Ts up! was the refrain as Team Tampa (Tampa, Fla.) hoisted the IMG7v7 National Championship trophy for the second straight year. The team, comprised of the best players in the Tampa-area, was single-mindedly focused on the task at hand after entering the bracket tournament as the No. 7 seed. At the end of the day on Sunday, all that stood in their way of repeating as National Champions was Miami, Fla.s South Florida Express Elite. Behind the laser accuracy of quarterback Chase Litton (Wharton HS, Tampa, Fla.), Team Tampa was able to eke out a close victory over the powerhouse Express, 25-24.
It feels great, representing Team Tampa - these guys, the best talent in the world is on my team, and we were disappointed after the [IMG7v7] Southeast Regional, so we came out to make a statement this time, said Litton after the win.
Litton was on fire, completing pass after pass to a receiving corps that included the likes of East Lake High Schools (Tarpon Springs, Fla.) Artavis Scott and George Campbell. Most importantly, Litton only missed four passes in the title game, and his performance included zero turnovers.
Chase is consistent, and thats one thing I always told him, you dont have to be great, just be consistent, and thats what he did, said Team Tampa Head Coach Woodrow Grady. 7v7 is about being consistent, and having a quarterback thats very accurate, and knows how to read [defenses], and not stare down receivers.
Grady was also quick to laud the performance of defensive back Aaron Covington (Armwood HS, Seffner, Fla.), who made several clutch plays and forced key turnovers when the team needed them most throughout the tournament.
However, Team Tampa had to overcome major challenges throughout the day. In the third round, they bested the No. 2 seeded Central Florida Top Recruits, led by RB Isaiah Ford (Trinity Christian Academy, Jacksonville, Fla.) and CB Duke Dawson (Dixie County HS, Cross City, Fla.) by a score of 17-15. In the quarterfinals, they had to fend off the fierce Team Delaware, who made their first appearance in the IMG7v7 National Championship with the stellar play of Boston College commitment, QB Darius Wade (Middletown HS, Middletown, Del.) and CB Imani Jones (McKean HS, Wilmington, Del.). Finally, in the winners bracket semifinals, Team Tampa sent the Express to the losers bracket by a score of 31-24.
When you playing, no matter what level, and you won the championship the previous year, youre a target, coach Grady remarked. Every game, everybody was coming at us. Its tougher to win back-to-back, because every game, everybody wants to knock you off.
The runner up, the No. 1 seeded South Florida Express Elite, made their own impressive run to the final. The Express began the day with three consecutive wins, highlighted by a drubbing of rival Miami, Fla. squad, the South Florida Fire, by a 49-14 margin. After falling to the losers bracket, the Express had to overcome a major obstacle in AWP Sports, the No. 4 seed out of Ft. Wayne, Ind. AWP had been on a roll, led by DB Drue Tranquill (Caroll HS, Ft. Wayne, Ind.) and QB David Morrison (Concordia HS, Ft. Wayne, Ind.), but their tournament run came to an end at the hands of the Express, 34-28.
Change Factor is the first-ever Future STARS IMG7v7 National Champion
A new wrinkle at the IMG7v7 National Championship was the addition of the Future STARS division, featuring top middle school players (7th and 8th grade) from all around the state of Florida. In its first year, the Future STARS had nine teams compete for the title, but at the end of the day, the central Florida based Change Factor was standing tall as the champions.
I tell these kids attitude and effort are the only two things you can control, and they controlled those things and won themselves a national championship, remarked Change Factor Head Coach Tim Frost. What makes this so great is that this team came together, and we have a combination of kids from all over central Florida - Tampa, Sarasota, Bradenton, Orlando - and these kids just came to compete.
One young player that truly stood out was Bruce BJ Judson, who will be entering Cocoa High School (Cocoa, Fla.) next season. Bruce is a jack of all trades, but made his mark at receiver in Sundays Future STARS final, leading his team to a 22-11 win over the North Broward All-Stars.
We only practiced one time together on Saturday, and we just came out here today and dominated, Judson said of his teams victory. This was great, playing with all these great athletes, but we had to do our best and come out here and compete.
Change Factor is a first-year camp education movement based out of Bradenton, Fla., whose core values are based around teaching life on and off the football field. The six key lessons Change Factor instills upon its members are communication, humility, attitude, nutrition, goals and education.
This is great, but I feel more successful when these kids grow up to graduate, be good fathers and give back to their communities, added Coach Frost.