More than 60 total teams from 16 states and Canada descended on Bradenton, Florida for the fifth annual IMG7v7 National Championship held at IMG Academy. It was the largest congregation of teams and talent to ever take the field at the event, and each team delivered with one highlight play after another. Among the 42 teams vying for the club division title, it was Athletes With Purpose (AWP) from Fort Wayne, Ind., who stood alone as champions.
“It feels great (to win the national championship)… even in those years we were here and didn’t win, we wanted to earn respect and do it the right way,” said AWP head coach Michael Ledo. “It’s been a long time coming, the boys came to play today, we adapted, we overcame and the coaches were just amazing in the gameplan and the kids executed.”
Added Ledo, “Coming to play at IMG Academy is huge for us, because the competition, the speed of the game, the intensity – it develops the kids. And I don’t think a lot of people understand that you come here and play against other players headed to the SEC, Big 10, Bix XII and when they go back to their high schools, the game slows down for them.”
It was indeed a long time coming for AWP, who have finished within the top-eight every year since 2012, and the semifinals in 2013 with current Notre Dame safety Drue Tranquil in the defensive backfield. AWP were mostly unstoppable throughout tournament play on Sunday, and capped off their incredible run with a dominant 30-2 victory over the Atlanta, Georgia based Cam Newton All-Stars. Among the top performers for AWP was running back Tyon Woods (Fort Wayne, Ind./New Haven HS) who made play after play for AWP in his second year competing for the team.
“It was all about being hungry and humble, not getting too big-headed and staying locked in and focused,” remarked Woods on the team’s title run. “It was a once in a lifetime experience, and I was here last year and we came so close to winning, and now we’re in first place – there’s no feeling like it.”
Meanwhile in the Future STARS division, featuring 18 of the top middle school aged club teams from around the nation, the Chicago, Illinois based BOOM Black walked away as champions. BOOM defeated the Next Level QBs 15U of Camden, New Jersey by a final score of 18-7 to secure their place as national champions.
The IMG7v7 National Championship is the season-ending event of the National 7v7 Football Association (NFA7v7). NFA7v7 sanctions a schedule of more than 30 events each year, by which top finishers earn their place to qualify for the national championship.
The event regularly features the most elite talent of any event in the nation, which was put on full display at the 2015 NFL Draft. This year, three participants in the inaugural 2011 IMG7v7 National Championship were selected in the first round with Dante Fowler (Team Tampa/Florida/Jacksonville Jaguars, #3 overall), Amari Cooper (South Florida Express/Alabama/Oakland Raiders, 4th overall) and Nelson Agholor (Team Tampa/Southern Cal/Philadelphia Eagles, 20th overall).
AWP is the first champion from outside the state of Florida since the inaugural IMG7v7 National Championship in 2011. Past club division winners include Maximum Exposure (2011, Detroit, Mich.), Team Tampa (2012-13, Tampa, Fla.), and Florida Fire (2014, Miami, Fla.).