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First Coast (Fla.) takes home tourney title
Hatcher, GSU welcome 25 teams
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    Twenty five high school teams from all across the south traveled to Statesboro on Saturday to participate in the first annual Eagle Passing Tournament — a seven-on-seven competition with no blocking or rushing — and although only one team could win, the experience was one that was enjoyed by all of the participants.
    “It’s been something good for these guys to get a chance to compete in the off season,” said first year Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher, the organizer of the event. “Just as important, there were 25 teams that came to Statesboro to visit Georgia Southern University, and see what it is all about, so it was a win-win for both the high schools and us college coaches.”
    High schools from three states met on the GSU practice fields and at Paulson Stadium in the day-long competition. Local schools Portal, Statesboro and Swainsboro, as well as other Georgia schools like Coffee, Jeff Davis County, Charlton County and Bethesda Day School all participated. Florida schools such as Orange Park, Florida High, Fleming Island and First Coast were all in attendance, as well as South Carolina schools like Beaufort and Colleton County.
    “You have basketball tournaments and baseball tournaments this time of year,” said Hatcher. “We felt like we needed a football tournament.”
    Hatcher has helped put together similar competitions at the University of Kentucky and Valdosta State.
    The tournament focused mainly on the quarterback, wide receivers and the defensive secondary, and the rules were simple. Games last 30 minutes, and the teams play on a 40-yard field, with 20 yards needed for a first down. Points are awarded for touchdowns (six) and extra points conversions (one from 10 yards our or two on a 20-yard conversion). The defense can be awarded points for holding the opposing offense without a first down and for interceptions.
    The entire tournament was organized, managed and refereed by the GSU coaching staff. They made sure that the trip was worthwhile for each team that participated in the event.
    “We had a great day. Every team is guaranteed at least four games,” Hatcher said, “and it’s nice to finish up at Paulson Stadium — give these guys a chance a chance to see what Paulson Stadium is all about.”
    The tournament concluded at Paulson around 6 p.m. and pitted the Charlton County Indians against the Buccaneers of First Coast out of Jacksonville, Fla.
    With just over 10 minutes to go in the championship game, The Indians trailed First coast 31-17, but a quick touchdown and a two-point conversion brought the game close at 31-25. After a quick four-and-out, the Indians got the ball back, but the Buccaneers forced an interception on the next drive.
    First Coast, led by quarterback Alvin Brooks, was then able to break away offensively and took the championship with a 42-31 victory over CCHS.
    The Buccaneers were glad for the chance to come to Statesboro for this kind of tournament.
    “Chris (Hatcher) came over to Georgia Southern,” said First Coast coach Marty Lee, who also coaches the fall team. “We knew he runs wide open, one-back stuff like we do. We kind of followed him at Valdosta and figured this would be a good camp to come to, play some people from Georgia and South Carolina, and we got a great experience out of it.”

    Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9404.