By USA TODAY High School Sports | June 15, 2017 11:45 am ET
Houston Griffith should feel like he’s in familiar surroundings during this weekend’s seventh annual NFA 7v7 National Championship event.
First, the tournament is being held at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where Griffith is a rising senior ranked among the top 10 cornerback prospects in the Class of 2018 by the 247Sports Composite rankings. Second, it seems like the Midwest BOOM program has little trouble settling in to any 7v7 tournament it plays.
BOOM took home the tournament championship last year and did so by winning every game by at least 10 points. BOOM beat Cam Newtown Black 20-10 in the championship game.
“The Boom program has been successful because of the guys who buy into the program,” Griffith said. “We always compete every time we step on to the field.
“For me, this is going to feel like a home game because it’s at the school I attend.”
Griffith, a Chicago native, announced his top 7 on Wednesday night via Twitter: Florida State, Penn State, Texas, Alabama, Nebraska, Ohio State and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes’ inclusion comes after Griffith spent time at Ohio State’s camp the day before.
Notably absent is Illinois. Griffith’s dad, Howard, is an Illini great and current Big Ten Network analyst who had more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage during his college career.
For BOOM, Griffith is part of a stellar defensive backfield that also features Minnesota commit Tyrik Henderson, Northwestern commit Greg Newsome and Derric Lee. They were all members of last year’s championship team along with quarterback Drake Davis and Cincinnati wide receiver commit Jayshon Jackson.
Henderson, Glenbard North (Coral Stream, Ill.), says he has developed a strong bond with Griffith that has been beneficial on the field and away from it.
“Playing alongside Houston is a fun time for me because we have a growing relationship that has become close as ever,” Henderson said. “Our families have a tight relationship as well. I learn a lot from him and his game. He has taught me a lot about this recruitment process as well as many other things, and this tournament won’t be any different.”
Given the general way of 7v7, expect the BOOM secondary to be tested with a number of high-end quarterbacks and receivers in the event.
“Our secondary is phenomenal,” Henderson said. “We have very good chemistry and the brotherhood bond that we have lasts forever I believe us being close is what makes us so good defensively.”
The BOOM organization has had success this year in a number of national circuit qualifying events with victories in the NFA 7v7 Midwest Regional, the STL 7v7 Showdown, the Milwaukee 7v7 Skyline Battle.
And while the event is a showcase for the players to get more exposure, winning still matters.
“I wouldn’t say being the defending champion helps us, but it puts more of a target on our backs,” Griffith said.
Said Henderson: “We have something everyone wants. Everyone wants that No. 1 spot and we have been working our hardest to make sure nobody takes what we deserve and what we put in all the hard work for.”