This summer they were known as “The Greatest Show on Turf.’’
Led by quarterback Treon Harris, Booker T. Washington’s 7-on-7 flag football team went 58-2, won a $10,000 prize for capturing the Battle of the Beach crown in New Smyrna Beach, then claimed the national title by cruising to victory in a tournament sponsored by the NFL in Indianapolis.
This high-scoring squad of teenagers from Overtown is now on the doorstep of winning another title — this one with pads on. The Tornadoes (12-1) will play in the Class 4A state championship game against Jacksonville Bolles (12-1) Saturday night at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.
And the same collection of mighty mite receivers who helped lead Booker T. to glory this summer are once again a big reason why the Tornadoes have earned a championship rematch.
“I call them the little guys,’’ said Tornadoes offensive coordinator Tim Harris Jr., whose high-powered spread option attack has averaged 50.8 points and rung up 71 and 68 points two times each this season.
“Our philosophy is just create mismatches with the defense. A lot of defenses are scared of Treon running the ball so much they don’t take a lot of guys out of the box because they want to keep him bottled up. So that makes it easier for him to throw a little spot pass and the guys we’ve got out there are great.’’
The receivers don’t have a clear-cut leader in terms of statistics — Harris and his father and coach Tim “Ice’’ Harris like it that way because it’s hard to key on anyone. But they do have a vocal leader: senior Nicholas Norris (5-9, 150), who despite posting times of 4.39 and 4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash in camps this summer is still looking for his first scholarship offer.
“He’s usually the guy we trust in tough situations," said Harris Jr. of Norris, who has 31 catches for 644 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
The other receivers? Juniors Lamar Parker (5-9, 165), Deltron Hopkins (5-7, 145), Terrawn McPhee (5-6, 130) and senior Karim Bryant (5-11, 175). Or, as their quarterback refers to them: Marty, D-Hop, Waffle and Bow Tie. Norris’ nickname is Cheebo.
“They’re all great receivers," said Harris, who has thrown for 2,461 yards, 33 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and has run for 747 yards and 13 scores this season.
Parker, the only receiver with scholarship offers (Texas A&M, West Virginia, Marshall), has 37 catches for 537 yards and five touchdowns. Harris, who played with many of those same receivers at Overtown Optimist’s national championship team in 2010, said playing on the 7-on-7 circuit this summer is a big reason why the Tornadoes offense has improved.
Harris Jr., Treon’s older brother, said what the Tornadoes learned this summer is probably why they’re ready now to win a championship — and why they weren’t a year ago.
“So many of those guys were so young last season coming straight from Pop Warner, we didn’t have the confidence to put the game in their hands this time of season,’’ Harris Jr. said. “This year we’ve been able to have more of a balanced attack. That’s helped us become more dangerous.’’
Norris and Harris said they hope that explosiveness will lead to a title on Saturday. Last season, the Tornadoes blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to Bolles. The offense produced just 25 points.