It's a program that has gotten used to winning big games, and less than two years removed from capturing a national championship, the Northwestern Bulls showed an impressive group of teams the last two days of Nike Football's second annual "7ON" football tournament at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, that they are still up for the challenge.
Led by tournament MVP Teddy Bridgewater, who is the Miami Herald's No. 1 Class of 2011 junior in the state, the Bulls defeated DeSoto, Texas, 34-23, to end the event with a perfect 5-0 mark and bring yet another national title back to the Sunshine State.
While 7-on-7 may not be the football that many are used to, it still is a national championship that Lakeland, the Bulls and St. Thomas Aquinas have enjoyed over the past four years, showing Sunshine State dominance.
The Bulls opened up the second day of the tournament, beating Byrnes, South Carolina, 26-15, on Friday afternoon to move to 4-0 in the two-day event. It was the second time in the tournament that head coach Billy Rolle's squad beat the impressive program from Duncan.
Play began Thursday with Dallas Skyline, Duncan Byrnes of South Carolina, which will play St. Thomas Aquinas this year, California’s Gardena Serra, Gainesville, Georgia, DeSoto of the Dallas area, which is the home of Notre Dame and Raider standout Tim Brown, Lakewood, Ca. and Pahokee, which was sent home due to "code of conduct violations."
Former Miami High and University of Miami standout Andre Johnson and Antonio Cromartie will be on hand among other players.
Northwestern Vapor Trail 28, Serra Land Sharks 6: Vapor Trail jumped on the Californians and cruised to an easy victory. Vapor Trail's Bridgewater finished the game with 370 yards and four touchdowns on 21 of 31 completions to six receivers.
Northwestern Vapor Trail 22, Byrnes Zoom Blade 14: Bridgewater continued his impressive early showing at quarterback, leading Vapor Trail past Zoom Blade, 22-14. Bridgewater, a junior-to-be who already has offers from the likes of Georgia, Miami, FSU and others, completed 23 of 32 passes for 325 yards and three scores, throwing zero interceptions as Vapor Trail took what a sagging Zoom Blade secondary gave them and controlled the clock for most of the game. Bridgewater completed passes to six different receivers with Lorenzo Shinholster and Michaelee Harris leading the charge with seven catches for 130 yards and two scores and six receptions for 81 yards and a TD respectively.
Northwestern Vapor Trail 28, Dallas Skyline Zoom Fly 6: Zoom Fly proved to be no match for the boys from Florida. Vapor Trail made one spectacular play after another on both sides of the ball. The team even got solid play from backup quarterback Khambrel McGee, an FIU commit who will likely play defensive back in college. Vapor Trail was able to get its second stringer some playing time because of the accuracy and poise of starting quarterback Bridgewater. He was simply spectacular, completing 15 of 21 passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. When "Bridge" subbed out, he moved to wide out and made one of the best catches of the afternoon, a Randy Moss-esque, one-handed grab in the middle of the field.
The Miami Herald will continue to update you on our teams throughout the tournament.
Bridgewater was named as the No. 1 player in the Class of 2011 today by Florida Friday Night Football Magazine. Also mentioned in the top 25 are No. 9 Denzel Perryman of Coral Gables, No. 13 Anthony Rabasa from Columbus, No. 16 B.J. DuBose (Northeast), No. 17 Tacoi Sumler (Gulliver Prep), No. 21 Miles Pace (Central) and No. 25 Charles Gaines, Jr. (Central).
Pahokee Vapor Jets 34, DeSoto Texas Super Speed 28: Senior De'Joshua Johnson caught an 80-yard touchdown pass and threw for a 60-yard score as the boys from Florida outlasted the team from Texas. Johnson played wide receiver in the first half, which is where he is expected to play at Florida State, the college he committed to last month. He had the longest play of the game when he hauled in a long pass from Emanuel Perez in the first half to help give his team a 12-8 lead. Johnson then switched to quarterback in the second half and hooked up with Chris Dunkley on a 60-yard bomb to cut a Super Speed lead to 21-18. Dunkley is a transfer to Pahokee from Royal Palm Beach and is regarded as one of Florida's top prospects. The go-ahead score for the Vapor Jets came on a 10-yard scoring completion from Johnson to Zachary Allen with 7:30 left. Johnson and Perez divided 478 passing yards almost equally with Johnson going 12 of 15 for 231 yards and three TDs while Perez was 7 of 12 for 247 and two scores. The team's leading receivers were Fred Pickett with five catches for 112 yards and Kaalum Williams with four catches for 47 yards.
Lakewood California Field Generals 20, Pahokee Vapor Jets 18: The Vapor Jets went with Johnson at quarterback for all but one series in this game. He finished with 20 completions in 27 attempts for 294 yards and three TDs. Pickett was his top target with seven receptions for 111 yards. In addition to Pickett, the other touchdowns were caught by Allen and Raheam Buxton.
Pahokee Vapor Jets 28, Gainesville, Georgia Merciless 22 (OT): The Vapor Jets earned the win on a fourth-down 30-yard touchdown pass in overtime from Johnson to Dunkley. Trailing by 22-14 with three minutes left, the Vapor Jets tied the score with 50 seconds left on a five-yard toss from Johnson to Dunkley. They still needed to convert a two-point play to force overtime and did it on pass from Johnson to Dennis Hall. Perez, the Vapor Jets' QB who gave up the interception, came back later in the half to throw a pair of TD passes to Kaalum Williams. Williams and Hall both turned in strong games for the Vapor Jets. Williams had six catches for 58 yards and two TDs while Hall had six for 113 and one score. Johnson and Perez both accounted for 200 yards or more with Johnson going 16 of 25 for 244 yards while Perez completed 12 of 16 for 200 yards.