Carver Wins it AllCarver High School out of Montgomery, Ala. completed a storybook ending by winning the National Select 7-on-7 Tournament. The championship didn't come easy. They were seeded the No. 16 team after pool play and were forced to take on the No. 1 seed [Bob Jones] in the second round. It came as a big surprise to all when they took on the challenge and pulled the victory.
Quarterback Jeremy Johnson started for Carver's 9th grade team a year ago, and head coach Al Pogue knew he had something special in the elite talent. Johnson went to Hoover without ever playing a down of high school football, but teams could not stop him.
The 6-foot-4, 185-pound gunslinger ripped apart opposing defenses. He had without a doubt the strongest arm of the tournament. Johnson really did excel when he would roll out to his right and then launch the ball across his body down the left side of the field for six points. He was cool under pressure and was outstanding at checking his reads.
Carver's confidence level was very high after the win against Bob Jones. They moved on to the winners bracket for Saturday. Carver was faced with a tough match-up in the semi-finals against McGill-Toolen out of Mobile.
McGill had not lost a game in tournament play, and they were the No. 3 overall seed. McGill was led by talented quarterback Preston Messer who was one of the top overall performers. Carver was defeated, but it was double elimination.
Carver had the opportunity to play Kenton, Ohio who defeated Olive Branch for a spot in the championship game. Kenton had one loss on the resume as well. Carver defeated Kenton and advanced to the championship against McGill. Carver would have to win two consecutive games to secure the championship. Game 1 was a complete blow out by Carver over McGill. Johnson shredded the defense and scored at will.
Game Two was a lot closer, and the teams traded scores with McGill looking like the team who was one of the top seeds in the tournament. Preston Messer continued to answer when Johnson led his team to six points.
The game became very intense with less than two minutes to go in the final. Messer threw a touchdown strike to put his team up 24-19, but Johnson answered quickly. Carver took the lead 25-24. Messer led his team down the field to the 10-yard line with only 30 seconds remaining in the game. Carver's defense stood tall and forced a turnover on downs. We had a winner.
The Damian Swann ShowThe Scout.com four-star cornerback, from Grady High School in Ga., went both ways throughout the tournament playing wide receiver and cornerback. He was very impressive in the first day of pool play and posted another solid performance Friday.
Swann got stronger as the tournament progressed. He was lights-out Saturday and helped Grady advance late in the tournament. He continued to make play after play on offense. Swann made even more impressive catches when teams knew the ball was going his way. He did an excellent job on defense and intercepted a few passes on the final day.
Swann's best game came against Thomas Jefferson (Pa.). He had two touchdowns, several nice catches and an interception. Swann really stepped-up even more when the game was forced to overtime. Thomas Jefferson scored first and scored on the one point conversion. Grady quarterback Treveon Albert hit Swann on an eight-yard slant route to set up first and goal. Grady scored on the next play, but then opted to go for two points on the conversion and the win. Everybody knew the ball was going to Swann. He ran a perfect 12-yard out route and was all alone in the endzone for the two points and the win. He made those kinds of plays throughout the tournament.
Hoover Falls Twice to Olive BranchThe host team has usually been in the running for the championship, but it was different this year for the Bucs. Hoover didn't lose a game in pool play and earned the No. 2 overall seed for the tournament. Hoover looked unstoppable on offense and had a stiffling defense to compliment.
Much like Bob Jones, the Bucs were upset in the second round to No. 15 seed Olive Branch, Miss. The two teams won their first two games Saturday and played again for a rematch. Olive Branch defeated Hoover and knocked the host team out of the tournament. Olive Branch advanced to the next round against Grady.
Hoover didn't have star receiver Jaylon Denson in the rematch game. Denson was suffering exhaustion and was told by the Hoover training staff to sit out the game. Olive Branch still may have defeated the Bucs in the second game, but Denson was obviously missed.
Tournament MVPMaty Mauk from Kenton High School in Ohio was selected as the overall tournament MVP. Mauk certainly had one of the top three quarterback performances of the tournament, but Scout.com gives their selection to Carver's Jeremy Johnson. It's not often a sophomore quarterback, who played junior high ball in 2009, can walk into the nation's premier 7-on-7 tournament and tear apart defenses like Johnson.
Carver may have been the No. 16 seed after pool play, but they played like the top seed once the tournament started with only one hiccup. It was Johnson's performance which got them the title. He did have several outstanding targets including Antonio Pitts, Tyree Thomas and Chris Flowers.
Saturday's Top Performers1. Jeremy Johnson (Carver, quarterback)
2. Damian Swann (Grady, wide receiver/cornerback)
3. Preston Messer (McGill-Toolen, quarterback)
4. Antonio Pitts (Carver, wide receiver)
5. Maty Mauk (Kenton, quarterback)
6. Todd Mays (Olive Branch, quarterback)
7. Thomas Tyree (Carver, wide receiver)
8. Reggie Ragland (Bob Jones, linebacker/tight end)
9. Jalen Collins (Olive Branch, wide receiver)
10. Dustin Howell (Kenton, wide receiver)
11. C.J. Uzomah (North Gwinnett, quarterback)
12. Eric Reeves (Carver, cornerback)
Early ExitsThe tournament didn't go as well for some teams as they had hoped. Har-Bear (Ark.), Lassiter (Ga.), Auburn (Ala.), Austin (Ala.), Hoover-B (Ala.), Shiloh Christian (Ark.) and Jeffersonville (Ga.) failed to win a game in tournament action. The big headliner for one of teams was Auburn commitment Kiehl Frazier from Shiloh Christian. Frazier didn't compete until the second day after flying in from the Elite 11. Frazier looked good, but didn't have enough playmakers to help his team advance.
Carver Head Coach Al Pogue"First off I want to give all praise to God," he said of winning the tournament. "Without him none of this is possible. I am very happy for our players. We have a great strength and conditioning program. Our players were able to overcome adversity. We are very fortunate to cross the finish line and win the whole thing. Our strength coach, coach Gresham, does a wonderful job keeping our players in great physical shape. That, and competing in other tournaments really helped us. We do a lot of stuff in the late afternoons to get used to the heat. It was a big factor."
"Offensively, our guys competed really well. Jeremy Johnson, our quarterback, did a great job along with Antonio Pitts and the rest of the guys moving the ball on offense. I think our coaches did a great job making the right play calls. Our defense really stepped-up when they needed to. I think this is a big momentum boost for our team heading into fall practice. It's not everyday you can wake up saying you are a national champion. We are very proud to have our names on the championship trophy along with programs like Hoover and Springdale."
National Select 7-on-7 Executive Director"I thought it was very competitive," said Brandon Sheppard. "It was probably the most competitive tournament we have had. Twenty-eight of the 32 teams competing this year had at least 10 wins last season. Almost every game out here was within five points. Top-to-bottom we couldn't have been more pleased.
"This is something we spend about 365 days a year preparing for. David [Bannister] and I will probably take tomorrow off. We are always writing down and thinking about ideas to make this tournament better.
"I think the No. 1 thing this year which made it better was the addition of the live webcast. It was a home-run. Parents, fans and other team members who were not able to make it down here were able to follow the action. It was unlike anything we have ever done.
"We would like to continue to maintain what we are doing here. I am tickled to death we kept the trophy in Alabama, but I can't say a bad word about any team. I can't say who is coming back. It's hard to make it anymore competitve than it is right now."