BRADENTON — There were less than two minutes to go in Unsigned Preps' tournament final game against Miami's Florida Fire at Sunday's IMG 7v7 National Championship when quarterback Chris Oladokun threw a pass to Ray RayMcCloud III, who was standing in the end zone.
For most of the first six games, the duo — as well as many of the other Tampa Bay area players who participated on the squad — had been almost perfectly precise. But after a long day of games, the heat and fatigue began to wear on them, Oladokun said.
McCloud dropped the pass before falling to his knees, grabbing his cramping legs. Unsigned Preps got on the board once more before the game ended, but undefeated Florida Fire kept coming back with more, eventually beating the Tampa-based team 33-20.
"That was just fate, I guess," said Oladokun, the starting quarterback at Alonso. "He had the ball and everything. Half of our team was cramping."
Unsigned Preps was one of five Tampa area teams that competed in this year's IMG 7v7 National Championship.
Team Tampa Too, quarterbacked by Hillsborough's Dwayne Lawson, was out of the double-elimination tournament early Sunday morning after losing its first two games. Unsigned Preps Youth won its first game on a last-second touchdown pass from Wiregrass Ranch's Shane Bucenell to Tampa Bay Tech's Daquon Green, but lost its second two.
Plant City wide receiver TJ Chase had a big day for the Next Level Night Hawks. The squad lost its first game of the morning, but Chase scored a touchdown with less than two minutes to go in its first elimination game to seal a victory. The 2016 recruit had a pair of touchdowns and an interception in the Night Hawks' second win of the day, but the team was ultimately eliminated by Team Tampa in the round before the semifinal.
Florida Fire's victory snapped Team Tampa's two-year stronghold on the title. Team Tampa, quarterbacked by Berkeley Prep's Brad Mayes, lost its second game of the day, but had some success in the winner's bracket before falling 20-14 in the semifinal round.
No third title for Team Tampa
In Sunday’s opening game, Lakewood’s Saivion Smith shined as he reeled in a touchdown and added an interception as Team Tampa began the day with a 33-16 win.
Tampa suffered its first loss in the double-elimination format against team B2G in the second contest of the day. Mayes missed on seven of his final eight attempts as Tampa fell into the loser's bracket after a 25-16 loss.
Mayes used the tournament as an opportunity to work on a connection with his Berkeley teammate, Jacob Mathis, who caught four passes, including a touchdown, in the first two games.
“We’re on the same page the majority of the time,” Mayes said. “This just gives us more reps and helps us get our timing down for next year.”
Tampa faced the Mississippi Grind in its next game. Ryan Davis led the way this time as the team staved off elimination with a 30-14 win. The Lakewood star reeled in four passes, including a touchdown, from Mayes.
The two-time defending champions lost their chance to defend their title in the semifinal of the loser’s bracket. Tampa fell 20-14 with the highlight coming on an Auden Tate 40-yard touchdown score.
“We played good,” Auden Tate said. “We just made too many mistakes in the last game.”
With 35 teams from 14 states at Sunday’s tournament, things got a little chaotic — especially when Unsigned Preps had to deal with an imposter.
While waiting to play a game against the Mississippi Grind, another team showed up to the field and said they were Unsigned Preps. The game was played, and the fake Unsigned Preps lost, sending them to the loser’s bracket.
Thing got a little hectic when the truth was discovered. The real Unsigned Preps didn’t want to go to the loser’s bracket having not lost a game, but Mississippi Grind wasn’t pleased about having to play again.
The teams were initially going to play a shortened game, but organizers changed their minds at the last minute and a full game was played. Unsigned Preps beat the Mississippi Grind on its way to a second-place finish overall.