"This is seven-on-seven, so if you get hot at the right time, and are consistent, you have a chance to win it all," said Gerard Ross, a former member of the Seattle Seahawks and Florida State in his playing days. "This is mine and Coach [Guss] Scott's vision, professional players coming back to Jacksonville and making an impact on Jacksonville kids' lives, River City has the same mission … [Jacksonville] is overlooked sometimes because there's so much talent down south, but there's talent in Jacksonville and today shows that."
It was a very tough road to reach today's finale. Yesterday's pool play was completely washed out because of rain. Each one of the 16 teams in attendance had to play four pool games this morning to set up the seeding for the afternoon play.
So like Ross said, his Pro Impact team got hot after the lunch break behind the play of quarterback Brycen Lee (Lafayette, Fla./Mayo). He found sophomore running back Trey Sneed (Fleming Island, Fla.) for one score and wide receiver Rick Wells (Jacksonville Raines) for another. Then, while trying to work the clock late, Lee found Chris Barr (Jacksonville Trinity Christian) on a short crossing route. This speedster took the edge and outraced everyone to put the game away.
"We hadn't gelled at all," said Ross. "We were 1-3 in pool play. We have a lot of talent on this team and a team with many Division 1 guys. We don't get to practice much because guys are running track or playing baseball or weight lifting. So I knew it would take us some games to get the rust off and find some consistency. After about the fourth game we started to come together."
This is a team loaded with a lot of stars like cornerback Kevin Toliver (Jacksonville Trinity Christian), linebacker tight end Jeffrey Holland (Jacksonville Trinity Christian), and others. But it was the quarterback who managed the game, threw with efficiency and got the ball to his playmakers in Lee.
"The first half of the day was rough for me," Lee said. "I wasn't very accurate. But then I caught a rhythm.
"Playing on this team is a big adjustment for me. I am not used to this speed and athleticism. It's just a matter of working through it and getting on the same page. That took some time today."
River City Kings was led by Florida State commitment DeAndre Johnson (Jacksonville First Coast). He had a terrific day battling not only the competition but the wind, as it was gusty all day from start to finish. Johnson was accurate and made some big throws when his team needed him.
His prime target was Florida commitment Tristan Payton (Jacksonville First Coast). In fact, you could make a strong case that Payton was the MVP of the entire event. In the title game he caught one touchdown and narrowly missed another after a spectacular one handed grab on the one-yard line on a deep route.
The Final Four
You kind of knew that going into the afternoon competition that this 7-on was wide open. Team Tampa finished pool play 4-0 and drew the No. 1 seed. But South Florida Express Elite beat them in the second round. Ironically, South Florida Express was the No. 16 seed, after a poor outing in the morning play. But they worked their way to the semi-finals before losing to Pro Impact. After finishing 1-3 this morning, Pro Impact was seeded No. 13.
The other semi-final matched Unsigned Preps (Tampa) against the River City Kings. Unsigned Preps came into the afternoon action as the No. 14 seed while River City Kings was No. 2. Unsigned Preps, led by wide receivers Nate Craig (Tampa Catholic), Deon Cain (Tampa Bay Tech) and Ray Ray McCloud (Tampa Sickles) had a chance to ice the game on the final play of the semi-finals. But a failed pass on third down gave the River City Kings a one-point victory.
Both semi-final games finished with identical scores of 19-18.
A big transfer
It was recently announced that Orlando Olympia quarterback Deondre Francois would transfer to the IMG Academy. That came to fruition, as Francois started school at IMG this past week.
"My first day was Friday," Francois said. "I just think that playing at IMG gives me a great opportunity. I can also get the training I need. Plus, it will be the first time I can be on my own. It will give me a chance to mature as a person and as a player."
Francois is emerging as the state's top quarterback prospect. He holds a bunch of offers including ones from his five favorite teams at this time.
Another huge reason why he decided to transfer was to play under former Heisman winning quarterback Chris Weinke. Weinke is the head coach at IMG and he also happens to be one of the top quarterback coaches in the country.
"I know playing for coach Weinke is going to help me a whole lot," Francois said. "He will help mold me and become a better quarterback, a poised quarterback and a smarter quarterback. He runs a pro style offense that runs an NFL playbook. I am very excited to have this opportunity."
Francois, 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, is a four-star recruit and the No. 16 ranked quarterback in the 2015 class. He was the quarterback for the Rat Pak.
Patrick sets announcement date
Four-star running back Jacques Patrick (Orlando Timber Creek) said he will make his college decision this fall. Patrick, 6-foot-2, 232-pounds, can virtually name his school. One lucky team will find out on October 27th.
"That' my little brother's birthday (Peter Hayes)," Patrick said. "That's when I plan to do it."
Patrick said he's sitting on 52 scholarship offers at this time. This big bruiser was first offered by Florida State two years ago. He will visit the Seminoles for their upcoming spring game. But that will be his first of many trips before the start of the football season.
"I like about ten schools," Patrick said. "My favorites are Miami, FSU, Florida, Michigan, Tennessee, Ohio State, UCF, Notre Dame, Auburn and Alabama. I want to go visit Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and all the in-state schools this spring and summer."
Patrick also has a big spring game in May, as his Timber Creek team will take on Orlando West Orange and running back Dexter Williams.
Davis to make the switch
In not a very big surprise, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Lakewood standout quarterback Ryan Davis said he will more than likely transition full time to another position in college.
"I will probably end up playing wide receiver," Davis said. "I will make the switch. I think in the long run that playing wide receiver will be the best fit for me. It fits my skill set. If that happens I know I will miss playing quarterback. I will definitely miss it."
Davis has scholarship offers from FSU, Miami, Nebraska, Washington State, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Arizona, West Virginia and a handful of others. He's a terrific dual-threat quarterback with a pretty lively arm. But he's only 5-foot-11, 165-pounds. Davis can be electric with the ball in his hands with speed to burn and super short area quickness. Last season after transferring to Lakewood two weeks prior to the season he still managed to throw for over 2,000 yards, rush for over 800 yards and score 29 touchdowns.
This event was loaded with some of the state's very best prospects regardless of class like some of the names mentioned above as well as guys like safeties Derwin James (Haines City), Jaquon Johnson (Miami Killian), and Calvin Brewton (Miami Central), cornerback Tyrek Cole (Miramar, Fla.), wide receivers George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake), Tavares Chase (Plant City, Fla.), Jalen Julius (Orlando, Fla./West Orange), Dionte Mullins (Miami Gulliver Prep), and Khalil Lewis (Miramar, Fla.).
What's exciting is to see new kids shine.
Unsigned Preps has two very good cornerback prospects in Kenyatta Anderson (Gulfport, Fla./Boca Ciega) and Nate Ferguson (Tampa Gaither). Both players had tremendous days. Anderson is a big (6-0/185), physical and very athletic cover guy with no offers at the moment. He looked good at the Orlando NFTC and very good today. Ferguson is smaller (5-8/180) but has exceptional balls skills. He had five interceptions on the day and made life miserable for the opposition with his feisty play.
Darrien McNair (Ocala, Fla./Trinity Catholic) is a huge safety/linebacker (6-3/225) that has terrific speed and range. He's committed to Mississippi State.
Ryan Pulley (Cape Coral, Fla./Island Coast) has a Michigan State and they are the team to beat right now. He will visit Sparty in May. Pulley is a huge cornerback that is a terrific athlete on both sides of the ball. He made a terrific grab over Kevin Toliver for a touchdown early on the day. This kid has a lot of dog in him and is a great competitor to boot.
Antwan Dixon (South Fort Myers) is a terrific all-around player that just lacks ideal size. He's a jacked up 5-foot-7, 165-pounds that can press, cover and is dynamic with the ball in his hands. Against Team Tampa he held George Campbell without a reception. Clemson, Indiana and Georgia are his top schools (no offers).
Perfect Performance (from the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area) had three teams at IMG. Keep an eye on one member of their Orange team in safety/cornerback William Jackson (Washington D.C./St. Johns College). He's enormous at 6-foot-3, 196-pounds. Jackson missed most of last season because of family issues. He's a guy to keep an eye on for sure over the coming weeks and months.
Other standouts defensively on the day that could be some new names for some are cornerback Deion Jackson (Hallandale, Fla.) and safety Mark Proctor (Jacksonville Forest).
Offensively, two guys that made splash plays all day were Rick Wells (Jacksonville Raines) and D.J. Matthews (Jacksonville First Coast). Wells is a rising junior with good size, length and speed. He seemed to get better and better as the day wore on. Matthews, 5-foot-11, 160-pounds, is a freshman who had an outstanding day on both sides of the ball. He's an instinctive safety that reads the play, has a tremendous break on the ball and shows fantastic range. Offensively, he put on a show with several highlight reel catches and plays. Yea he's young but he was one of the top performers on the day.
Jacob Mathis (Tampa Berkeley Prep) is a sophomore tight end with size and good hands. Meanwhile, running back Johnnie Hankins (Homestead, Fla./South Dade) continues to impress. He made a handful of big plays for the South Florida Express.
Maryland star wide receiver Stefon Diggs has a younger brother to keep an eye on in the 2016 class in Trevon Diggs (Rockville, Md./Wooton). He's already 6-foot-1, 175-pounds with offers from Penn State, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, Nebraska, North Carolina State, and others. Diggs has strong hands, very good quickness and length.