By Isaiah Cromer and Carly Haynes
Ten teams from Maryland and Virginia converged Saturday to compete in the “War at Wootton,” the first-ever Wootton High School 7v7 football tournament.
Wootton defeated Avalon in the championship game to capture the crown in an exciting thriller. Fresh off of a 5-5 season with room to grow, Wootton went into the offseason with new goals and motivation.
Wootton offensive coordinator Chris Papadopoulos spoke about the offseason preparation for this upcoming season.
“We’ve been out here since December, working offensively and defensively, and I think it shows with our timing,” he said.
The timing is on display in this video of quarterback Grant Saylor and wide receiver Alec Yassin.
— ZAY (@IamIsaiahCromer) July 9, 2017
The day started off with scrimmages between all teams to inspect competition and manage setbacks before playoff time.
Naheim Howell, a rising junior for Quince Orchard, spoke after a scrimmage against Springbrook about what his team needed to work on to prepare for next season.
“We could have been more communicative and not gotten down on each other when we did something wrong,” said Howell, a defensive back. “We need to work on catching the ball and following through for a touchdown when we’re in the red zone.”
Quince Orchard proved their dominance through state finals appearances in 2011, 2012 and 2016. But like Howell, other players on the team such as wide receiver Brendan McGonagle had goals for for the upcoming season, such as getting something they haven’t won since 2007 — a state championship.
“I want to make it back to where we used to be,” McGonagle said. “I want to get the state championship by building up our team chemistry.”
Quince Orchard went on to beat Bullis in the tournament playoffs, but Wootton’s strategic offense proved to be too much to overcome.
Wootton was down with two minutes to go against Quince Orchard when Papadopoulos called to finish off the drive and go deep to wide receiver Elijah Trent. A successful execution led to a nail-biting overtime game, which Wootton would eventually win to move on towards the championship.
“I knew I wanted Elijah to step on the corner the whole game,” Papadopoulos said. “I was just waiting for the right opportunity, and they obviously didn’t expect it on the first play.”
Here are the tournament’s top performers that caught the attention of The Left Bench:
Wootton High School’s Elijah Trent showed why he is one of the top wide receivers in Maryland. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder was a force to be reckoned with. Lining up both on the outside and in the slot, Trent was often double-teamed and used as a decoy to free other wide receivers up. During the final four game against Quince Orchard, down eight points with one drive left, Wooton needed a touchdown and decided to go to there go-to guy. Lined up on the outside, Trent flew by his defender during the first play and caught a deep touchdown pass to ultimately sent Wooton into overtime. Trent currently has offers seven division one offers and will be looking to gain more in the future.
Avalon High School’s Aaron Gibson was out to prove himself. The Class of 2018 5-foot-11 quarterback was on target with a majority of his throws. Gibson has a nice arm and throws a pretty deep ball. This will be Gibson’s first year playing the position for Avalon after transferring from Oakland Mills High School. “I just want to show that I am capable of competing on this level,” Gibson said. He currently does not have any offers, but has high interest from Texas A&M, Vanderbilt and Auburn.
Metro VA quarterback Thomas Jarman had a lot to offer during the tournament. The team already has two commits, Ricky Slade (Penn State) and Eric Roy (Morgan State), but the rising senior is set on joining the pack.
“I didn’t get much film last year, but this year I want to get more film and start sending it out to recruiters,” Jarman said.
Though he hasn’t made any commitment decisions yet, he has received several letters and plans to choose a school by the spring. The goal for next season, he says, is to break some school records.
“My coach says we have some of the best receiving corps in the county, and I believe it, too,” he said.
Here’s a peek of Jarman from Saturday:
Player to look out for: Thomas Jarman. He’s a rising senior Quarterback for Metro VA. pic.twitter.com/qwU3a0OfC8
— Carly Haynes (@CarlyEHaynes) July 8, 2017
Wootton High School’s 2018 quarterback Grant Saylor looked comfortable and poised in the pocket. Having a receiving core of Elijah Trent, Noel Miller and Alec Yassin makes his life easy. The 6-foot, 185-pound quarterback does a great job of throwing on the run. He also has a gift of throwing his receivers open, rather than waiting for them to get open. This is a special gift to have and will help continue his career in college. Offensive Coordinator Papadopoulos described Saylor as a “stud” and one of the hardest workers in the weight room. Saylor is coming off of a good junior season ending third in yards and completions in Maryland. He currently does not have offers but has interest from William & Mary, John Hopkins and Cornell.
Noel Miller can always find a way to get open. The 6-foot-1 wide receiver from Wootton High School, known as “Noelly,” was one of the top receivers in Maryland last season. Finishing second with 75 receptions and 11th with 1,035 yards, Noelly picked up right where he left off last season. He was often found open in the middle of the field scoring touchdowns untouched. He also showed his versatility as a wide receiver, by lining up on the outside. Noelly is only a junior and you can look for him to put up huge numbers again this season.