Posted: 11:16 am Saturday, June 9th, 2012
By Matt Porter
Every year, former NFL fullback Heath Evans puts on a 7-on-7 tournament at his alma mater, King’s Academy.
The tourney, held to benefit the Heath Evans Foundation, features squads representing a few of the state’s top high school teams. Today’s focus is local: Dwyer, Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach Central, John I. Leonard, King’s and Wellington are in the mix. Here are five things of note from this year’s event.
1. Dwyer looking good. After stomping Fort Pierce Central in their spring game, Dwyer has even more buzz than normal. Its 7-on-7 squad did nothing to quiet that on Saturday, dominating Palm Beach Central and Vero Beach in the preliminaries, later handling Miami-McArthur and Palm Beach Central (27-8) to advance to the final four. Dwyer was to play Miami Central in the final four before rain and lightning ended the event. Those two teams, plus Miami-Booker T. Washington and Miami-Carol City, were the last teams left and are considered the winners.
Junior receivers Clint Stephens, Johnnie Dixon and Ezra Saffold piled up touchdown catches in the prelims. “Clint was unstoppable,” coach Jack Daniels said. Now, Dwyer’s big question: the QB spot. Junior Robbie Nittolo played well before senior Clay Meister returned from taking his ACT. Nittolo has JV experience from last year, but I give the edge to Meister right now. Thicker kid. Runs better. He was Dwyer’s varsity starting center last year, so he has experience with the defenses at that level. There’s a lot of time before Week 1 this fall, though.
One more Dwyer thought: lineman Mark Kelly, who emerged from nowhere to be a sack machine last year as a sophomore, won two lineman challenges (tire flip and obstacle course). Kelly is 6-foot-2, 220 pounds and runs a 4.6, according to Daniels.
2. Wellington stuns Plant. Yes, you read that right. Tampa-Plant, one of the better teams in the state and defending tournament champions, fell to Wellington in 7-on-7. Rumor was that Plant played its JV kids for the first half of the game, but that doesn’t matter to the Wolverines.
“It’s a new day,” new coach Thomas Abel after the tournament. The Wolverines, the 13th seed in the 16-team tournament, lost 33-6 to Miami Central in the elimination round. Abel, an Ohio native who was previously an offensive line coach for the Wolverines, said he’s trying to bring some “Ohio mentality” to his team, meaning he wants them to be a family. Standouts, according to coaches, were sophomore cornerback Shamari Jackson, and junior quarterback Cole Smallridge.
3. King’s shaping up. New King’s Academy coach Heath Nivens has been here since April with his wife and young son, getting situated. His team has been running a spread offense for the last week, and it did fairly well using it Saturday.
The Lions lost 14-12 to Oakland Park-Northeast in the elimination round, failing to stop one of the best receivers in Florida, Northeast’s Stacy Coley. Dropped passes also hurt. But the Lions were up 6-0 early. They were also 1-1 in the prelims and seeded eighth for the elimination round based on point differential. “I’ll take that,” Nivens said. Expect the Lions to be more run-focused this fall.
4. Words from the pros. Dolphins first-rounder Ryan Tannehill, the potential QB of the future, spoke to the high school teams in the King’s gym. “I want to talk to you about choices,” he began. “Some choices don’t matter, like if you choose red Gatorade or blue Gatorade. Some choices affect you for the rest of your life.” A Christian, he told the kids to lean on God.
Cleveland Browns tight end Benjamin Watson talked about choices, too. Football vs. cartoons on Saturday. Sleeping in vs. church on Sundays. School vs. slacking off on Mondays. (You get the idea.) Watson then preached for several minutes.
Watson: Life is not being on TV. Life is not how much money you have. Life is not how many women you can sleep with. Life is not how many touchdown catches you have. He asks them to repent and build a relationship with God.
Later, Heath Evans, Watson and Tannehill were out at the 40-yard dash competition. The NFL Network had several cameras there. A cameraman said there will be a “three-minute segment” on NFL Network “early next week.” So, watch for that.
Evans, Watson and Tannehill (and Tannehill’s wife, Lauren) spent time watching the action, in golf carts at the edge of the field.
5. Letting the mind wander. The original plan for this blog entry was a live blog. We adjusted on the fly, since we spent most of the day talking to people we hadn’t seen in a while. That leaves us with plenty of thoughts about the Palm Beach County football scene:
— Royal Palm Beach sophomore Charles Perry, who transferred from Cardinal Newman, is impressing his coaches. Perry (6-1, 200) runs a 4.5 according to one Wildcats assistant. He’ll play running back and defensive end this year. So, looks like Perry and sophomore DeMarcus Holloway are the guys to replace graduated workhorse Tremane McCullough in Royal Palm’s backfield.
— Also, Royal Palm offensive tackle Craig Smith, who is 6-5, 320 according to his coaches, is camping at Miami today. Same goes for Palm Beach Central’s two biggest linemen, junior Kc McDermott (6-6, 280) and Santaluces transfer Nickedel Pierre (6-3, 315).
— Palm Beach Central’s quarterback battle is between senior Kyle Shafer and junior Brad Stein. Didn’t see a lot of them, so can’t say much. Senior backs Ray Wilson and Lloyd ‘Bam’ Howard are the two guys to watch on that team, especially running behind linemen like that.
— Palm Beach Gardens had a so-so day, falling to second-seeded Miami Central 31-13 in the elimination round. Junior quarterback J.P. Caruso and senior Frank Brown did well, according to new coach Rob Freeman. “They’re way ahead of where they were last year. It’s night and day,” Freeman said of the pair, who hooked up for 12 touchdowns and 889 yards last year.
— John I. Leonard lost 32-28 to Tampa-Wharton in the elimination round. “We’re working. We’re a young team,” senior quarterback Adam Johnson said. “We do this all summer, we’ll be good.”
— Miramar’s Mark Miranda won the lineman challenge bench press for the second year in a row. He put up 185 pounds (not 225, as I originally wrote) 38 times. He won last year with 34. Miramar also won the five-man sled.
— Dwyer’s Julian Whigham, a Syracuse signee, was there watching his school. He played safety in high school, but says he’ll play corner at ‘Cuse. “I’m a little nervous,” he said. “I’ve just got to do a few more cornerback drills in my workouts. I’ll be good.” He leaves next week. Of note, the 6-1 Whigham is up to 185, which is a victory for him. Before last year his weight dropped as low as 170, when he developed achalasia, a digestive system disorder. Whigham explains it as: “the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach kinda quit on me.” Healthy now, though.
— American Heritage coach Doug Socha and Dwyer coach Jack Daniels have agreed to play Thurs., Nov. 8 at American Heritage. Scheduling details are still to be decided, though. Dwyer was to play Wellington, which doesn’t yet have another opponent. Stay tuned to see if this happens. Two powerhouse teams. Let’s hope it does.
— Some interesting buzz on American Heritage star running back Greg Bryant. The senior, who committed to Oklahoma this spring, is visiting Auburn this weekend. Bryant is said to not be opening his recruitment, and the visit is part of a family trip to the area.
FIRST ROUND (Round-robin)
Team W-L-T PF PA Diff
Miami-Booker T. Washington
2-0-0 66 22 +44
1-1-0 35 56 -21
0-1-1 22 48 -26
0-2-0 28 35 -7
Booker T. Washington 34, Wellington 8
Oakland Park-Northeast 21, Tampa Wharton 14
Booker T. Washington 42, Oakland Park-Northeast 14
Wellington 14, Tampa Wharton 14
Team W-L-T PF PA Diff
2-0-0 49 41 +8
1-1-0 47 38 +9
Palm Beach Gardens
0-2-0 45 62 -17
Miramar 33, Palm Beach Gardens 18
Miami-Carol City 29, Palm Beach Gardens 27
Miami-Carol City 20, Miramar 14
Team W-L-T PF PA Diff
2-0-0 53 25 +28
1-1-0 30 47 -17
0-2-0 27 38 -11
Miami Central 33, King’s Academy 12
King’s Academy 18, McArthur 14
Miami Central 20, McArthur 13
Team W-L-T PF PA Diff
2-0-0 54 28 +26
John I. Leonard
1-1-0 52 58 -6
Pompano Beach-Blanche Ely
0-2-0 37 57 -20
Tampa Plant 29, John I. Leonard 20
Tampa Plant 25, Ely 8
John I. Leonard 32, Ely 29
Team W-L-T PF PA Diff
2-0-0 58 31 +27
Palm Beach Central
0-1-1 34 47 -13
0-1-1 41 55 -14
Dwyer 25, Palm Beach Central 12
Dwyer 33, Vero Beach 19
Palm Beach Central 22, Vero Beach 22
ROUND OF 16 (Single-elimination)
(No. 1) Booker T. Washington 20, (No. 16) Ely 14
(No. 2) Miami Central 31, (No. 15) Palm Beach Gardens 13
(No. 3) Dwyer 26, (No. 14) McArthur 13
(No. 13) Wellington 26, (No. 4) Tampa Plant 23
(No. 5) Miami-Carol City 30, (No. 12) Vero Beach 22
(No. 11) Palm Beach Central 26, (No. 6) Miramar 12
(No. 10) Tampa Wharton 32, (No. 7) John I. Leonard 29
(No. 9) Oakland Park-Northeast 14, (No. 8) King’s Academy 12
Booker T. Washington 34, Oakland Park-Northeast 26
Miami-Carol City 20, Wellington 6
Miami Central 33, Tampa Wharton 20
Dywer 27, Palm Beach Central 8
SEMIFINALS – not played due to lightning and rain
Miami Central vs. Dwyer
Booker T. Washington vs. Miami-Carol City
FASTEST MAN CHALLENGE
Champion – Dalvin Cook, Miami Central
Team champion – Miramar (3850 points)
Second – Booker T. Washington (3425)
Third – Tampa Plant (3400)