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Hatcher hosts annual 7-on-7 tournament
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    It may be summertime, but that’s no reason why the fields on the banks of Beautiful Eagle Creek should be without a little football.
    For the second year in a row, Georgia Southern coach Chris Hatcher invited high school football programs from across the South to come together Saturday for the Eagle Passing Tournament — a seven-on-seven competition that matches passing against the defensive secondary.
    Hatcher hosted similar tournaments during his years at Kentucky and Valdosta State.
    “This is kind of the equivalent of a summer basketball camp,” Hatcher said. “It gives (the players) a chance to work on some skills, and it was a real successful day.
    “It gives them a chance to kind of get away from their own environment, get some team bonding and team building. Then you get a chance to compete in a time of a year that there aren’t many opportunities to compete. When you put those things together, we feel like we’ve got a really well-run tournament. We got some teams that have been coming for a long time, in Valdosta and now here, and we feel like it was an awesome day.”
    The games were played on eight fields around Eagle Creek, and each team was guaranteed at least four games. Points were awarded for touchdowns (6), extra points from five yards out (1) or 10 yards out (2), interceptions (3) and fourth-down stops (1).
    The tournament, run by Georgia Southern coaches and players, pitted 20 teams from Georgia, South Carolina and Florida against each other throughout the day. Orange Park, Fla.’s Fleming Island came out on top, knocking off South Carolina’s Fort Dorchester 48-45.
    Fleming didn’t make it out of its bracket in the 2007 tournament but, with a new quarterback, cut down on interceptions to seal the win.
    “Any time we get a chance to compete, it builds confidence,” said Fleming Island coach Derek Chipoletti, “especially when we come out on top. It just reinforces all the hard work these kids put in.”
    The Statesboro Blue Devils went 3-1 and lost to Fleming, but failed to win their bracket after a three-way tie forced a point-based tiebreaker.
    Other nearby teams in the competition were Bryan County, Toombs County and North Augusta.
    Aside from providing the high school teams an opportunity for some competition and workouts, the day provided the Georgia Southern with something to do while waiting for the fast-approaching 2008 season.
    “We’re out here recruiting, watching prospects and providing a service to the high schools in the area,” Hatcher said. “We take a couple of weeks off in July, and then we’ll start getting fired up about it.”

    Notes: The Eagle coaches in charge of the fields were Rance Gillespie, Bubba Walker, Ashley Anders, Ron Dugans, Mitch Stewart, Jeff Koonz, Shawn Bostick and Joe Hollis. The players aiding the referees were Carson Hill, Cole Fountain, Carter Walton, Tim Camp, Matt Wise, Casey Wingard, Justin Callaway, Mike McIntosh, Jonathan Loving, Raja Andrews, Harland Bower, Dio Herrera, Chris Covington, Hudson Presume, Dave Jenkerson, Chris Teal, Damon Suggs, Justin Larmond, Darrell Pasco, David Lewis, E.J. Webb and Jonathan George.

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