Nation Ford junior quarterback Cole Martin only threw one interception in 11 30-minute games during Friday and Saturday’s Cam Newton 7-on-7 National Championship football tournament. But the Falcon QB tossed the pick in a loss to Mays High School and Nation Ford, the event’s hosts, never really bounced back.
Mays, the school from west of Atlanta, powered on, eventually winning the tournament Saturday afternoon, with a 29-20 win over Hough High School. The Raiders lost to South Pointe and Dorman on Friday, but were largely flawless on Saturday.
“I felt today we played real well,” said Mays coach Corey Jarvis, as he watched his players receive trophies from Newton, the Carolina Panthers starting quarterback. “It’s a good representation of our program, and where it’s at.”
Jarvis was particularly pleased with the play of his quarterback, senior Asania Aderhold. On Friday, Aderhold hit the rim of a basket from 50 yards with a football. Had he swished his toss into the basket, he would have won Cam Newton signature cleats for the entire Mays group. Aderhold shook off that brief disappointment, though, to play very well in Saturday’s knockout round and help the Raiders grab the championship.
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“My quarterback did a great job,” said Jarvis. “I think the receivers did a great job on offense as well.”
All the teams’ paths to the finals were eased when Dorman, which was in first place after Friday’s action, withdrew overnight due to a series of nagging injuries. That left Nation Ford, 6-1-1 on Friday, as the top seed remaining. But the Falcons couldn’t take advantage of their seeding superiority.
“We just didn’t play with the same intensity today,” said Nation Ford coach Michael Allen.
Considering heat that could melt crayons and the on-and-off rhythm of the event, that was understandable. Nation Ford came from behind to beat Creekside 24-22 in their first game Saturday, but fell behind 18-0 early to Mays. The Falcons clawed back, but lost 30-24 and dropped into the loser’s bracket. Nation Ford then stumbled at the next hurdle, losing 33-23 to Grady, quarterbacked by Caylin Newton, Cam’s little brother. It was a disappointing and sudden conclusion to an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Allen said that event organizers told him they thought Nation Ford had a serious chance to win the tournament heading into Saturday. “And I thought we had a chance,” he said. “But the bottom line is we got good work in.”
Allen could take further heart from the fact that his team only started a pair of seniors during the two days of competition. Playing the likes of Mays, Creekside, which won Georgia’s 5A state title last year, and two strong Alabama teams in Ramsay and Parker, as well as South Mecklenburg, Dorman, and others, only helped Nation Ford’s team. The Falcons return just seven of 22 starters from last fall, the fewest of the 12 schools in the Herald’s coverage area, so the reps against quality competition from the heart of SEC country was invaluable.
“Heck, we just got through talking with one committed to Louisville,” said Allen. “To go up against this competition helps to build confidence in the kids, that, hey, we can compete.”
Martin, a rising junior who will take over the Falcons’ QB job from graduate Dalton Helms, showed a live arm and an excellent rapport with receivers Josh Shade and Hank Tuipulotu, both also rising 11th graders that played very well over the two days. Tuipulotu, an athletic, oversized pass-catcher with sticky hands, was particularly devastating to opponents.
“Now, we have to learn how, and we’ll be learning how, to exploit, Hank,” said Allen. “That becomes a strategic advantage.”
Mays had a team full of players like Tuipulotu. After beating Nation Ford, the Raiders then dumped Parker out of the tournament, before topping a Division I recruit-laden Hough team in the final, thanks to several interceptions.
“I’m proud of the kids because they worked hard, they competed,” said Jarvis. “Any time you get in between the white lines, you’re supposed to compete.”