FOOTBALL: Ridgeland to make first apperance in Southeastern 7-on-7 championships this weekend in Dalton

The Carpet Capital will become football's 7-on-7 capital this weekend as 42 teams representing 37 schools from 10 states will vie for the championship of the Southeastern 7-on-7 tournament in Dalton.

The tournament, now in its third year, is one of the fastest-growing passing league events in the country. Last year's tournament featured 31 teams from six states.

Madison (Ala.) won the inaugural tournament in 2011, while Cartersville (Ga.) claimed the title last year.

Ridgeland, fresh off an appearance in last year's GHSA Class AAAA state championship game, will be making its first appearance in the tournament. LaFayette and Gordon Lee have both played in the tournament in previous years, although neither are in this year's field.

Panthers head coach Mark Mariakis said the level of competition is one of the factors that steered him toward signing up his squad for this year's event.

"Just looking at the write-ups on each team, there are going to be some very strong teams there," he said. "There should be good competition for all of our kids in every game."

Ridgeland is one of five local teams, including Dalton, Northwest Whitfield, North Murray, and Southeast Whitfield, that will field two separate teams in the tournament.

The Panthers "A" squad will be in Pool B along with North Murray "A", Villa Rica (Ga.), Paoli (Ind.), Scotlandville (La.), McMinn County (Tenn.), and Victory Christian (N.C.).

Ridgeland's "B" squad will compete in Pool C with Coahulla Creek, Maplesville (Ala.), Jeffersonville (Ind.), Auburn (Ala.), East Hall (Ga.), and Knoxville West (Tenn.).

"We're taking 36 kids, 18 on each team, so they all should get a lot of reps," Mariakis explained. "We're excited to be able to bring that many kids."

Games will last 25 minutes with a running clock and be played on a 40-yard field. Quarterbacks will have four seconds to get a pass off and teams will have four downs to make a first down at the 20-yard line or to score from the 20-yard line. Extra points will consist of one snap from the 10-yard line, while a 2-point try will be taking from the 15-yard line.

Offensive touchdowns are worth six points. Defensive interceptions are worth three and interceptions returned for touchdowns are worth six. There will no overtime in pool play games. Running plays are also prohibited.

The top four teams in each pool will advance to a double-elimination championship bracket on Sunday, while the remaining teams will play in a double-elimination consolation bracket.

Mariakis said while his teams will be trying to win the championship, they will also be working on their team chemistry.

"With so many new faces this year, the more we can work together, the better a team we will be," he said. "We're already seeing a lot of that from the passing leagues we've played in so far this summer. We're more of a team now than we were back in May."

Ridgeland's "A" team will play the first of six pool games at 12 p.m. on Saturday against McMinn County (Tenn.). Their final pool game will be against Paoli (Ind.) at 9:20 that evening.

Ridgeland's "B" team will face Maplesville (Ala.) at 12:40 p.m. on Saturday and their final pool game will be at 8 against Coahulla Creek.

Both teams will play at the same location, the Dalton Parks and Recreation Center on Civic Drive.

Bracket play on Sunday will begin at 8:30 a.m. for both the championship and consolation brackets.