With this final reflection on the USF Sling and Shoot, held Saturday and Sunday on the Bulls' campus, we proudly put 7-on-7 to sleep for another year. The real stuff starts back up Aug. 8.
Cinderella wore spurs
Roughly two months ago, in the wake of a loss to Sickles in the spring jamboree, Gaither's football program seemed "completely dead," cornerback Tyler McCollum said.
Specifically, McCollum added, attendance was waning at workouts. During a 7-on-7 event at Jefferson in late June, new coach Jason Stokes berated some players for pouting over playing time.
But gradually, a resuscitation began, culminating with one sweltering weekend at USF. Now, the Cowboys' momentum officially has transitioned from dead to dynamic.
The resident Cinderella of the 51-team field, Gaither lost only twice in 13 games to place second at the USF Sling and Shoot, which ended Sunday at dusk. With sophomore transfer Alex McGough at quarterback, the Cowboys stunned Armwood in the semifinals before falling 27-12 to Pasco in the final.
"It really gives the kids confidence and lets the kids believe and get chemistry and believe in what we're coaching them," Stokes said. "That's a big deal for them to trust each other and trust the coaches."
If seven-on-seven is any sign of the future -- and debates rage on whether it is -- the Cowboys may have established a passing game along with trust. Junior Shug Oyegunle, the incumbent at quarterback, moved to the slot over the weekend and excelled on the outside with senior Carlo Perello.
Oyegunle, who played receiver as a freshman and returned to his old spot about three weeks ago, said he remains the starting quarterback for now but has no problem moving if McGough keeps progressing.
"He has good potential," Oyegunle said. "He's just got to make the right reads and not force anything, that's it."
Seven on our radar
Seven unheralded players who caught our eyes over the weekend
LB/TB Paris Bostick, Jr., Plant
Looks like a mini-Wilder. Had three picks vs. Blake, but could wreak the most damage at tailback
CB Reggie Brown, Jr., Jesuit
Lean and nimble. As Sunday progressed, we noticed teams stopped throwing his way
RB Wesley Bullock, Jr., Plant
Mark our words, this 5-foot-5 speedster will be one of the area's top backs this fall.
WR Wade Edwards, Sr., Armwood
Had two scores vs. Plant. Colleague John C. Cotey said he looked like "a legitimate slot guy."
WR Andy Embody, Jr., Carrollwood Day
Coach Lane McLaughlin calls Embody the best receiver he has coached aside from Andre Caldwell
QB Alex McGough, So., Gaither
Lean transfer (6-foot-2, 165 pounds) has a live arm, how will it fare against a live pass rush?
WR Shug Oyegunle, Jr., Gaither
The Cowboys' incumbent at QB, Oyegunle performed as well as any receiver we saw all weekend
The What-Goes-Around Award goes to...
Tampa Catholic. When Plant coach Robert Weiner was ejected Saturday during the Plant 2 team's loss to a TC squad for arguing a rules interpretation, word quickly made it to the Crusaders' Facebook page. On Sunday, a Crusaders assistant was tossed during a loss to Carrollwood Day after storming onto the field to argue with an official.
Sprain and shoot
Wharton lockdown cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, likely to rank among the area's top Division I recruits in 2013, sprained his left ankle Saturday when he landed on an opponent's foot. He remained on crutches the rest of the weekend, but said he'll be fine by the start of preseason drills.
"Plant 2, Plant 1, it don't matter. We'll take all the Plants. Any Plants around the world, we'll take 'em." -- Armwood WR Javonte Sneed, whose team topped Plant 1 (the Panthers' top-tier skill players) twice over the weekend, but needed a half-dozen overtimes to edge Plant 2 on Sunday