HOOVER, Ala. — It takes determination to come through the loser’s bracket in 95-degree heat and then defeat the same team twice to take a title, but McGill-Toolen (Mobile, Ala.) wasn’t lacking in motivation.
The Jackets defeated Park Crossing (Montgomery, Ala.) 19-9 and 19-10 in the final games of the USA Football 7on7 National Championship on Saturday at Hoover High. McGill-Toolen needed two wins for the title because Park Crossing came into the championship as the only unbeaten team in bracket play, having beaten the Jackets 29-28 earlier in the day.
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Though McGill-Toolen is the reigning 7A state champion and Park Crossing plays in 6A and has only been around for four years, this is fast becoming a rivalry. On June 30, the two teams brawled in the Alabama regional at Hoover for the USA Football 7on7 event, won by the Jackets.
“It was a long day and I’m proud of our kids,” Jackets coach Caleb Ross said. “We played eight or nine games today and it really was an endurance thing. You have to keep them hydrated and we had a couple of guys cramp up. It’s become a rivalry. I’m glad we don’t play them in the regular season. They do a good job and it’s a rising program. They’re athletic, coached-up and they’re fast and that’s what we’re going to see in our region.”
McGill-Toolen quarterback Bubba Thompson, known as much for his baseball skills as an Auburn baseball commit, showed he definitely has the potential to go Division I in football. On the very first series of the final game, after Park Crossing’s corners shut him down twice, he followed with a 45-yard bomb to Marlon Williams to put the Jackets up 6-0 on the Thunderbirds and they never trailed. He later put the game away with a late strike over Jalen Tolbert’s right shoulder for another long touchdown pass.
“When I saw the ball coming to me, I knew he threw it to me for a reason and I knew I had to go up and make a play,” Tolbert said. “They wanted to win and we wanted to win, but we were fired up more.”
“Bubba Thompson had a phenomenal tournament,” Ross said. “I’m real proud of him. I could mention all our receivers. At times they all made big catches.”
Thompson said he’s waiting to see how his senior year goes before he decides on what sport he will play, yet alone what college he’ll go to.
“My focus is on football right now,” Thompson said. “I need more accuracy and I’m working on that real hard. We have a big target on our back. We’re trying to get things to turn out like last year. I know the playbook way better now. I’ll decide my senior year. I don’t really know where I’m going to go, though obviously I’ve committed to Auburn for baseball.”
Both games were heated affairs with disagreements from coaches on nearly every play.
“This was a great competition and we’ve developed a rivalry in a short time,” Park Crossing coach Smitty Griner said. “When you play good teams, that tends to happen. This stuff is tough to officiate. I understand that. You have to keep the kids safe. We had an All-Alabama final, so this was a great thing.”