By Larry Blustein
OCALA – When Hollywood Hills head football coach Al Lang found out that his Spartans weren’t going to be able to attend this year’s University of South Florida Sling & Shoot 7-on-7 event in Tampa, the veteran head coach scrambled around for a place for his team to head to this weekend.
After seeing that Belleview coach John Ivory was organizing an event in Ocala, he called to see if his Spartans could join a group of quality teams that were headed to the Ocala Sportsplex for a day-long 7-on-7 and linemen challenge.
“We called John to see if there was a way we could get our kids into this quality 7-on-7,” Lang recalled. “When he said yes, we made hotel reservations and plans to make the five hour trip from south Florida. We were excited to have a place to go.”
After finishing 2-2 in pool play, the Spartans really started to make noise once the single elimination took place. With programs such as Orlando Monteverde Academy, Tampa Blake, Ocala Forest, Spring Hill Springstead, Lantana Santaluces, host Belleview, Ocala Lake Weir, Gainesville Eastside, Melbourne Central Catholic, Jacksonville University Christian, defending 1A state champion Trenton, Lake Butler Union County, Fort Myers Bishop Verot, Ocala Vanguard, Tallahassee FAMU and Sparr North Marion, coached by former Miami Northwestern head coach Steven Field, the tournament was very competitive.
“We had played very well during the early portion of the event,” Lang said, but we really started to put it together once everything was on the line.”
The Spartans beat Springstead and North Marion, setting up a quarterfinal battle with unbeaten Trenton, a team that featured quality junior Hamp Cheevers and other players who returned from the state title. This team was one of the favorites to win it all.
Staying on the same field with Trenton gave the Spartans plenty of confidence, moving them into the semifinals against a very athletic Gainesville Eastside team. That narrow semifinal victory gave Hollywood Hills a chance at beating Tampa Blake for the title.
“We had lost to them early in the event,” said receivers coach Brandon Graham. “I think after we beat Trenton, this team felt that they could win it all.”
Playing without standout receiver Edward Aldred, who went out of the tournament early with a concussion, the Spartans looked to senior quarterback Darius Greene and receivers Winston Job III, Ronald Scriven and Miguel Montanez on offense – and Ronald Clayton Jr., Tony Henry, Terrence Williams and Jacarier Salter on defense.
The Spartans went ahead 6-0, only to see Blake tie the game at 6, but it would be the last time the Spartans would look back.
Leading 13-12, they came up with huge plays, scoring again and moving the score to 19-12, 26-12 and stopping Blake for a 28-12 win.
“This was a great win,” said Lang. “We came further than anyone else as a late entrant and really made a statement. I couldn’t be any prouder of this team.”
Job was voted as Offensive MVP of the event, Salter took home the Defensive MVP award, Clayton was one of seven players on the All-Tournament Defensive squad – and lineman Dusan Etienne was selected as Offensive Lineman of the challenge.
Winning Hollywood Hills Spartans included: Edward Aldred, Terence Williams, Darius Greene, Ronald Scriver, Jr., Miguel Montanez, Jacarier Salter, Deric Smith, Lamont Clarke, Toy Henry, Alejandro Duperon, Donovan Henderson, Winston Job III, Patrick Smith, Ronald Clayton II, Marvin Estrada-Campbell, Jakari Latimer, Nicholas Alequin, Branden Garcia, Dusan Etienne, Gerald Louis and Reginald Colson III.
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