HOOVER—Weather shortened the third and final day of the Hoover City Elite 7 on 7 Tournament on Saturday, but Gardendale had already made its exit following a 29-28 loss to Holy Cross (La.) in the first round of bracket play.

Rising junior quarterback Will “Goose” Crowder tossed a touchdown as time expired to pull the 7-seed Rockets within one point, but a point-after attempt was not allowed, ending both the game and Gardendale’s tournament run in dramatic fashion.

After three days of play on the Hoover Metropolitan Complex fields, second-year head coach Chad Eads and the Rockets finished the passing tournament with a record of 6-3. Gardendale lost its opener on Thursday and Friday as pool play unfolded, but rebounded with three consecutive wins on both days—good enough for a No. 7 seed on the tournament bracket, which housed 24 teams.

A game-by-game rundown of Gardendale’s results at the Hoover City Elite Passing Tournament can be seen below.

Thursday Pool Play

▪ Dothan 33-28 Gardendale

▪ Gardendale 33-20 North Forsyth (Ga.)

▪ Gardendale 7-0 Charles Henderson

▪ Gardendale 28-21 Mallard Creek (N.C.)

Friday Pool Play

▪ Spain Park 28-17 Gardendale

▪ Gardendale 27-26 Holy Cross (La.)

▪ Gardendale 26-17 McAdory

▪ Gardendale 32-22 Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa

Saturday Bracket Play

▪ Holy Cross (La.) 29-28 Gardendale

The tournament was later stopped short due to rain, leaving four co-champions: 1-seed Mallard Creek, 2-seed Spanish Fort, 3-seed Central-Phenix City and 5-seed Hoover.

Eads, coming off a 6-6 effort in his first season with the Class 6A Rockets, sees a lot of good that can come from 7 on 7 competition.

“I think it gives your kids—especially wide receivers and quarterbacks—confidence; it gives them a chance to work together and that’s something you don’t get to simulate a lot,” said Eads. “You can do it at practice, but it gets to be routine, so this gives you a chance to compete against somebody different and see which kids will compete.”

Crowder, who received his first Southeastern Conference scholarship offer from Arkansas earlier this summer, was one of many maroon-clad competitors on the field.

“He wants to understand the offense so well and he’s progressing where he can do some things on offense for us: He can check plays, he has a great understanding of the offense,” said Eads of his quarterback. “He is a leader.”

As far as the guys on the receiving end of Crowder’s attempts, Eads pointed to several players who have shown flashes, including senior tight end Bailey Parsons who recently committed to Stanford as a long snapper.

“[Parsons] has gained some weight this offseason. He’s kind of our security blanket in the middle,” said Eads of Parsons. “I think Stephen Lewis and Kendall Fowler are gonna help us on the outside—they’re both tall receivers that have made some plays. Chris Boone’s had a good tournament, he’s made a lot of plays, so I’m real pleased with those guys.”

After a 6-2 showing at the Black Creek Parkway 7 on 7 Passing Tournament on June 27 and a 6-3 finish last week in Hoover, Gardendale now flips its focus to the regular season which begins on Aug. 23 at home against Mae Jemison.

Erik Harris is the sports editor for The North Jefferson News. He can be reached at sports@njeffersonnews.com

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