PISCATAWAY, N.J. - - The Maryland domination continued at the fourth annual Badger Sport New Level Athletic Elite 7-on-7 Challenge at the University of Rutgers over the weekend. For the third time in four years, the Old Line State came away with a championship in a 32-team, star-studded event that featured some of the best talent on the East Coast.
This year, two squads from Maryland, Team Flex and Team Dream, ran rampant over the competition, ultimately meeting in the championship game. Team Dream was chock full of Division-I and potential Division-I prospects, but it was the underdogs, Team Flex, that reigned supreme, 14-13.
Team Flex featured southpaw quarterback Shawn Petty, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior from Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt, Md. Petty was shaky early, but he caught fire in crunch time and led his team to five straight victories over some of the most talented squads at the event, including East NY, Michigan, MD Team Speed, PA Play Makers, and MD Dream.
"Not many people gave us a chance against all these top teams," Petty said. "But we … got it done. It's great to get the win."
MD Flex was led by coach Steve Rapp, who is an assistant at Northwestern High near College Park, Md. Rapp's father, Lee Rapp, who is also a Northwestern assistant, along with Dameon Powell (DuVal High head coach) and Bryan Pierre (Northwestern head coach) were assistants.
"The thing that helped us the most was that we were so underrated," Steve Rapp said. "That let us play with a chip on our shoulders. And our quarterback Petty is really coachable, understands the game and is a true leader."
Team Flex did not come in with many renowned names, but they certainly walked away with a few. Besides Petty, who is getting looks from a few Division-I schools but has no offers, there were numerous prospects who made a name for themselves.
DuVal tight end Daniel Nwosu (6-4, 215 pounds) proved to be a worthy clutch receiver. Roosevelt slot receiver Tyrone TeMoney showed "money" hands and was probably the most productive offensive weapon. Wise running back Uriah Bethea demonstrated that he is more than just a one-dimensional downhill runner, using his soft hands and elusive moves coming out of the backfield. Another running back, 2013 Northwestern prospect Darius Victor, was shifty and athletic. Arundel slot receiver Dillon Tigh (2013) was solid. And receivers Zach Pascal (Wise, class of 2013) and Gerald Sawyer (Northwestern, 2013) also contributed.
On defense, the talk of the event was freshman sensation Jalen Tabor of Friendship Collegiate. The 6-foot, 165-pound safety patrolled the secondary like a seasoned veteran and competed well against some of the best receiver prospects in the nation. Tabor will be one of the next big stars to come out of the D.C. area.
2013 prospects John Johnson of Northwestern and Devin Butler of Gonzaga did a great job at safety. Corners Zach Quarles (Quince Orchard), Duane McKelvin (Gonzaga), Tamlin Antoine (Roosevelt) and Quamy Sparman (Northwestern) provided terrific underneath coverage.
"We became like a family," Rapp said. "Nobody wanted to be the weak link and everybody bought into the system."
Maryland had four teams make it to the Elite 8. MD Team Speed, which was loaded with D-I talents like Stefon Diggs (Good Counsel), Wes Brown (Good Counsel), Kendall Fuller (Good Counsel), Dorian O'Daniel (Good Counsel) and Devin Mayo (Franklin), was upset by their fellow Marylanders. Team Flex, behind Petty's left arm, took them down in the Elite 8.
MD Team Dream, which eventually lost to Flex in the finals, featured Deontay McManus (Dunbar), who put on a spectacular performance with his jaw-dropping catches and uncanny change-of-direction speed. But McManus was hardly the only "name" player who showed out. Defensive back Donovan Riley (Poly), receiver Josh McPhearson (Riverdale Baptist), tight end Charles Tapper (City), cornerback Da'Quan Davis (Calvert Hall), and quarterback Thomas Stuart (Calvert Hall[/db] all performed well throughout the event.
The fourth Maryland team to represent at Rutgers, Team United, was led by Michael Spahr (Urbana), Joe Riddle, Dylan Clay (Fort Hill) and his twin brother, Garrett Clay (Fort Hill).
Former NFL players Lamont Jordan (Team Speed) and Tommy Polley (Team Dream) were assistants at the event.
"It was a really organized, fun-filled event," Jordan said. "It is good to give the kids something to do, and I really enjoyed working with them. However, my biggest joy was to be able to give these young men tips on education and life."
Jordan, a former Maryland Terp and a native Marylander, left one final bit of wisdom for people to consider:
"Once again Maryland showed the nation that there is talent in this state," he said. "Now we just need to convince some of them to stay at home and give the Terps a shot."
Note: The top four teams at the event, including Team Flex, will now have a chance to compete in the national 7-on-7 event in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in April.