TAMPA — It didn’t take long for Nate Ferguson to make an impression on his new teammates.
Only five days after joining summer workouts at Gaither, the junior cornerback made one of the biggest plays of the day in the Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament Saturday.
Ferguson stayed with 6-foot-4 receiver Marcus Mosley of Alonso step for step on the game’s final possession, coming down with an interception that preserved the Cowboys’ victory in the first round of seeded play in the tournament.
“He makes a difference,” Gaither coach Jason Stokes said. “He’s a special player.”
Ferguson spent his first two years at Freedom, earning three starts as a sophomore last year. He tallied 21 tackles, two interceptions, five pass breakups and two blocked field goals last fall.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Ferguson kept up that momentum in the offseason, earning MVP honors at the Big County Preps’ E7 training camp a couple weeks ago.
But his transfer from Freedom came as a surprise, even to Stokes, who didn’t know Ferguson had switched schools until he showed up at workouts earlier this week.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’” Stokes said. “But I’m happy he’s with us now.”
The addition of Ferguson gives the Cowboys one of the bay area’s top secondaries, which already includes cornerback Amani Oruwariye, who boasts nearly 20 major college scholarship offers. Oruwariye missed the Battle of the Bay, choosing instead to play for the Team Tampa 7-on-7 team at IMG this weekend.
Ferguson, however, showed Saturday that Gaither will now have plenty of depth at the position.
ENTER THE DRAGON: As if Jefferson’s explosive pass-catch combo of Deiondre Porter and Derrick Ingram wasn’t enough of a problem for bay area defenses, now they’ll also have to worry about Ventell Bryant.
Bryant, who missed all of last year with knee problems, took the Battle of the Bay tournament by storm on Saturday.
The 6-foot-4, 170-pound senior created all sorts of matchup problems for defensive backs, simply snatching balls out of the air for touchdown after touchdown.
“I’ve just been waiting on my chance,” Bryant said. “I thought I did pretty good out there.”
Bryant and Ingram should form yet another dynamic receiving corps this fall for the Dragons, who have churned out stars like USF’s Andre Davis and Cincinnati’s Chris Moore in recent years.
Porter threw for 2,276 and 27 touchdowns, while Ingram caught 28 passes for 499 yards and nine touchdowns opposite all-Suncoast selection Jonathan Moore, who caught 57 passes for 1,037 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Bryant should make the loss of Moore a little more palatable for the Dragons.
“He’s going to be a good one,” Jefferson coach Jeremy Earle said. “He’ll have (colleges) all over him once he gets out there.”
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jdhometeam.