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BRADENTON — It's easy to scoff at the notion of a 7-on-7 championship. It's street ball. No pass rush. No blocking. Just a smidgen of the actual game of football.
But if Team Tampa did one thing this weekend — and maybe even in the weeks before — it made the IMG Madden 7-on-7 National Championship a little hip.
The players took over Twitter, regaling everyone of their exploits. They didn't walk into the tournament in Bradenton, they strutted.
And they weren't going to lose.
"Because we weren't,'' said Armwood's Alvin Bailey, who like most of the Tampa kids starred in the weekend event.
While Saturday was a day in which Team Tampa seemed to lead 20-0 every game before getting bored, then just hanging on for the win, Sunday it showed the killer instinct, beating defending champion Detroit Max Exposure 28-17 for the title.
Here's some thoughts on the 7-on-7 event this weekend:
1. I enjoy 7-on-7. I know what it is (entertaining) and what it isn't (real football), but it has really become a sport unto itself. If people can just let the whole "It's not football" thing go, and accept it as a hybrid sport the same many do for, say, Arena Football, they'd enjoy it more.
Folks, it's a refined version of street ball. We all played it, and guess what? IT WAS FUN!
Maybe 7-on-7 needs a new name. DeepBall or FireBall or SpeedBall or 7Ball or something. Maybe just Zing! with an exclamation point.
I don't know about you, but I'd pay to watch a DeepBall tournament, though I'd prefer to watch one with actual high school teams as opposed to all-star teams.
2. In fact, while I'm on the subject, how hard would it be for Florida to host a 7-on-7 state high school tournament during the summer, like Texas does.
Texas A&M has hosted the state tournament for the past 15 years, and almost 20,000 fans attended last year's three-day tournament. I read somewhere the economic impact on the surrounding area is in the neighborhood of $1 million.
Based on the popularity of the summer DeepBall/FireBall/Zing! circuit in Florida, there's no way that can't work here and be a huge success.
Someone get on that.
3. On to this weekend's tournament, which was outstanding for offensive MVP Pete DiNovo and defensive MVP Vernon Hargreaves III.
DiNovo, East Lake's quarterback, was precise and seemed to get better as the tournament went on. In Sunday's four victories, he was in a zone.
He won a Zing! championship. Got an offer from UCF, and one from USF followed Monday.
Personally, I think it was the new sideburns, but he said he'll be shaving them off.
"Too patchy,'' he said.
Guess he's never heard the story of Samson and Delilah.
And Hargreaves? Wow. Just wow.
I think in two days out there I saw two passes completed in his area: one wasn't his fault and the other was ruled out of bounds.
Lots of kids over the years have taken to calling themselves "Lockdown," but if they could watch Hargreaves play, they might be embarrassed they ever dared to take on that moniker.
4. Hargreaves and Armwood's Leon McQuay III in the same defensive backfield isn't fair. And yet, I was completely surprised by how much Michigan commitment and Detroit Max Exposure quarterback Shane Morris threw at both of them — and South Florida Express in the quarterfinals as well — during Sunday's action.
5. What made Team Tampa the best out there? Lots of things, but mainly, no one played defense like the champs.
If anyone was going to beat them, it was going to have to be with short passes, but few — and in the case of Team Tampa's opponents, none — were patient enough to execute such a plan (and thank God for that … zzzzzz).
Oh, sure, a few teams tried a few short passes, with some success. But then the urge to throw deep took over, and no one was able to complete the long ball with consistency against the likes of Hargreaves, McQuay, Kyle Gibson, Shaquill Griffin and Co.
6. Bailey wore the defending champions out, with his feet, hands and mouth, both times Tampa played Detroit's Max Exposure squad, but especially in the semifinal.
He was deadly in the short passing game, which helped set up the bigger plays, but he reminded Max Exposure play after play (after play after play) that it was too short, too small and too slow to cover the bigger Tampa receivers.
I'm not sure Bailey stopped yapping for a second of the 26-9 win. By the end, the Detroit team looked like it had been convinced.
It was obvious by the flatness of the rematch in the final that neither team saw a way the result would be any different.
7. Jesuit's Travis Johnson caught a touchdown pass on the second to last play in the win over South Florida Express, and was clutch all weekend.
He made a ton of catches on the goal line.
Like Right. On. The. Goal. Line.
But he was terrific all weekend. Big, physical, great hands. Miami will love him.
8. Tampa Catholic's Zach Benjamin destroyed Detroit in the semifinal and was golden all weekend on conversion passes. The 6-foot-5 Crusader has a bunch of offers, but the biggest are from MAC schools. Most of the recruiting analysts and coaches I talked to this weekend are convinced he deserves something bigger.
9. Brad Hyman-Muhammad of Admiral Farragut was a late addition to the team, but he did very well in coverage and had some key interceptions, including one that clinched a victory. He's a guy to keep an eye on in the fall.
While Team Tampa was clearly a team of the area's biggest and most well-known football stars, it also took on guys like Hyman-Muhammad, Gibbs' Maurice Hall, Freedom's Nate Godwin, Wharton's Rocky Enos and East Lake's George Campbell, all of whom had shining moments and contributed at practice.
10. If coach Woodrow Grady doesn't have, at the very least, some kind of video reality show for next year's Team Tampa DeepBall/7Ball/SpeedBall team, then I'm just not doing my job.
11. While Team Tampa hogged all the glory this weekend, some other area players managed to see some action.
Armwood quarterback Darryl Richardson actually played wide receiver for BBT Athletics, a team out of California.
Richardson said the coaches noticed him at the skills competition Friday and asked him to join up. But they didn't need him at quarterback.
"My mom talked me into it,'' Richardson said. "I can play wide receiver. I thought it could be fun."
BBT Athletics was knocked out early Sunday, but had a chance to beat South Florida Express, failing to complete a Hail Mary on the final play.
Who were they throwing to? The 6-foot-5 Richardson, of course.
"I'm still a quarterback,'' said Richardson, who has offers from Mississippi, Missouri, USF and Tennessee. "That's still my position.''
The runnerup Max Ex team had another team in the tournament, its Gold Team, with four area players on it: Nature Coast's tandem of Rohan Blackwood and Matt Breida, Blake's DeAndre James and Boca Ciega's Caleb McCullough, who all saw significant playing time for the out-of-towners.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, but personally, I'd just follow him on Twitter @JohnnyHometeam, because he cracks me up.