"We just had that killer instinct today," said Chase Litton, the team's quarterback. "It all came together."
It was a vast improvement for Litton and Tampa. SFE won the regional tournament two months ago and Tampa finished fourth.
But things were slightly different for Tampa back in that tournament. First, super sophomore wide receiver George Campbell was out with a wrist injury.
Second, his high school teammate at Tarpon Spring (Fla.) East Lake, Artavis Scott, battled inconsistencies in the first event and only played on offense. Over this weekend he was also playing cornerback, locking down half the field. On the other side was a recent addition to the team in rising junior Aaron Covington.
And lastly, to win this championship, you have to have very good quarterback play. Today, Litton was brilliant.
Litton, 6-foot-6 and 190-pounds, rarely had the ball touch the turf. In fact, in the finals against SFE, he had only four incompletions, with three coming on extra-point attempts. He led Tampa to scores on every possession, showing his big arm, throwing with accuracy and being decisive.
"We have some much talent around me," Litton said. "We didn't do it the first time around in the regionals. So I sat down with Tay, George and the rest of the guys and made sure we would. I know when things are going we can't be stopped on offense. That's what I wanted to happen today and that's exactly what took place. We couldn't be stopped."
Litton just made his commitment to South Florida. Team Tampa's coach, Woodrow Grady, believes the burden of recruiting lifted off his shoulders helped his big quarterback play more relaxed.
"He was so much more consistent today," Grady said. "He's not worried about recruiting anymore. He told me before the event that we were going to win the national championship. That's what we did."
There's no question that the big play receivers for Tampa were both Scott and Campbell. Scott played as if he had something to prove. Meanwhile, Campbell played like he always does, coming up with big catches, especially the acrobatic touchdown that turned out to be the winning score against SFE.
"We got George Campbell back and he was incredible," Grady said. "And quite frankly, Tay Scott wanted to come out and play big. He wanted to put us on his back. Those two guys were huge for us, as were some others."
Then you have the play of Covington, a 2015 standout from Seffner (Fla.) Armwood. He had a huge interception in a 17-15 win over Top Recruits (Orlando) earlier in the day. In their semi-final win over the same SFE team, he also had a big pick. Then, with the game on the line in the finals, he had the key pass breakup on the extra-point conversion to secure the one-point victory.
"Aaron Covington played better than any five-star cornerback could in the country today," Grady said. "We put him on all the best guys and you see what he did. He was one on one against all those guys and be beat them all and made plays for us in every game. That kid is a baller."
SFE got the tournament's top seed. They looked like they were on cruise control for much of the tournament. Quarterback Sean White (Ft. Lauderdale University School) showed why he's considered one of the better signal callers in the nation. He had four touchdown throws in the final, including some super passes like a bomb on their first play of their second possession to Torrance Gibson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage). In fact, Tampa didn't stop White and the SFE at all. The difference was that Tampa didn't allow one conversion after a touchdown.
No one figured Team Delaware would do much damage in this event but they showed they were very deserving to be in Bradenton.
They surprised all and had a great showing, losing to Team Tamp and AWP (Indiana), finishing fifth overall. They were led by they southpaw signal caller Darius Wade (Middletown, De.). He was super, leading Delaware to a three seed for pool play.
"It was a great opportunity for us," Wade said. "We came in unproven to most people but us. We wanted to show that there were athletes who can play football from Delaware. Of course we are happy the way we played. We went pretty far. But it's disappointing we didn't win. We are competitors and came here to win. But what we did was quite an accomplishment."
Wade had a big junior season. This 6-foot-2 and 195-pounder, threw for over 2,200 yards, 27 touchdowns and only one interception. He also rushed for 546 yards and seven scores. Wade has given his verbal commitment to Boston College.
"It's all about the academics," Wade said. "They are the 26th ranked school in the country. I know academics and education take you farther than football. A degree really takes you somewhere. And I am excited about coach [Steve] Addazio. He's a great guy and this is a great opportunity for me because I can make an impact early at that school."
One of the most impressive wide receivers at this event was Markell Pack (Purvis, Miss.) who played on the Gulf Coast team. Pack, 6-foot-3 and 187-pounds, has committed to Florida State. But will he stick with the Seminoles.
"Right now it's 50-50," Pack said. "I am committed to FSU but I also love Ole Miss. I just camped there. They are like family and I love what coach [Hugh] Freeze is doing. The energy and excitement is unreal."
Pack said he will make his firm decision soon.
"I also love FSU," Pack said. "I love the coaches and I feel real comfortable with them. I know they want to sling it a lot in their offense.
"I will make a decision after I visit Florida State. I will decide then."
The Next Tavon Austin
One of the best highlight tapes you will see from the Sunshine State in the Class of 2014 is from Franklin Labady. He draws many comparisons to former West Virginia star Tavon Austin. Like Austin he's small (5-foot-7 and 165-pounds) in stature but a monster when it comes to making big plays.
"It's nice to hear and an honor," Labady said. "I have been told that a time or two. I just have to live up to the hype and show people what I can do."
"I just camped there and I loved it," Labady said. "I love that school. I love that staff. I am done. I can't wait to play football at Cincinnati."
Labady is now playing for Champagnat Catholic School in Hialeah, Fla. He transferred from Miami Edison.
Catching Up With Queen
Tyler Queen (Ackworth, Ga./North Cobb) is a rising junior quarterback from the Peach State. Queen, 6-foot-2 and 225-pounds, is coming off a huge junior campaign. He threw for over 2,600 yards and 23 touchdowns and rushed for over 1,000 yards and 10 scores, earning 1st team all-state honors. He has also secured early scholarship offers from programs like Auburn, Clemson, Alabama, Louisville, Miami and North Carolina.
"He has a great feel for the game," said his father and head coach Steve Queen. "Tyler's been around the game a long time. He's already been a 25-game starter and has been in five playoff games."
Queen and his father just wrapped up a road trip where they visited a handful of southern schools.
Bulls Land DB
USF picked up commitment No. 9 from Devin Abraham (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake). Abraham, 5-foot-10 and 180-pounds, committed last night.
"I just love the coaching staff," Abraham said. "Coach [Willie] Taggert is great. So is everyone there. We went there last night and I just decided to go ahead and do it. I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of something special. That's going to happen soon."
Ish To Visit
Ish Witter (Tampa Alonso) is a running back prospect with a lot of talent. He's a bowling ball at 5-foot-8 and 190-pounds and he's getting ready to make two visits next month.
"I am going up to Rutgers and Syracuse," Witter said. "I haven't had a chance to get out to any schools this month but I will visit them in July and I will make an official visit to Missouri during the season. Those three programs are my top three schools."
More Talent At Monarch
2015 is a good year at Monarch High School in south Florida. They have one of the country's elitre rising juniors in wide receiver/safety Shawn Burgess-Becker. They have another super two-way star in his class named Calvin Ridley. Ridley, 6-foot-1 and 168-pounds, is a wide receiver and cornerback.
"Right now I have offers from West Virginia, USF, FAU, Marshall and Cincinnati," Ridley said. "I have some other schools that are looking at me. Right now I am open."
Ridley transferred from Hollywood (Fla.) Chaminade-Madonna.