Nike 7-on-7 Saturday
The Nike 7-on-7 tournament took place at the Scottsdale Sports Complex on Saturday with 32 teams competed and some of the top programs were in attendance. Before I get to some of the storylines or players that caught my eye, I first want to say bravo and thank you to those who organized the tournament. It is one of the best high school football events all year and brings some of the best talent in one place.
Here’s a few things that caught my eye Saturday:
Isaiah Pola-Mao will be the toughest player to replace in 2018. He could take away half of the field, intercept what seemed to be sure-fire completions – ten times his senior year to be exact – and pack a punch in the run game. Throw in how he could orchestrate the Pride defense between plays and be the team’s leading receiver, and Pola-Mao’s versatility is one of a kind.
That being said, the Pride have playmakers in the secondary. Senior safety Kenny Churchwell was one of the best defensive players in the state last year, and running back/cornerback Delano Salgado was a whirlwind in the secondary on Saturday. He broke up multiple pass plays and picked off Gilbert’s Jack Plummer to seal a victory for the Pride. This no-fly zone will be fun to watch this season.
While Salgado was able to come away with a Jack Plummer pass, the Gilbert quarterback picked apart defenses throughout Saturday. I saw him throw in practice last week, and there’s no question he has a big arm. But seeing him against go up against opposing defenses and show surgical accuracy was especially impressive. There were plenty of examples as to why he is one of the top quarterbacks in the state this year.
North Canyon Wins Gold In Silver
The Rattlers got off to a slow start on Saturday but ended up winning the Silver bracket. Part of the reason for the turnaround? The Rattlers spread the ball around. Headlined by the state’s top receiver, Solomon Enis, North Canyon was at their best when they were hitting multiple receivers including Enis, Tre O’Guinn and Joseph Hoffman. Enis, who was invited to The Opening Finals this week, was certainly impressive and this offense could be something special with their versatile skill guys.
One other note on Enis. Like his best friend and North Canyon’s leader last year, Austin Jackson, he is known first for his offensive skill set, but his defensive skills should not be overlooked either. Jackson had 29 tackles for loss as a defensive lineman and Enis shows the range and fluidity of a top-flight safety.
Colts On The Run
This was my first time getting to see Gunner Cruz in-person, and he has the makings to be a next-level quarterback. Casteel is in a unique situation as their oldest class are juniors, and this group has already logged significant varsity time. This certainly benefits multiple classes to get early experience, and with the guidance of head coach Spencer Stowers, this program is building something special. Saturday was a great example of the Colts going toe-to-toe with some of Arizona’s best and competing, and beating, those programs.
The Nike 7-on-7 tournament kicks off a busy summer for many of these programs as they prep for 2017.