We’re anticipating one of the most significant sports days in bay area lore, an event that will resonate from Ballast Point to Brooksville, a wild morning and watershed afternoon at Jefferson High. After months — even years — of simmering anticipation, the inaugural Battle of the Bay 7-on-7 tournament is here. The day commences with a KC-135 flyover of Dr. Sam Horton Stadium from nearby Macdill, a parachutist descending with the game ball, and our very own Bob Putnam performing the national anthem, accompanied by co-worker Joel Anderson on the spoons. …Okay, we’re not sure all that will transpire (We’re one of the sponsors, don’t blame us for a little buildup), but we do promise a day-long showcase of some of the area’s top skill players, with maybe a rain delay or two tossed in. Action starts with pool play at 9 a.m. Saturday. Here’s a primer to get you going:
Alonso, Armwood, Boca Ciega, Countryside, Dixie Hollins, Gaither, Hernando, Jefferson, Largo, Nature Coast, Pasco, Plant, Tampa Catholic, Tampa Bay Tech, Zephyrhills
• Fields will be 40 yards in length
• Offenses will earn six points for a touchdown. PATs can be attempted from the 5-yard line (one point) or 10 (two points). Defenses receive three points either for an interception or forcing a three and out
• Quarterbacks will have four seconds to pass
• Offenses have three plays to gain 20 yards for their initial first down, then four more plays to score
• Any offensive penalty will result in a loss of down. Any defensive penalty will result in an automatic first down for the offense, plus a 5-yard gain
• Games will be 20 minutes, with each team getting one 50-second timeout
(A few under-the-radar kids we expect to flourish)
Phillip Wilson, Sr., Pasco: He caught three touchdown passes last season and was impressive Tuesday in the North Suncoast’s weekly passing league.
DeShawn Smith, So., Nature Coast: He broke out at running back with a 221-yard spring game against Tarpon Springs. Smith is speedy and dangerous in the open field.
Trevor Laurent, So., Armwood: Hawks offensive coordinator Evan Davis gushes about this sleek slot receiver/tailback (5-foot-10, 165 pounds) capable of embarrassing those trying to tackle/touch him.
Luke McFadden, So., Plant: A relative unknown until catching the attention of recruiting analysts at a Rivals camp in March, McFadden has earned praise for his route-running skills and knack for creating separation.
Jaylen Pickett, Jr., Zephyrhills: The standout athlete has a strong pedigree and averaged almost 25 yards per rush in the spring game. Don’t be surprised if he emerges as a D-I prospect.
Rickey Pyron, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: He was all over the field in the Titans’ surprising jamboree shutout of Wharton. Receivers should be relieved that he won’t be able to hit on Saturday.
Jaylaan Wimbush, Sr., Boca Ciega: Versatile athlete shined at quarterback in spring game against Arcadia but will play receiver and defensive back today.
Ra’shaad Hart, Sr., Hernando: In a format that rewards height and athleticism, one of the North Suncoast’s most versatile talents has the chance to shine at quarterback, receiver or defensive back.
Derrick Baity, Jr., Plant: For the first 20 minutes of a Plant practice this spring, one of our writers thought he was Mazzi Wilkins. He looked that good. Now that he’s got a USF offer, folks will be taking a closer look.
Reggie Campbell, Jr., Largo: Didn’t play in spring game, but mad skills and speed should play well in 7-on-7 format.
The inaugural BOB champion will be …
Joel Anderson: Jefferson. The Dragons have homefield advantage and a wealth of skill position talent, starting with QB and recent USF commit Deiondre Porter.
Matt Baker: Plant. The Panthers are always strong and won the Sling ‘N’ Shoot at USF last week.
Joey Knight: Tampa Bay Tech. Just got a hunch here. It’s all about pure athleticism in 7-on-7, and the Titans have it in bulk supply.
Bob Putnam: Largo. The Packers have as much depth at the skill positions as anyone in the area and will use it to their advantage.
John C. Cotey: Plant will beat Dixie Hollins in the final 26-13. Book it.
The inaugural BOB MVP will be…
Anderson: Tajee Fulwood, Tampa Bay Tech. One of the area’s most physical skill position players, Fulwood can control the game on both sides of the ball.
Baker: Nate Craig, Pasco. One of the country’s top sophomores might be the best player in the field. His game fits 7-on-7 events well.
Knight: Talvin Bailey, Armwood. I can see Alvin’s brother leading all players in acrobatic grabs. (One of the older Bailey boys once told me Talvin could be the best in the family.)
Putnam: Donavan Hale, Largo. Though he has not played much 7-on-7 because of his basketball commitments, the two-sport star will showcase his strong arm to lead the Packers.
Cotey: I’m mic’ing up Jefferson’s Derrick Ingram for a game, so he’ll be hyped. I’m expecting 12-15 TD catches and at least 5 interceptions from Smoke Dog.
Five matchups we’re dying to see
Armwood vs. Plant: Duh. Hillsborough County’s premier programs won’t meet until the quarterfinals at the earliest, but at least there’s a chance. For some reason-defying logic, these teams aren’t playing in the fall for the first time since 2000, so enjoy this while you can.
Pasco vs. anyone: The Pirates are the cream of the North Suncoast, but critics denounce their weak schedule. They won the Sling ‘N’ Shoot just two years ago and are ready to re-emerge on the 7-on-7 scene. As a reward, we’ve paired them in games against Plant, Jefferson, Armwood and Tampa Catholic. Nothing personal, fellas.
TBT vs. Gaither: Surely the football gods will allow this matchup — which won’t happen until quarterfinals at the earliest — to transpire. The last three regular-season meetings (two Gaither wins) have been decided by three points. In last year’s Sling ‘N’ Shoot II, this was the weekend’s most intense game.
Largo vs. Jefferson: Hey, we’ll take Largo vs. anyone. The Packers rarely play 7-on-7 so this is your only chance to see them flex those pass-and-catch muscles. It will be hard to beat this matchup for total number of playmaking take-your-breath-away skills players on the field.
Hernando vs. Jefferson, Armwood vs. Dixie Hollins, Alonso vs. Nature Coast and Boca Ciega vs. Gaither: Hey, we aren’t just doing this for the marquee matchups, because the quirky out-of-the-ordinary pairings you won’t see anywhere else can be just as fun.
Tourney’s top prospects
Rohan Blackwood, WR, Nature Coast: Miami and others like him at defensive end, but he’s a fine receiver, too.
Deon Cain, QB, Tampa Bay Tech: He won’t be able to show off his full complement of skills in 7-on-7, but his recruitment has taken off in recent weeks.
Deon Thompson, RB, Tampa Bay Tech: His skill set lends itself to 7-on-7, as evidenced by his fine play this spring and summer with Unsigned Preps.
Nate Craig, WR, Pasco: UF, FSU and a dozen others have already offered the star sophomore.
Kyle Gibson, S, Armwood: Four-star prospect has no fewer than 16 big-time offers.
Zack Laurinaitis, WR, Countryside: Transfer missed the spring game, but is starting to gain interest from schools.
Alex McGough, QB, Gaither: FIU commit threw for 1,700 yards as a junior
Ish Witter, RB, Alonso: With nearly a dozen offers, Witter ranks as one of the area’s top RBs.
Marcus Mosley, WR, Alonso: At 6-foot-4, Mosley towers over most opposing defenders. If the Ravens can find someone to get him the ball, he’ll have a big year.
Deiondre Porter, QB/DB, Jefferson: Prolific QB committed to USF, where he’ll play defense.
Jarvis Stewart, RB/DB, Largo: Known more as a running back, the two-way player will be more valuable as a defensive back with the absence of Cordell Hudson.
Tajee Fullwood, WR/DB, Tampa Bay Tech. Nickname: Hollywood. ‘Nuff said.
One of the best things about Saturday will be the unveiling of a lot of young quarterbacks, like:
Savion Smith, Boca Ciega: Only a sophomore, but stood out at Kaleo QB Challenge and can sling it.
Trent Chmelik, Countryside: He’ll get all the snaps with Robby Hicks not playing.
Tyrie Adams, Dixie Hollins: The junior ended last season with a 400-yard game. High ceiling, and he’s got some pretty targets.
Donavan Hale, Largo: Had timing issues in the spring, so today will help him. Expect him to shine.
Noah Johnson, Armwood: Has looked excellent this summer; might be one of Tampa Bay’s five best QBs by the start of fall.
Chris Oladokan, Alonso: Won the Kaleo QB Challenge, in the middle of a great summer. Confident dude with a nice arm.
HomeTeam Unsigned Preps Battle of the Bay
What: 7-on-7 football tournament at Jefferson
When: Saturday. Pool play starts at 9 a.m., quarterfinals at 3, championship at 4:30
Admission: Free. Fans welcome to attend.
Pool play schedule:
9 a.m. Plant vs. Dixie Hollins
9:30 a.m. Jefferson vs. Largo
10 a.m. Plant vs. Pasco
10:30a.m. Jefferson vs. Hernando
11 a.m. Plant vs. Largo
11:30 a.m. Jefferson vs. Dixie Hollins
noon Plant vs. Hernando
12:30 Jefferson vs. Pasco
9 a.m. Tampa Catholic vs. Pasco
9:30 a.m. Armwood vs. Hernando
10 a.m. Armwood vs. Dixie Hollins
10:30 a.m. Tampa Catholic vs. Largo
11 a.m. Tampa Catholic vs. Hernando
11:30 a.m. Armwood vs. Pasco
noon Tampa Catholic vs. Dixie Hollins
12:30 Armwood vs. Largo
9 a.m.Tampa Bay Tech vs. Boca Ciega
9:30 a.m. Alonso vs. Countryside
10 a.m. Tampa Bay Tech vs. Zephyrhills
10:30 a.m. No game
11 a.m. Alonso vs. Nature Coast
11:30 a.m. Tampa Bay Tech vs. Countryside
noon Boca Ciega vs. Gaither
12:30 Alonso vs. Boca Ciega
9 a.m. Gaither vs. Zephyrhills
9:30 a.m. Gaither vs. Nature Coast
10 a.m. Nature Coast vs. Boca Ciega
10:30 a.m. No game
11 a.m. Gaither vs. Countryside
11:30 a.m. Alonso vs. Zephyrhills
noon Tampa Bay Tech vs. Nature Coast
12:30 p.m. Zephyrhills vs. Countryside