While many of the South Florida 7-on-7 all-star teams have been busy the past two months, traveling across the state and the country – last Saturday was a time for the most talented teams in this region in the country to stay home.
The elite of the elite local teams headed to Miami for the Second Annual WarZone 7-on-7 Tournament, and by the end of the day, the nationally rated Fire with Dennis Marroquin once again stood tall in the high school division.
While this day was about watching the Fire beat the South Florida Express in the finals, it was also designed for the glue of 7-on-7, statewide, to come together on their own “turf” for the day, and play some high-level football.
The turf on this day was the fabled Gwen Cherry Park – in the heart of Liberty City. It was fitting that so many of the elite football talent converge on a field that has produced more than its share of stars.
“What we wanted when we held this event last year was to bring our athletes and coaches together for a day of competition, but also respect,” said Duncan Andrews, one of the founders of the WarZone brand. “We know every coach and every player who came out for this event – and we wanted to say thanks for carrying the flag of this area all over the country.”
The yearly event will grow, and it already has with a roster that not only attracted the Fire teams, but also SFE, Strong Arm, and some new faces who have made a huge impact during the offseason.
Derrick Lester has turned his Hard Knocks brand into a year round event of helping athletes in the classroom, taking them on non-official recruiting trips and assembling plenty of talent that has been able to win – and make an impression nationally.
“It’s all about helping the kids, and giving back,” said Lester, a one-time South Dade standout football player and wrestler. “We went to California last year, finishing second, and we will be returning to see colleges and show the kids something they normally would never have a chance to do.”
Indeed, while many of the local teams and coaches come off brash and act like they don’t care about anyone but themselves, they do promote their players and put them in the best situation possible to succeed.
Brett Goetz (SFE), who started all of this back in the day, knows that every coach and every player in South Florida respect what everyone does in the 305 and 954. He also understands that having the chance to make an impact on the lives of so many youngsters is what this all about.
“Most of the players on our team have never been on an airplane, and the next you know, they are walking the strip in Las Vegas,” he pointed out. “We took Teddy Bridgewater, Geno Smith, Duke Johnson and so many others on their first trips, so this is something we have all been at for a long time.”
The WarZone event also brought in competitive teams such as DTE, B2G, Struggle Nation, Team Nghtmr and the Treasure Coast All-Stars, who were stacked with athletes from Stuart through Vero Beach.
“Just the chance to come out and have some competition is what we are after every week,” said Strong Arm, Miami Carol City and University of Miami commit Cam’Ron Davis. “Any week we go and play in a tournament, there are going to be big-time football players. That is South Florida. Nothing like it anywhere.”
Team Nghtmr defeated the South Florida Express in the competitive 15 and under event.
PLENTY OF TALENT ROAMING GWEN CHERRY
No matter where you went on Saturday around the Gwen Cherry property, there were athletes. Whether it was 15 and under or the varsity teams, prospects, as usual, were making an impact.
Florida Fire’s win in the Battle Sports sponsored event moves them into second place nationally in the 7-on-7 offseason rankings. BOOM is still No. 1, but Marroquin knows that if his teams show up, they can play with anyone.
“What the War Zone tournament showed is that the talent is just amazing – from team to team,” he explained. “Other areas if the country have one or two teams from their area. Not 10-12 like we do and all are very talented.”
TEAM FLORIDA FIRE
Akeem Dent (Palm Beach Central)
Michael DiLiello (Cooper City)
Shane Ellis (Boca Raton Olympic Heights)
Rayne Tanega-Doster (Mater Academy)
Hunter Goetz (Miami Central)
Akeem Hayes (South Broward)
Bryan Henry (Lake Worth)
Diamante Howard (Southridge)
E.J. Jackson (West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman)
Desjuan Kearse (Champagnat Catholic)
Dante Long (Boca Raton)
Chris McDonald Jr. (Southridge)
Taiwan Mullins (Coconut Creek)
Mark Pope (Southridge)
Brandon Wamley (South Broward)
TEAM HARD KNOCKS
Darius Cook (Northwestern)
Terrence Craig (Miami Edison)
Justin Hill (Northwestern)
Marcus Orlando (American Heritage)
Andrew Reese (Miami Edison)
Darius Brown (South Dade)
Lamont Finnie, Jr., (Miami Edison)
Brieon Fuller (Doral Academy)
Dee Ford (Columbus)
D.J. Ivey (South Dade)
Kalani Norris (Columbus)
SOUTH FLORIDA EXPRESS
Myles Bell (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Seth McGill (Miami Central)
Carlos Sandy (Cardinal Gibbons)
Trenell Troutman (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Dominick Watt (McArthur)
Antwan Brinson (Hialeah Miami Lakes)
Mark Carter (Carol City)
Cameron Davis (Carol City)
Irshaad Davis (Carol City)
Deon Jones (Miramar)
Legend Moore (Carol City)
Marcell Williams (Carol City)
Nayquan Wright (Carol City)