There is no escaping it. For 10 weeks in the summer, there are camps, combines, clinics and 7-on-7 tournaments that you simply cannot afford to miss. Not if you want to be in Orlando next December, competing for a state title.
Sorry, parents, there are no more family trips that do not include football. If you want a college scholarship, you need to do what everyone else has been doing — competing and learning, trying to gain an advantage.
Last weekend alone, there were three premier events in Florida, and yes, South Florida teams and players were smack in the middle.
In Bradenton, at the IMG 7-on-7 national tournament, the South Florida Express had two all-star teams loaded with major prospects. Both teams fared well, but Team Tampa won.
The Nike South Florida 7-on-7, which attracted 65 schools from as far away as Jensen Beach and included most of Miami-Dade’s and Broward’s teams, was won by the Homestead Broncos in an overtime thriller against Jackson.
Perhaps the most anticipated event of the weekend, from a team aspect, took place in New Smyrna Beach for the second annual $10,000 Battle of the Beach 7-on-7 tournament, which had defending-champion Booker T. Washington leading a competitive field.
This is a tournament that was started to bring the best in the state to one spot for two days and produce a champion. Last year, the Tornadoes had to win twice against Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast to bring home $10,000. This year, with schools such as Tampa Plant, Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, Winter Park — as well as local teams such as Carol City, Cypress Bay and Western — entered, winning the title would not be easy.
This event was so important to schools such as Booker T. Washington and Carol City, that the best players did not head to IMG — instead opting to go after that prize money.
“Do you realize how long it would take a program to raise $10,000?” Western coach Rashard West said. “You try and raise money anyway you can, and if you should be fortunate to win $10,000 or the $5,000 second-place prize, you are doing wonders to help aid in the funding for your programs.”
Upon arriving at New Smyrna Beach Sports Complex on Friday morning, Booker T. was a team everyone kept a close eye on. By Saturday afternoon, we found out why.
As the defending champion of the tournament, the Tornadoes couldn’t have landed on the Space Coast in better shape. After all, they had reached the final four at the Heath Evans event, which was halted by threatening weather, and took home the team title and a trip to Indianapolis at the Dolphins Academy tournament. Add to that the title at the UCF team camp, which also featured state champions Delray American Heritage and Seffner Armwood.
After a 6-0 opening day, the Tornadoes were poised to make a run at a second team title. The team was sluggish to start the second day out as the No. 1 seed. They struggled to beat host New Smyrna Beach 24-22, but that close game set the tempo and showed junior quarterback Treon Harris that he needed to get his team in the end zone and leave no doubt.
In victories over Orlando Oak Ridge and surprising Cypress Bay, the Tornadoes were starting to look like they would waltz through the tournament. But then came the winner’s bracket final against Plant, and for the first time this year, they lost, forcing them to win three consecutive games.
After getting by Dwyer 27-8, the showdown with Plant put all the pressure on Booker T. This game had two of the top teams in the nation — let alone Florida.
In the first game, Booker T. made one more big play than Dwyer and won 13-12.
In the championship game, the Tornadoes got out to a 9-0 lead and added on with big second-half plays in a 16-7 decision.
Winning $20,000 in two years is a major fundraising effort for any high school. We are always looking to help promote our area recruits for the current Class of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. All you have to do is send a DVD and information about the athlete to: Larry Blustein, P.O. Box 3181, Hallandale Beach, 33009.
Have a comment? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Larry on Twitter at twitter.com/larryblustein.