When Team Florida 2 defeated the South Florida Express on Sunday afternoon on the practice fields at the University of South Florida, one of the best 7-on-7 Tournaments, in terms of overall talent, ever put together in this state came to an end.
"This was by far the best one we've done this year," said New Level Athletics co-founder Baron Flenory. "The talent that was out there on the field today was unbelievable. I don't know what's in the water down here but the talent down here's a little different than everywhere else."
Talent was on display everywhere. When putting together the Florida Teams on Friday night, I knew Sunday would be a very exciting day. I've been covering the state of Florida for Scout.com since 2001 and this was the best event I've ever covered.
South Florida Express, a team coached by Brett Goetz that featured more than 20 legitimate Division 1 prospects, was the favorite going into the event and after the first several games in the morning, they looked very tough. Led by four-star quarterback Eugene Smith, they were right there until the end.
They ran into a buzzsaw in the form of Florida Team 2, led by Aaron Murray. After watching over 100 future Division 1 players on the field Sunday and having covered recruiting in this state for seven years now, there's no doubt in my mind that Murray should be a five-star player. "This was awesome," Murray said. "To be able to come out here and compete with all these great players was really special."
Team Florida 2, coached by Plant head coach Robert Weiner (the coach of the year in the state of Florida in 2006), met up for the first time the night before at GameWorks but they didn't take long to gel on Sunday morning.
After rattling off seven straight victories, they dominated the championship game against the South Florida Express, despite playing without wide receiver NuKeese Richardson, who solidified his spot as a four-star player and one of the state's premier prospects on Sunday with his outstanding performance.
Richardson came with five of his Pahokee teammates -- running back Vincent Smith, linebacker Brandon Hawthorne, and defensive backs Willie Hickman, Jarvis Byrd, and Carlos Lammons. They were joined on defense by Plant safety Hunter Baldwin and King's Academy linebacker Toney Moore. The defense played exceptionally well all day.
Offensively, they were nearly unstoppable. Murray was spreading the ball around to some of the state's best receivers. If there's a better tight end prospect anywhere in the South than Plant's Orson Charles, someone needs to tell me. Even though he's only about 6-2 1/2, he has all the tools. He's strong, smooth, has great instincts, attacks the ball, runs well, the total package.
Titusville receiver Willie Haulstead has a nice offer sheet going and I can promise you he'll continue getting them. He showed why he's one of the state's best players on Sunday. With an NFL build already, Haulstead caught everything thrown to him and probably had the catch of the day at one point. He attacks the ball extremely well and is extremely physical. Chamberlain's Anthony Williams showed why he's a major Division 1 prospect as well.
The last player to arrive for Team Florida 2 was Lake Region receiver Ronnie Richardson. Separated from a lot of his friends and teammates because of the number of players on various teams, Richardson proved why he's one of the state's top wide receiver prospects. He's only 5-9 and 160 but has tremendous hands, quickness, and explosiveness. He had several good plays throughout the day, including several key catches in the championship game. Richardson's also considered one of the top baseball prospects in the entire nation.
Coach Weiner was very happy with his team's performance and the event overall.
"Thank you so much for putting on a great event today," Weiner said. "It was one of the most special football days I have had. What great kids I had on my team."
Goetz, who put together his South Florida Team a month earlier, talked about how great the event was.
"This was such a great event," he said. "Giving these kids a chance to get this amount of exposure on Scout.com is great."
Miami Northwestern, the defending national champions, brought eight players to the event and assistant coach Jon Drummond was their leader on Sunday. They paired up with two Georgia quarterbacks and several kids from the Orlando area. This team finished in third place.
"We loved it up there," he said. "It's all about the kids coming out and competing and getting exposure at the same time. We had a lot of fun. I can't wait till next year."
Coming in fourth place was Team Florida 6, coached by Auburndale's Chris Ash and some offensive coaches at Jupiter Christian, the defending Class 1B state champions.
"Our kids loved this," Ash said. "We had a great time. We had a lot of sophomores on this team who are going to become great players. They need events like this and for them to come out here and hook up with the Jupiter Christian guys and be able to go down to the wire against these All-Star teams was amazing. We're coming back to win the whole thing next year."
Former NFL all-pro receiver Cris Carter coached one of the teams at the event and his team did really well and benefitted from the event as well.
"This was great," he said. "We enjoyed ourselves and I think it's really good what you're doing for the kids. There are a lot of really talented players on this field today."
This event had it all. Among the schools represented were four defending state champions -- Jupiter Christian, Pahokee, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Miami Northwestern. Many other of the state's elite schools and players were on hand. A lot of kids put their name on the national recruiting map with their strong performances on Sunday and Scout.com will have exclusive coverage of the event in the coming days. We'll have breakdowns of the teams, an All-Camp Team, video of the event, interviews with several of the top performers, position breakdowns, and much more. Stay tuned!
Thanks to all the coaches and players who helped make this event such a big success in its first year in Florida. We're already excited for the event next year!