Some of South Florida’s finest high school football players were shining bright — at least until the rain drowned them out.
The Nike 7-on-7 Football Challenge took place Saturday, featuring 24 South Florida high schools and more than 200 players. But the event was cut short when rain and lightning hit Amelia Earhart Park in the afternoon. The tournament was suspended and will resume at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Several athletes used the event as a primer to The Opening, one of the nation’s premier events for Class of 2014 recruits on Monday through Wednesday at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
The third-year event provides an opportunity for the nation’s best players to compete in 7-on-7 games and skill events, to nurture relationships with one another and provides a chance to sway certain players when it comes to picking a college.
Miami Central running back and University of Miami commit Joseph Yearby said he’s so excited about the opportunity that he probably won’t sleep Sunday night before flying to Oregon on Monday morning. Along with cherishing the opportunity, he has one goal in mind.
“I’m really excited to get close to Ermon Lane,” Yearby said of the 6-3, 193-pound wide receiver from Homestead who has offers to play at Miami, Alabama and Florida. “That’s really the only person that stands out.”
Yearby’s backfield teammate, UF commit Dalvin Cook, said he isn’t going to let Yearby get the best of Lane during the festivities.
“I’m definitely not going to let that happen,” Cook said. “We’re going to fight.”
Yearby and Cook will be joined by teammate Trevor Darling, a UM offensive tackle commit. Central and Fort Lauderdale University School, which is sending defensive lineman Richard Yeargin, safety Quincy Wilson and quarterback Sean White, are two of just five schools in the country to be sending three players. Florida and California each have 27 players participating — the most from any state.
Other invitees from Miami-Dade and Broward counties include: Booker T. Washington quarterback Treon Harris and defensive tackle Chad Thomas; UF defensive lineman commit Anthony Moten and wide receiver Corey Holmes from Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas; Miami Northwestern wide receiver and FSU commit Jojo Robinson; Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna defensive tackle Khairi Clark; and Plantation defensive back Chris Lammons.
As for the event close to home, Yearby still took value in the exhibitions.
“The tournament is very good; these will get more competitive as it gets closer to the season,” Yearby said. “The tournament will definitely help us a lot. Seeing the quarterbacks and receivers [and what they do], then they can go and practice what they need to.”
The teams played 7-on-7, two-hand-touch football, with the action spread over six fields. Families, friends and fans took in all the sights, with loud music and food creating a picnic-like atmosphere around the football.
By the end of play Saturday, many schools had already qualified for the playoff portion of the tournament. Booker T. Washington, Central, Northwestern, Miami Columbus, Miramar, Coral Reef, Champagnat and Northeast made it to the elimination stage, with four spots still up for grabs when play resumes Sunday morning.