BRADENTON — The summer 7-on-7 circuit doesn’t usually make its way to Brooksville, so this year Matt Breida and Rohan Blackwood took Brooksville to it.
Thanks to a coaching connection, the Nature Coast pair was able to hook up with a team from Detroit and played big roles at the second annual IMG Madden All-Star 7-on-7 National Championships in Bradenton over the weekend.
“It was a great experience,” said Breida, the Sharks’ running back. “I really think this just got us better.”
And more well-rounded.
Breida, who ran for 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, played very little offense for the Detroit Max Exposure Gold team, starting at linebacker after one of his teammates went off early with a broken ankle Saturday.
Matched up against bigger, more physical players, the 5-foot-10, 168-pound Breida was able to use his speed to keep up with receivers off the break.
“When one of our guys broke his ankle I just said, ‘All right, I’ll step up,’ ” he said. “At first it was kind of difficult, but after the second game I picked up things. It was way more physical. I was going up against the running backs, the fullbacks, bigger people.”
Blackwood, a raw football talent whose future is probably at defensive end, played wide receiver for Detroit.
Taking a break from summer basketball workouts, Blackwood was able to use his 6-5 frame to make some catches, though he wasn’t used much in Sunday’s finale.
“I was able to work on my wide receiver skills,” said Blackwood, who has one offer from Massachusetts.
“I really don’t play that much wide receiver. I start (at Nature Coast) but that’s not my main position. I’m a defensive end. I like defensive end. But I think I did pretty good.”
Blackwood has been to Gainesville to work out for Florida coaches, and the Gators staff has expressed interest. Blackwood said Michigan is showing the most interest, and “a whole bunch of other schools” are looking as well.
While he still considers himself a basketball player first, “football is coming along more than I thought it would.”
Breida, who has six offers, said he could be hearing from Duke soon.
“They’re close,” he said. “I just have to fax my transcripts and after they check out I should be good to go.”
Though Brieda doesn’t have a top list, he said the Blue Devils would immediately be in his top three, if not higher.
Breida and Blackwood also played this weekend with Blake’s DeAndre James and Boca Ciega’s Caleb McCullough, giving the Detroit team a local feel.
After they lost to Team 239 Sunday and were eliminated, the two Sharks gathered their bags beneath an awning and took out their cell phones. Their Detroit teammates strolled over with their phones, and good-byes and phone numbers were exchanged.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to be on any other team,” Blackwood said. “These were some pretty cool kids.”
Now, it’s back to the weight room.
And the real stuff.
“I want it to start,” Blackwood said. “I’m ready to hit somebody.”