By Nick Gradney (@StatZ_G)
Featured Photo: Sidney Sykes (@Sporting_Vprods)
Fort Pierce, Florida is the host of the Road To The Crown in the talent rich Sunshine State. Florida has for decades been an area of the country that is a hotbed for some of the most talented athletes. Here are several teams in each age group who played well on Saturday.
The Orlando Elite came out looking like day 1 favorites for the Road To The Crown 8U- Fort Pierce championship. By going 3-0 in pool play, they placed themselves as the top seed in the 8U bracket, but it also puts a target on their back. While there may not be an abundance of teams in this bracket, the competition is competitive. The only team to give the Orlando Elite a scare during pool play was the Apex Elite Kings, who only lost by two points in the last game of the day on Saturday. If any other team rises up to be a factor on championship Sunday, then it would be a complete turnaround from Saturday – but hey, this is 7v7, right? You see upsets all the time, so stay tuned and don’t sleep on the rest of the bracket because you never know who will stand tall on Crown Sunday.
Although South Tampa Elite Gold went 4-0 in the standings, they only played 3 actual games – the last win counted as a forfeit. Although 10U is not as deep team wise, the South Tampa Elite squad took advantage of every opportunity given and had zero slip-ups. They ran the table and outscored the next best team by almost 30 points to put every other 10U squad on notice. Heading into Crown Sunday, South Tampa Elite looks to be in the driver’s seat to punch their ticket to Round Rock.
Both Underdog Mentality and Tampa Bay Fighting Irish 12U squads went unblemished on Saturday during pool play. These two teams didn’t matchup head to head during pool play, but that could change on day two Sunday. It’s one and done – win or go home. Anytime you haven’t lost, you believe you can win it all and both teams have the right to feel that way. Underdog Mentality has a stingy defense to compliment their fast paced offense. Neither of the three games that Underdog Mentality played were close. The Fighting Irish of Tampa Bay played a methodical offensive game on Saturday and had a close call when they played South Tampa Elite but eventually persevered and came out on top. The 12U Championship is up for grabs, but these two teams are leading the way heading into Crown Sunday.
Gridiron Elite 14U seems like the overwhelming favorites to win the championship on Crown Sunday. They scored over thirty points twice on Saturday during pool play, had a hard fought victory over Treasure Coast Elite, which was their only loss of the day on Saturday. The 14U bracket is the deepest talent pool in Fort Pierce this weekend, with so many other good teams involved, but make no mistake about it, Gridiron Elite looked to be the favorite through pool play. This team played with a different energy than everyone else and have their eyes set on the prize heading into Sunday.
The top seed in 15U is Epic Elite Navy, who took care of business Saturday during pool play and have set themselves up to be in position to capture the Crown on Sunday. However, the team that passes the eye test as the the two best teams to keep a close eye on are the Slimey Boyz and RI5E. The Slimey Boyz and RI5E just have the “It Factor” that you can spot a mile away when they step off of the bus. Both teams played each other on Saturday during pool play and these games were very competitive. I expect nothing but dog fights between these 3 teams and barring an upset, one of the aforementioned should be crowned kings of DR7: Fort Pierce, FL.
When you take a look on the 18U side, the Crown is up for grabs, with no clear cut favorite. 24K is the only unbeaten team of a ten team bracket, but their last two victories on Saturday didn’t come easy. This particular 24k squad normally plays in the 15u division, but played like veterans in the 18U bracket heading into Sunday. When you look at the rest of the field after Saturday’s pool played ended, all of the teams have a shot to punch their ticket to Round Rock. 24K ‘s stellar play on Saturday, sets them up as front runners, they’ll have an advantage by being a little more rested heading into Sunday, as they earned the number one seed. by standing tall all day on during pool play. There are several teams took keep an eye on heading into Crown Sunday, such as Bird Gang, Jax Knight, the St. John’s Cobras and the Krazylegs Elite Mustangs, with each team showing flashes on Saturday that they could make a run to the championship. The 18U bracket will definitely be action packed from start to finish. Stay tuned to see who will walk away with the title on the Road To The Crown.