Commentary

Vapor Trail rides early lead to 7ON title

Updated: July 18, 2009, 12:55 PM ET
By Mark Tennis and Ronnie Flores | ESPNRISE.com

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Vapor Trail, composed of players from Northwestern (Miami), was the only undefeated team through the first day of games and entered the final of the second annual Nike 7ON Tournament as the favorite. The team boasted an abundance of depth at the skill positions, not to mention the blossoming abilities of junior quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Team Super Speed, from DeSoto, Texas, got to the final on the strength of early scoring drives. Against Vapor Trail, however, the Texans started slowly. Vapor Trail took advantage, jumping to an early lead and rolling to a 34-23 victory.

Bridgewater was named the Nike 7ON MVP. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder completed 25 of 37 passes against Super Speed for 414 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions.

"This tournament helped me improve my reads," Bridgewater said. "The defenses out here were fast like the ones we'll see in Dade County. This win means we're ready to execute our defense and offense this season."

Super Speed quarterback Ryan Polite started out 12-for-12 in his previous game, but the team went three-and-out on its first series. Vapor Trail wasn't as inefficient. Bridgewater directed a 60-yard scoring drive, finding sophomore Elgin Hilliard for a 20-yard TD for the game's first score.

After Super Speed was again unable to punch the scoreboard on its second drive, Vapor Trail set itself up for another touchdown on a highlight-reel-worthy 51-yard catch by Roy Smith. Three plays later on fourth down, the Floridians hit pay dirt on a 9-yard pass from Bridgewater to Smith.

The Texans couldn't afford to fall further behind than 14-0 and finally scored on their third series when Polite tossed a 6-yard TD pass to Darius Terrell. They gained further confidence by stopping Vapor Trail on four downs inside the 20-yard line just before halftime. The final play was a sack with just two seconds left.

In the first series on the second half, Vapor Trail regained control. Bridgewater cashed in on a 25-yard scoring connection to Hilliard. After the Miami defense recorded a stop, he didn't waste much time in hitting a streaking Michael Harris down the sideline for a 40-yard touchdown.

With Super Speed trailing 28-7, the team's coaches called a play to have running back Marcus Murphy break through the middle. He normally runs the short crossing routes, but this time he split the safeties and Polite found him for an 80-yard bomb.

The best catch of the game, however, was the one by Harris that came with 6:10 left. A prototype Florida wideout, Harris backed up his talking with a spectacular grab over a defender, just getting his feet down, for a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater.

"We were hyped to open the game, and after halftime we settled down and made the grabs we should have," said Harris, who ended with seven catches for 154 yards and two TDs. "I thank God that he allowed me to be out here to make that grab."

Although Super Speed added another score in the closing minutes on a 17-yard pass from Polite to David Porter, the game's outcome was clinched with Harris' TD catch.

"Getting behind early cost us," said Brett Polite, the father of Ryan Polite. (He served as one of two coaches for the DeSoto team because rules in Texas prevent a school's usual coaches from being involved in an out-of-state passing tournament.) "It caused us to get away from our game. On that first drive, we missed an open receiver and instead went for a deep ball. The receiver slipped. They scored, and that took us off our game."

The younger Polite, like Bridgewater, didn't throw an interception. He finished 20 of 37 for 334 yards with three touchdowns. Terrell was his top receiver with seven catches for 90 yards and one TD.

Hilliard, just a sophomore, made a name for himself on Vapor Trail. He had five catches for 85 yards and two scores. With players like Bridgewater and Hilliard, there's a good chance that Vapor Trail will be one of the nation's top 7-on-7 squads again next year.

All-tournament team

Teddy Bridgewater (Vapor Trail/Miami) QB
Mike Davis (Zoom Fly/Dallas) WR
George Farmer (Land Sharks/Gardena, Calif.) WR
A.J. Johnson (Merciless/Gainesville, Ga.) LB
Nick Jones (Zoom Blade/Duncan, S.C.) WR
Alex Kelly (Vapor Trail) DB
Marcus Lattimore (Zoom Blade) RB
Ron Lewis (Field Generals/Lakewood, Calif.) WR
Ryan Polite (Super Speed/DeSoto, Texas) QB
Darius Terrell (Super Speed) WR
Robert Woods (Land Sharks) ATH

MVP: Bridgewater

Mark Tennis is a deputy editor of ESPNRISE.com. Ronnie Flores is a senior editor at ESPNRISE.com.

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