Bakersfield (Calif.) Ridgeview quarterback Tyler Ferguson might be the best quarterback in the West without an offer per se. San Jose State did offer the 6-foot-4 signal caller after his junior season, however, the Spartans are not recruiting him as much, and he is unsure if he’ll receive the official offer in the mail next month. Nonetheless, he continues to outshine many quarterbacks at 7-on-7 events at Passing Down, Badger/New Level Athletics, and Big Man on Campus.
Ferguson has led the Burr to a combined 16-2 record this year at Passing Down 7-on-7 tournaments, including Friday’s championship. After a 2-0 start in exhibition play, the Burr breezed past Solano-Seven before needing a stop on a two-point conversion to get by the Pitt Playmakers in the first two rounds of the winner’s bracket. It set up the final game in the winner’s bracket versus 2010 Passing Down Elite 7-on-7 Champions Team Pro Sport from San Jose.
The Burr won and advanced to championship game and awaited the winner of Pro Sport and TU Squad (Tulare, Ca) in the double elimination tournament. The Burr beat Pro Sport a second time to win the first annual Best of the West championship.
Heading into Friday night, the No. 2 seed Burr were a favorite based on finishing second and first at Passing Down regional tournaments in San Ramon and Newport Beach, respectively. SoCal Elite out of the Ventura area received the No. 1 seed based on their 5-0 record at the Passing Down Santa Clarita regional. But SoCal Elite was upset in the first round by No. 9 seed Pro Sport and lost in the second round of the loser’s bracket to No. 5 seed California Strength II. SoCal Elite finished in seventh place.
But the team most expected to run through the tournament was No. 3 seed California Strength I led by Cal commits quarterback Zach Kline and wide receiver Bryce Treggs and cornerback/wide receiver Dalis Bruce. They finished third at the San Ramon Regional. But Kline was expected to add our-star receivers Darreus Rogers and Malik Gilmore to the roster for BOTW for added firepower. Neither made it but three-star receiver Dalen Jones was added last minute. Nevertheless, Cal Strength I didn’t look like a star-studded team.
After losses to Pro Sport and Bakersfield Burr in exhibition play, quarterback Malik Watson showed why he is one of the top rising prospects in the West. His No. 6 seed Pitt Playmakers ran Cal Strength I, 22-12, in the first round of the playoffs. They tried to regroup but were upset by No. 7 seed Solano-Seven in the loser’s bracket. The 0-4 record and ninth place finish was the biggest shock of the tournament.
Kline’s backup at San Ramon Valley, Cameron Birse, had a better night leading Cal Strength II to a fourth place finish in the BOTW, including a dramatic one-point win over Pitt Playmakers on the final play of the game. Coming third was No. 4 seed TU Squad, who beat Cal Strength 21-0 in the first round and again in the loser bracket.
Pro Sport was arguably the biggest surprise of the tournament. The original 14-man roster lost five players, including two the day of the tournament, including starting quarterback Andrew Barna and three-star safety Chris Santini. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering Pro Sport won the six-team Passing Down tournament last year with seven players and quarterback Kyle Boehm. The reduced roster still featured Oregon State-bound cornerback Cleveland Wallace, but 2014 quarterback K.J. Carta-Samuels stole the show.
Carta-Samuels learned he would start just minutes before the team embarked on the 2.5-hour drive over Pacheco Pass to the San Joaquin Valley. But he played like a veteran going through his progressions leading his team to the championship game. Pro Sport coach A.J. Rangel calls Carta-Samuels his “next Kyle Boehm.”
Solano-Seven quarterback Ben Scott came into Friday with something to prove. With a UC Davis on his resume, he wanted to prove he could play with the Zach Kline’s of the world. While his squad did beat Kline’s in the playoffs, they fizzled out in the next game. Scott doesn’t posses the arm strength of a Kline, but he is extremely accurate.
Team 559 out of Tulare finished with a 1-3 record for an eighth place finish. Cal Strength’s ninth place finish is shocking, but Central Cali’s 10th place was a disappointment.
The original team was named the Central Cali Boys. Led by quarterback Mike Baker, they would have been the top seed of the BOTW after winning the San Ramon regional. However, Baker couldn’t rally his team together for the championship tournament, largely because Central East coaches wouldn’t allow its players to compete.
Central East players made up roughly half the team, including Baker, Matt Lea, Shak Barbel, and Michiah Quick among others. Two other players Xavier Stephens and Will Stallworth played with their high school teammates on TU Squad. But of the original 14-player Central Cal Boys squad, only wide receiver Brayden Sanchez played with the patchwork team dubbed “Central Cali” that was given the 10th seed.
Central Cali deserves some recognition for a gutty performance. Having to go both ways because they had only seven players, they were impressive in their first game, losing 18-12 to Pro Sport. Quarterback Nick Kinder filled in nicely for Baker, but Central Cali didn’t have any depth to make a run. Nonetheless, a team that at one point looked like it would field two All-Americans (Tee Shepard, Deontay Greenberry); two of 2013’s top corners (L.J. Moore, Johnny Johnson) along with Baker didn’t materialize.
Stay with Scout.com for more coverage from Passing Down Best of the West, including photo galleries and the all-tournament team.