The First Academy football wins UCF 7-on-7 championship

The Royals’ new-look football team competed at the Knights’ 7-on-7 tourney, held Thursday, June 6, at FBC Mortgage Stadium.

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Football, like many other areas in life, is all about relationships. Whether they are on the field, in the locker room, in the press box or in the coaches’ offices, it is often one of the most vital considerations of any pigskin matter. 

For The First Academy football team, you could say the relationships second-year coach and Athletic Director Jeff Conaway has built over his career is why the Royals’ have been able to overhaul its program and build what seems to be one of the scariest in Orlando. 

It also stands to reason that Conaway’s relationship with UCF football coach Gus Malzahn — from Conaway's and Malzahn's Arkansas high school football ties — is probably why TFA made sure to be at the Knights’ first of three 7-on-7 summer camps Thursday, June 6, at FBC Mortgage Stadium. 

“Any chance we get to go see Gus and to go to UCF, we would like to take it,” Conaway said. “It’s an incredible program with great coaches, and so we as coaches always feel like we’re sharpened when we get to go there. But also, I feel like our players are sharpened, as well. I think the players are highly motivated when they step foot on a college campus and with this one right down the street, it was a really good opportunity to be there. Plus, it always feels good for us to go there because of the relationship we have with Coach Malzahn and his staff.”

Let your game do the talking

That’s the funny thing about sports, though: The relationships that opened the doors don’t automatically translate to wins.  

Your game has to take over. And at the UCF 7-on-7 camp, the new-look Royals did just that. 

“We’re building a culture of, any time there’s competition, we want to win it,” Conaway said. “On offense, we threw and caught the ball well. We played two quarterbacks (Salomon Georges) Jr. and Will (Jackson), who both got some real quality reps, rotating every two drives. … To me, our receivers — Evan (James), Demetrice (McCray), Isaac (Obrokta) and all those guys — caught the ball really well, but it all started with our route running. Creating that separation sometimes gets overlooked. … Running a good route allows you to create separation and catch the football. This group of pass-catchers did that well.”

Georges Jr. credits the team’s win to its ability to have each others backs and make plays when they were needed.

“I felt like both sides of the ball were encouraging each other,” he said. “If somebody made a bad play, we made sure to pick that guy up on the next play, so they could keep going out there and making plays. That’s what happened, and we were all able to build off of each other to ultimately win the tournament.”

To the victors go the spoils

The quality showing, on both sides of the ball, for the Royals was impressive — especially considering the tournament was filled with quality teams such as Central Florida’s Timber Creek High, Winter Park High and South Lake High. 

With the high level of competition and incredible performances, both collectively and as individuals, the Royals didn’t just take home the 7-on-7 championship helmet or the memory of playing on the UCF home field. 

Three members of the winning team took home something much more valuable: scholarship offers to UCF. 

TFA’s Obrokta, Danny Odem and Kamauri Whitfield all shared via their X accounts that following conversations with the UCF coaching staff and their great individual showings during the 7-on-7 camp the Knights offered each of them a scholarship. 

‘Royal Road Show’

Moments like this are exactly what Conaway and his staff are trying to accomplish during the months leading up to fall camp. They want to put their players in a position to compete, grow as a team and build chemistry while also serving the college football ambitions of the individual players by showcasing their talents in front of decision-makers. 

“It means a lot to me to be able to showcase my talents at these camps, because normally, kids like me don’t get to go to these events or get this type of exposure to colleges,” Georges Jr. said. “So this has just been a great experience for me to come out to these camps and 7-on-7s and ball out.”

To continue down this path in the summer, Conaway and his team have embarked on what they’ve dubbed the “Royal Road Show,” which is an eight-day, nine-camp bus tour of different colleges in the Southeast — including stops at Duke, North Carolina and NC State, and another 7-on-7 camp at Liberty University.

“Our goal for this summer program is three-fold,” Conaway said. “The first is to unite as a team. One of our core values is brotherhood, and we know that to compete at the highest level in a team sport, we’re going to have to build trust and brotherhood with (one another). So uniting as a staff and as a team is first and foremost. The second is we want to get better at football. We want to get better at what we’re going to be asked to do on Friday nights. … So we’re going to take all the opportunities to improve our skillset and get the experience needed. That way we can prepare properly to play properly. Then the third piece is to allow our student-athletes — those who want to pursue playing at the college level and those who do not — the opportunity to experience college campuses, and really just give them some resources to help them with their post-high school decisions. … I think the way that we’ve set up our summer, we’re giving our guys what they need to do all three of those things.”



Sam Albuquerque

A native of João Pessoa, Brazil, Sam Albuquerque moved in 1997 to Central Florida as a kid. After earning a communications degree in 2016 from the University of Central Florida, he started his career covering sports as a producer for a local radio station, ESPN 580 Orlando. He went on to earn a master’s degree in editorial journalism from Northwestern University, before moving to South Carolina to cover local sports for the USA Today Network’s Spartanburg Herald-Journal. When he’s not working, you can find him spending time with his lovely wife, Sarah, newborn son, Noah, and dog named Skulí.

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