LITHIA – It wasn’t the shootout some might have expected in a 7-on-7 game that was 40 minutes long, but it was a great game nonetheless between two great teams on a Sunday afternoon out at the Fishhawk Sports Complex. The 2015 BCP 9-Route Invitational 7-on-7 Tournament presented by BHSN concluded with the Clearwater Tornadoes defeating the Lake Gibson Braves by a 19-14 margin.
The Tornadoes finished the tournament with a 7-1 record with their lone loss coming to the local boys from Newsome in their final game of pool play in Saturday by a 19-18 score. En route to the championship, Clearwater defeated Plant City 19-12, Spoto 12-6, Wharton 29-23 during pool play. In the elimination stages, they defeated Countryside 26-20, Newsome in a rematch 21-6, last years’ champions Tampa Bay Tech 24-21, and then Lake Gibson in the finals to cap off what has already been an impressive summer for Head Coach Don Mesick and his squad.
In the finals, Garrison Bryant completed 16-of-25 passes for 205 yards, three touchdowns and an interception while finding Offensive MVP Jacquez Jones for two of those touchdowns. Jones, finished the contest with six receptions for 102 yards and the two touchdowns just mentioned. Defensively, Cameron Ellis had a huge day for the Tornadoes and took home defensive MVP honors for his efforts. Ellis intercepted a Hunter Orem pass that killed momentum and was actively engaged breaking up passes all afternoon.
The Tornadoes also got an impressive contribution from Zach Lehman, as he caught six passes for 58 yards and a touchdown. Clearwater is the second Pinellas County team to take home the title joining East Lake, who won the championship over Gaither in 2013.
Lake Gibson was the lone Polk County representative, and during pool play it looked as though they would not be sticking around for long during elimination play, but the Braves put it together nicely to win three-in-a-row to make it to the finals. The Braves went 1-3 during the morning session on Saturday losing to Northeast 19-13, Tampa Catholic 20-14, and Northside Christian 14-6 while defeating Bloomingdale 21-6. The Braves then went on a hot streak during the knockout stages and defeated Tampa Catholic in rematch 14-12, East Bay 12-7 in the quarterfinals and then Plant 19-14 in the semifinals with :06 on the clock.
Hunter Orem completed 20-of-33 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions in the championship game. Ledarien McAllister was a beast and was Orem’s number-one target catching eight passes for 79 yards while Anthony Llosa and Dariaze Kirkland each caught a touchdown pass. Llosa finished the day with six receptions for 59 yards, while Kirkland caught six passes for 45 yards. McAllister finished the afternoon as the Offensive MVP for Lake Gibson. The Defensive MVP for the Braves was Adrian “AJ” Deshazor.
Clearwater now look to continue their summer dominance on the 7-on-7 circuit as they head up to Valdosta, GA this weekend along with Palmetto to represent the State of Florida in the Southeast Regionals of the Adidas 7-on-7 National Tournament.
Even with that huge trip looming, their focus was on winning a title at the BCP 9-Route Invitational this weekend. When approached on Saturday following their #2 seed and victories that earned them an appearance in Sunday’s Final, Clearwater QB Garrison Bryant simply said: “It’s only a good day today, if we win tomorrow.” Now, the Tornadoes can say they had a good day, and weekend for that matter.