Shirt-drenching heat aside, the first day of Cam Newton’s inaugural 7-on-7 National Championship football tournament went swimmingly on Friday at Nation Ford High School.
The tournament featured teams that played in the four preliminary tournaments, held in Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala., and Charlotte, plus South Mecklenburg, South Pointe, Northwestern and the hosts Nation Ford. Where the teams were drawn from was no coincidence.
“Everywhere that has impacted my life, from Alabama to Atlanta, as well Charlotte, with my second home, it’s been great,” Newton said on Friday afternoon. “The fan support has been unbelievable.”
The 12-team field included Mays and Creekside, Atlanta prep powerhouses, as well as North Murray, another Georgia school, and Parker and Ramsay high schools from Alabama. In addition to the stout competition from a tournament featuring two defending state champions, the teams got to see opponents from outside of their borders.
“There’s a lot of different representation from different area codes, and it’s just a showing of hard work paying off for these kids,” said Newton. “Having these kids have an opportunity to get outside of their area code and their comfort zone and being able to see life through different facets as well as seeing different talents around the nation.”
This is the second year of Newton’s tournaments, and the first with a national champion. It’s the kind of stuff Newton was doing during the summer, instead of sitting around or getting into mischief.
“I see so much of myself in these kids that are hungry for an opportunity, that are hungry to go to a higher level to play football,” he said, while standing in front of an Under Armour truck bearing plastered with his image. “Football gives people a lot of alternate things to stay out of trouble. And I rather see these kids out here busting their tails, giving 110 percent, rather than on the corner somewhere doing something they’re not supposed to be doing.”
Nation Ford did what it was supposed to be doing on the playing field, winning six of its eight games, with a tie and a loss to boot. South Pointe finished 5-3, while Northwestern won its first game of the day against Grady High School, but ended the day 1-6-1. Saturday’s schedule for the double-elimination knockout tournament won’t be released until Saturday morning.