This season has been a major success for all three teams as the games have been competitive and exciting for the athletes and fans. It only seemed right to end this semester with a tournament that provided the same theatrics and competition that had made the regular season so enjoyable. While there were some issues with Georgia State’s team that forced them to opt out on Friday, the other three teams showed up ready to compete and had a visible intensity from the beginning.
One of the biggest issues heading into Saturday’s tournament was the weather forecast and the conditions of the field. There was a 50% chance of rain for the day and much of that was supposed to fall during the tournament. While Kennesaw’s fields are entirely turf and have excellent drainage, playing in the pouring rain was a major concern and everyone was hoping for the best.
The first game of the tournament pitted Kennesaw State against Georgia College, and the weather was cloudy at the start of the game. Mother Nature would ended up giving us a break for the first game, which allowed for a great match. Both teams started off fast, with Georgia College scoring first. Kennesaw immediately responded, however, and proceeded to drop a couple more scores on the Bobcats defense. This was the storyline of the entire game. Every time Georgia College put together a nice drive and finally looked like they would be able to start a run, the Owls would turn around and close the door on them. The Bobcats held strong in the first half, but the floodgates opened in the second half.
Kennesaw State completed opened up the game by taking a 30 point lead and both teams saw the writing on the wall. The enormous lead definitely hurt the Bobcats’ spirits, as they had come in two weeks earlier and tied the Owls on the same field. This was a big blow to them, but the experience they gained against Kennesaw was still important for their growth as a team. The game ended with a final score of 51-12, and Kennesaw looked very composed and focused after the win.
Under the new format, the losing team of the first game had to turn around and play the Yellow Jackets, the one seed in the tournament. After a 30 minute break in between games, both teams were out on the field and ready to start the game. There was a light mist over the field, but nothing too inhibiting for the teams. The game started off similar to the previous one, with Georgia College working together to create a couple early scores. They clearly had some energy left and were able to take advantage of the Yellow Jackets’ rustiness, which took a little while to wear off.
About halfway through the first half, the momentum started to shift in the game. Georgia Tech started to hit their stride and the Bobcats had finally hit a wall, losing almost all of their energy. The Yellow Jackets were able to put together a small run and end the half with a score of 25-6 in favor of Tech. The second half was very similar to the first game, as Georgia Tech looked to extend their lead to a margin they felt comfortable with. As the lead increased and the game dragged on, it slowly turned into a sloppy mess as both teams were waiting for the game to end. The passing from both sides was pretty poor for the majority of the game, but Georgia Tech’s fresh legs made a huge difference. By the time the game ended, the final score was 53-16.
The final game of the tournament, which now matched the Owls against the Yellow Jackets, looked to be a fantastic matchup between the two rivals. During the regular season, both games between the two teams ended with 2 point Yellow Jacket victories, which shows how comparable both teams are. The only difference between the two teams on this day was some personnel switches and the amount of rest each team had. While Tech had been coming off of playing a game, Kennesaw had been sitting around for over an hour and a half, and neither team knew what to expect from the other.
The game started off quickly, with some early scores from the Owls. They flew out of the gates and were able to take a 6-0 lead, but the Yellow Jackets showed they still had a fight left in them, responding with two quick scores of their own. At this point in the game, the rain finally came, and the game came to a screeching halt. Both teams had been moving the ball down the field, but the rain made the ball incredibly difficult to pass and catch. While both teams made attempts to dry the extra balls on the sideline, this did almost nothing to help the performance of the teams on the field.
Late in the first half, Kennesaw had a 12-9 lead and Georgia Tech had built up a little momentum on their side, but one play quickly changed that. Coming off a poor pass by the Yellow Jackets on their own side of the field, Kennesaw created a great scoring opportunity by kicking the ball into the end zone. One of the Georgia Tech defenders ran to the ball in the end zone and attempted to catch it and run to create a fast break, but the ball slipped through his hands, bouncing off his chest and into the hands of an Owls receiver. Three points for Kennesaw. At the end of the half, the Owls had taken a 15-9 lead and the Yellow Jackets knew they had just missed an opportunity.
The rain continued to persist into the second half, creating more issues with both teams’ ability to move the ball down the field. Midway through the second half, the weather finally gave the teams a break and the rain came to an end. This afforded Tech a chance to come back from an 8 point deficit. They were able to generate a quick scoring drive, but then the Owls quickly responded with one of their own. As the game wore on, Tech started to over think every play they made, resulting in poor passes and decision making. Kennesaw, however, had hit their stride and were playing effortlessly on the field. Any time the Jackets tried to create a scoring opportunity, they were able to crush those hopes with a great defensive effort. The game ended with a final score of 25-18, and Kennesaw State was your first inaugural ISL Tournament winner.
After the teams followed their routine post game schedules, the Owls were rewarded the Ramsey Cup, given to the winner of the ISL Tournament at the end of each season. While Kennesaw hadn’t started off their season how they had hoped, they were able to finish in impressive fashion, proving they were the best team on the field that day.
Now all three teams turn their attention to the summer, where hours of work are needed to progress the sport to a new level. There will be expansions to other schools who will join the ISL in the Fall and there will need to be modifications to some rules after experimenting with them in the regular season. While there is a lot of work still to come, everyone involved with the tournament could not be happier with the outcome and how smoothly it went. We’re excited for what’s to come and hope everyone sees the developments we’ve made. The Fall looks to be the best season yet, and we’d like all of our fans to be there to support us!