Led by a stifling defense and an efficient quarterback they beat last year's winner Max Ex 28-17 to win the IMG Madden 7v7 National Championship.
"This is elation and satisfaction," said Woodrow Grady, coach for Team Tampa. "It was a lot of hard work put in by these kids and they love to compete. And it was a little redemption because we lost to South Florida Express in the finals of the regional and we lost to Max Ex last year in this final. So we came full circle because we beat those two teams today. But that's what we wanted because we have a deep respect for those teams and we want to compete against the best."
In pool play, Team Tampa knocked off the talented South Florida Express Elite team 24-18 in the quarter-finals. That was really the closest anyone played Team Tampa on this Sunday. Then, they went on to beat Max Ex in the semi-finals. Max Ex then had to fight their way through the loser's bracket to get another shot at Team Tampa. But they came up short.
"It just wasn't our day," said Shane Morris, the five star quarterback of Max Ex who has committed to Michigan. "They are a great team and we battled hard. But at the end of the day we had an awesome time down here. We started off 0-3 and battled battled back. That's what we do. It says a lot about this team but we just couldn't get by the Tampa team. Those guys are very talented."
That they are, especially on defense. Grady has preached to his team only one basic rule – "get three stops and we win."
That's exactly what the Tampa team did throughout the tournament, often holding teams to under two touchdowns, which is very difficult to do in 7v7. But when you have the nation's top cornerback like Vernon Hargreaves, III (Tampa, Fla./Wharton), one of the top safeties in the country like Leon McQuay (Seffner, Fla./Armwood), and a cast of talented others, their defensive goal can be achieved.
"With all due respect to our offensive guys like Pete DiNovo (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), Travis Johnson (Tampa, Fla./Jesuit), Alvin Bailey (Seffner, Fla./Armwood) and the others the heart and soul of this team is our defense. Leon, Vernon, the twins (Shaquille and Shaquem Griffin) and everyone else just played great. I am really proud of the guys."
Hargreaves won the defensive MVP of the tournament, as he showcased his superb cover ability and great ball skills. In the championship game he had one interception and one pass breakup.
"That was so much fun," Hargreaves said. "These guys on this team are like my brothers. We went undefeated, won, and had a great time. As far as the MVP stuff, it's not about me. It's about the defense and the team. You can't do it by yourself. You can't do it without your teammates."
Offensively, everything flowed through DiNovo, who was accurate and efficient for two days, especially in the championship game. He completed 18 of 21 passes and threw three touchdown passes in their win over Max Ex. He was named the offensive MVP for the tournament.
"That was awesome," said DiNovo, who has a scholarship offer from Houston. "I had such a good time. The best part of this whole thing is that you create lifelong relationships with these guys. We worked hard for this and we just had to come here and finish."
Travis Johnson shines
The FoxSportsNext/Scout.com tournament MVP went to wide receiver/tight end Travis Johnson. The recent Miami Hurricane commit was virtually unstoppable all weekend long.
"Personally, I thought I played well," Johnson said. "We worked hard as a team and everything paid off. This was a dream come true for me to play here and for us to win."
Johnson, 6-foot-4 and 230-pounds, caught four passes in the championship. He made big plays against Max Ex and was dominant against the South Florida Express Elite in their six-point win. In fact, no one had an answer for him. Even with good coverage Johnson would find a way to match the catch. And throughout the weekend, he made some awfully difficult grabs and along the way made it look easy. Sometimes too easy.
Then again, he's so tough to defend. Johnson may not be the fastest target but he uses his body so well and he snatches the ball out of the air, showing very strong hands.
"I do a lot of work with our offensive coordinator at my high school," Johnson said. "It's Vinny Testeverde. I work out with a medicine ball and it has really helped me strengthen my hands. And I have always played basketball so I know how to use my body."
Johnson has also had a crash course over the past six month, practicing against the Team Tampa defense.
"That has helped too because we have some All-Americans," Johnson said. "I mean these guys are the best in the country. That really pushed me to get better and work on my game. If you can do it against those guys you can do it against anyone."
Cartersville (Ga.) wins high school bracket
Cartersville (Ga.) High School beat Lithonia (Ga.) Martin Luther King to win the high school IMG Madden 7v7 National Championship. Led by quarterback Brooks Bearden and receivers Christian Linn, T.L. Ford and Mark Quattlebaun.
"We are very grateful for the opportunity," said Frank Barden, Cartersville coach. "It was great of the [Cam Newton] foundation. I mean we are grateful and we had a great experience here. We are excited that we won this."
Barden, now 6-foot-3 and 210-pounds, is a very talented rising junior. He shared time with a senior last season but now the job is all is. There's no question he will have an opportunity to turn himself into a D1 prospect.
"Brooks is a smart kid that really understands the game," Barden said. "He's accurate and gotten so much bigger and stronger."
Linn is a senior receiver prospect that has scholarship offers from Air Force, Harvard and Jacksonville State. He's also hearing from other Ivy League schools as well as teams from the Southern Conference.
Ford and Quattlebaum are two extremely talented receivers in Barden's '14 class. Ford, 6-foot-3 and 175-pounds, displayed very good hands, speed and big play ability. Meanwhile, Quattlebaum stands 5-foot-10 and 175-pounds. He's a speedy and very quick slot receiver. Both of those players have D1 talent as well.