marietta did not play well in the morning, coach Richard Morgan said. But once the single-elimination tournament started, the Blue Devils kicked it into high gear.
“When you get to this point, it’s win or go home,” Morgan said. “Our guys’ mentality flips a little bit. When it’s win or go home, they know we can’t lose again. Then their mindset kind of kicks in, and they make more plays.”
East Coweta, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, lost in the first round to West Forsyth. After defeating West Forsyth, Marietta rattled off two close wins against Colquitt County and Creekside to reach the championship.
“There were no real blowouts,” Morgan said. “It was all close games for like the last six hours … It speaks a lot to the competition.”
Morgan praised his team’s mental toughness for fighting through the heat and the close games. He also spoke highly of Kell’s defense, which focused on shutting down Marietta receiver Arik Gilbert.
Kell coach Brett Sloan also liked what he saw from his team and quarterback Corbin LaFrance.
“I’m extremely proud of their effort and the way they stuck together all day,” Sloan said.
In order to reach the title game, Kell had to defeat Lee County, who beat the Longhorns 34-21 during pool play.
Kell handled the task with ease, beating the defending Class AAAAAA state champions 24-8 in the semifinals.
But a 7-on-7 championship game appearance or a championship victory does not guarantee anything in the regular season.
“We won this tournament last year, but our season didn’t go as well as we wanted,” Morgan said. “It’s great to win, and I’m proud of the kids, but by Monday morning, we got to move on and keep working toward our goals.”