It was all very serious. There was neck-muscle flexing, shoving and cursing — so much cursing. When something went right, the celebrations seemed endless. When something went wrong, there was near disbelief. And all that over a game of touch football.
The seriousness played out on Sunday at Plantation’s Central Park, where some of South Florida’s best skill-position players gathered for the Miami Dolphins’ 10th-annual 7-on-7 football tournament. When the seriousness ended, it was Miami Carol City that hoisted the tournament trophy after a 14-7 victory over the rival Miramar Patriots. It was Carol City’s third-consecutive win in the tournament.
“These kids on both sides, they know each other,” Chiefs coach Benedict Hyppolite said of playing Miramar. “They grew up with each other… so it’s definitely a competitive rivalry.”
Carol City quarterback Marlon Smith was a little more blunt.
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“It feels good to beat up on them,” he said.
But whether it was Carol City, Miramar or any of the other six schools that made it to Sunday’s championship round, the seriousness of the tournament was striking all morning.
“You idiot! Get out there!” one coach screamed at a player.
“I have no idea why I’m even teaching rules,” muttered another.
“What’re you doin’? What’re you doin’?” yelled a third.
Why act like a preseason game without pads or linemen is so consequential? According to Hyppolite, there are a few reasons.
There are the obvious ones, like building team chemistry and practicing communication. It also builds bonds between players and coaches. But the most important reason, according to Hyppolite, is to prepare players for the difficulties — and harsh coaching — of the regular season.
This is especially true at a place like Carol City, where the team is coming off a class 6A state title. It’s also Hyppolite’s first season, so he wants to set a tone with his players. He’s replacing Aubrey Hill, who’s now the receivers coach at FIU.
“He handed it off to me,” Hyppolite explained. “I just needed to get in the driver’s seat and continue to steer the wheel just the way he left it to me.”
He did exactly that on Sunday with the win over Miramar.
“It feels really good to get this game,” he said.