The AWP Sports squad that competed in last weekend's IMG7v7 National Championship in Florida did not just battle some of the best talent on the football field, but also verbal and off-the-field issues.
Despite being the target of jawing from one Florida 7v7 team and having personal items such as shoes, phones and iPad's stolen by members of another Florida squad, AWP returned home with a sixth-place finish at the premier 7v7 event in the country.
AWP went 3-1 on Saturday in pool play and advanced to the quarterfinals of the double-elimination tournament on Sunday before bowing out.
Two of AWP's three defeats on the weekend came against Florida Fire out of Miami, the eventual national champions.
Florida Fire is led by a pair of Alabama commitments in wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive back Shawn Burgess-Becker.
Arguably the biggest win of the weekend for AWP was a win over Rat Pack of Florida, who attempted to intimidate players verbally. AWP responded with a 35-15.
“Those kids were taunting us and disrespecting us and we beat them,” said AWP President Michael Ledo.
Concurrent with the victory over Rat Pack, police were searching the charter bus of South Florida Express. Found on the bus were shoes, phones and tablets belonging to the players of AWP, which had some of their belongings stolen at the beginning of the weekend.
Despite the drama, local players shined on the gridiron against some elite national talent. The defense led the way on Saturday, with seniors Justin Tranquill of Carroll and Deion Powers of Wayne standing out in the defensive backfield. The duo was able to shut down or limit several big-name recruits, including Ridley, Clemson commit Deon Cain and Jovon Durante who is headed to West Virginia.
“Justin Tranquill and Deion Powers were unbelievable,” Ledo said. “They went up against (some big time players) and shut them down. That's pretty impressive.”
The offense took the reins on Sunday to lead AWP to three more wins. Junior Aidan Smith of Carroll stood out with senior Austin Mack of Bishop Luers, senior Keion Powers of Wayne, junior Ben Skowronek of Homestead and junior Tyon Woods of Northrop making big plays downfield.
AWP did not come home with a championship, but overcame expected and unexpected obstacles to be competitive at the national event.
“All in all, it was (a good trip),” Ledo said.