ORLANDO — Teams from throughout Central Florida converged June 26 on the campus of Faith Christian Academy in Southeast Orlando for the Throwdown in O-Town 7-on-7 football tournament.
Included in the 20-team field were local teams representing Windermere Prep, Foundation Academy and Legacy.
The event was to serve as a showcase for the Sunshine State Athletic Conference and also was open to programs of any size or classification. Freedom and University, two Orlando-area programs classified in Class 8A by the FHSAA, were among the large-classification public schools represented.
“It’s awesome,” said Jacob Doss, head coach for Windermere Prep and the treasurer for the SSAC. “This is something that we put in the plans in January. … It’s really cool to see all the other SSAC teams, as well as the (teams from district competition). It’s really cool to see how we stack up, and I think, for the most part, we’ve done pretty well.”
The first day included pool-play competition, setting the stage for a single-elimination tournament on Saturday. Northside Christian ended up taking home first place, and Berean Christian School finished as the runner-up.
Although Legacy fell in the first round of single-elimination play Saturday to Northside, 36-14, Windermere Prep and Foundation Academy each advanced to the second round. The Lakers defeated International Community School, 30-27, before falling to Trinity Christian, 30-22. The Lions defeated Freedom, 31-14, before falling to Northside, 46-25.
Results aside, the summer 7-on-7 competition can be vital to teams for a variety of reasons.
For Legacy, for instance, the Eagles are looking to move forward after the departure of standout quarterback Colton Liddell. Liddell, who was at the tournament to help out as a fill-in offensive coordinator, worked with incoming transfer Gehrig Chambless, who will back-up returning quarterback Hilton Lamprecht, who is expected to be the starter.
Foundation is returning rising senior quarterback Jacob Murphy, but given his knack for playing nearly any position, coach Brad Lord is hopeful someone such as Sergio Gonzalez, a transfer from West Orange, can take the reins and free up Murphy to help in other ways. Gonzalez looked promising and got several reps during the two-day competition.
“Murphy is such a total athlete that I’d love to see Sergio be real good at (quarterback) so I can have Murphy all over the field,” Lord said. “(Murphy is) a wonderful linebacker. … He reminds me of a smaller Chandler Cox from Apopka — he’s just a total football player.”
For Windermere Prep, which graduated nearly all of its receivers from a season ago when it won the SSAC Championship, the summer is vital for having returning quarterback Parker Davis develop timing with his new receivers — some of whom are just learning the game. Doss leaned on a few of the school’s basketball players to come out, including Yassen Aratius, who looked impressive at times during Friday’s pool-play segment.
“There’s nothing like 7-on-7 to get timing down and to get guys running routes,” Doss said. “I tell every one of them that 7-on-7 is a chance to go make a name for yourself. … 7-on-7 is a very good entryway into football. You get a chance to see how athletic some of these kids are.”
Outside of Foundation, who will play West Orange (Class 8A), most of these schools will never take the field for a regular-season game against a larger classification opponent. The ability to line up against a team such as Freedom or University presents an important opportunity for smaller programs.
“We get confidence,” Lord said. “It’s great for our skill guys.”