When Baron Flenory and Kashann Simmons of New Level Athletics had the idea of doing 7-on-7 Passing Camps around the country, they wanted to bring out the best in the nation.
This past weekend, New Level Athletics completed their first-ever pass camp, presented by Badger Sportswear and Scout.com.
And to say it was a success would be putting it mildly.
Several of the elite prospects in the West, which included six of the Scout 100 members, were on hand for a competitive day in Las Vegas.
Walking away the winners was California 2, who went 8-0 on the day and outlasted. Washington in the finals 15-8.
California 2 had a workman-like day, getting plays when they needed them, and shutting down just about every offense they played to set up the West Coast final.
Washington, coached by Scout.com’s East Regional Recruiting Manager Bob Lichtenfels, started the day 0-2, and looked like it may not even get out of pool play, before a win over California 1 got the team on track. As Lichtenfels ditched the playbook and went with the hot-hand of Jake Heaps, the star sophomore from Skyline, Washington got things going.
“I told the guys when we got to the playoffs, you got your money’s worth with the pool play,” said Lichtenfels. “Then I told them, now it’s money time, lets win this thing.”
California 2 struck first, Cody Vaz hitting Gershun Harris in the front of the end zone to take the early lead. But Heaps found his Skyline teammate Gino Simone, as he did on numerous occasions during their state title season and on Sunday, to even the score. Marlon Pollard would break up the two-point conversion and prevent Washington from taking the lead.
With the game knotted, and neither team able to take the lead, California 2 finally put together a drive that won the title for them. Moten found tight end Zach Ertz in double coverage, and threaded the needle to Ertz, who’s catch gave California the lead. California 2 would end up holding on defense to give themselves the title and stay unbeaten on the day.
“It was a lot of fun, and we just kept our mouth’s shut and went out and worked,” said Pollard, from Cajon HS in San Bernardino.
But the road to the championship, fittingly on Selection Sunday, offered several intriguing matchups.
California had three teams and a fourth team was a mixture of California and Oregon prospects, while Utah had a pair of teams. Also represented were Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
The first game of the day to draw attention was Arizona and the CalifOregon team. Arizona surprised CalifOregon in the first round, picking off a pass with the score tied on the final play of the game, which they returned for a touchdown to get the day going.
And the first upset of the day happened a game later when California 1, a team that featured five commits to USC, was stunned by Colorado. California 1 was easily the most talented team on the field during the course of the day, their secondary featuring future Trojans T.J. McDonald and Chris Metcalf, five-star cornerback Cliff Harris, the top middle linebacker in the country in Vontaze Burfict, tight end Morrell Presley, receiver Randall Carroll and safety Byron Moore among others.
But Colorado wasn’t fazed. Johnny Miller, a sophomore quarterback from Denver Mullen silenced California 1 early on, throwing a post route to Donnie Jennert, who got behind McDonald and Metcalf, for the first points. After a three and out by California 1, Colorado had their own three and out before California 1 responded. Harris, doubling at receiver, caught a short pass, then shook a Colorado linebacker to take it inside the red zone. Joe Southwick then hit Harris for a touchdown to tie it up.
Colorado answered, with Miller throwing a quick slant for a score, and they would hold California 1 on their last attempt, Tyrese Davis breaking up a pass for Harris to escape with the early pool play win, surprising most of the people watching.
Meanwhile, California 2 was putting the finishing touches on a shutout of the Dakota’s and setting up their big day with their first win. The three-headed quarterback trio of Cody Vaz, Josh Moten and Dex Lucci were in-sync with their big targets, which included tight ends Levine Toilolo and Zach Ertz, future teammates at Stanford. Cierre Wood, the top running back in the West, also had some nice plays in the first game, though being a running back, the 7-on-7 format limited Wood to how much damage he could actually do. The California 2 defense set the tone early, getting an interception from Sean Martin, who would go on to have a huge day, and some big plays from their linebackers, Michael Clay, Todd Golper and Anthony Larceval. And defensive back Kenny Caveness, would also make some big plays over the course of the day.
Utah 1 and Utah 2 also had some good games in the early going and Idaho, behind quarterback Taysom Hill and linebacker Darren Markle, had a big win over Utah 1 in pool play. Utah 2, behind quarterback Jeff Manning, linebacker L.T. Filiaga and safety Chris Washington, was exceptionally strong in the pool play rounds.
Montana had a big win in the morning over CalifOregon, getting a strong day from quarterback Brock Osweiler, the commit to Gonzaga in basketball, who showed on Sunday that he may have a long future on the gridiron.
Nevada had a good win of their own, beating Washington in pool play behind a very good showing by running back Akil Sharp. Washington, who would advance to the finals, started the day slow, coming out of the gates 0-2. But things would pick up, starting with a win over California 1.
California 3 had some moments in pool play where they looked like they could challenge for the title. Receivers Brett Thompson and Rolando Jefferson did a good job getting separation and staying in-tune with their quarterbacks in the first few games, but upstart Arizona knocked them off as well.
After the pool play round eliminated some teams and set up the seedings for the playoff round, their were more potential intriguing matchups.
The quarterfinals matched up California 2 against Nevada, and the depth and talent of California 2 was too much for the hometown team. California 1 beat Utah 1 in a controversial ending. Chris Washington picked off Joe Southwick, with Utah down 14-0, and looked like he took it back for a score. The way the rules worked were that an interception and a score, would allow for the defensive team to also take over. The score would have made it 14-6 with a chance for two and another chance to try and take the lead. But the officials ruled that Southwick tagged Washington, nullifying the score. Utah had a couple of plays, but time ran out and California 1 escaped with the win.
Utah 2 meanwhile was busy avenging the Beehive’s State loss by beating California 3. And Washington continued their quiet march by ending Arizona’s day.
In the semifinals, Washington used a late touchdown by Jake Heaps to Gino Simone to knock out Utah 2 and move to the finals. The other semifinal was California 1 and California 2, the biggest collection of talent in one game on the day, which featured 10 Pac-10 commits. Marcus McDaniel set up California 2’s go-ahead score, throwing a move on the California 1 secondary that put them in the red zone. Moten would then hit Gershun Harris for the score. Sean Martin would loom large, picking off two passes including the game-clincher off Sean Berman to put California 2 in the finals.
Scout.com will have more coverage from the 7-on-7 Pass Camp, including scouting reports, photo galleries, video interviews and highlights and an all-camp team throughout the week