Midwest BOOM conquers Club division at sixth-annual IMG7v7 National Championship; Team Tampa wins Future Stars
In its sixth year, the IMG7v7 National Championship delivered the biggest and most competitive field of teams to date. More than 60 total teams from 22 states descended on IMG Academy for the annual event in the Club and Future Stars divisions looking to become the next national champion.
In the high school Club Division, the final came down to the Georgia-based Cam Newton All-Stars Black team, coached by the reigning NFL MVP Cam Newton, and the tough-as-nails Midwest BOOM from the Chicago area. Led by the likes of Georgia commit Richard Lecounte III, Miami commit DeeJay Dallas and blue-chip prospect Jeremiah Holloman, the All-Stars seemed poised to take their first national title after falling short in the 2015 finals to Indiana’s AWP Sports. In the final, they were looking to unseat the BOOM after falling to the Windy City squad in the semifinals. But the roster comprised heavily of underclassmen such as Houston Griffith and Tyrik Henderson would prevail to win the title by a score of 20-10.
Meanwhile in the Future Stars division, comprised of aspiring middle school players (6th-8th grades), the national titles were nearly swept by the Midwest BOOM who were looking to take a second consecutive Future Stars title (2015). The final matchup saw the BOOM match up against the Florida power Team Tampa. In past years, the Team Tampa senior club team earned two national titles (2012, 2013), but this year the young guns came out to play and edged out the BOOM to take their first Future Stars title, 16-14.
Away from the gridiron, it was an emotional journey for the Midwest BOOM on their way to a national title. Throughout the weekend, the club dedicated its success to four-year old Roman Niklos, the son of BOOM general manager and coach J.R. Niklos. Just days before leaving Illinois for Florida, Roman had been diagnosed with leukemia. In support of the Niklos family, BOOM players used the #RomanTough hashtag and created banners emblazoned with #RomanTOUGH and #RomanTUFF throughout the weekend.
The Midwest BOOM have been a participant in the IMG7v7 National Championship each of the past three years, and are the fifth different club to win it all. Previous winners include Maximum Exposure (Michigan, 2011), Team Tampa (Florida, 2012 and 2013), Florida Fire (Florida, 2014) and AWP Sports (Indiana, 2015).
The Future Stars division was introduced at the third annual IMG7v7 National Championship in 2013. Previous champions of that division include Change Factor (Florida, 2013), Adrenaline Rush (Florida, 2014) and BOOM Black (2015).
The IMG7v7 National Championship is also earning a reputation as one of the biggest showcases of elite football talent in the country. In the 2016 NFL Draft, IMG7v7 alumni drafted included Vernon Hargreaves III (Team Tampa/11th overall, Buccaneers), Artie Burns (South Florida Express/25th overall, Steelers) and 2015 Butkus Award winner Jaylon Smith (AWP Sports/34th overall, Cowboys) were just some of the latest NFL Draft picks to have appeared in the event. All three stole the show at the 2012 IMG7v7 National Championship, won by Team Tampa on the strength of Hargreaves’ three-INT performance in the final.
Last year’s NFL Draft saw three first-rounders who played in the inaugural IMG7v7 event, Dante Fowler (Team Tampa/3rd overall, Jaguars), Amari Cooper (South Florida Express/4th overall, Raiders), and Nelson Agholor (Team Tampa/20th overall, Eagles).
This year’s event was support by event sponsors including Under Armour, Gatorade, SPRI, Motus Global, StreamSports, EastBay and Smoothie King.