Tucson Turf had a more than legitimate claim to being the top 7v7 program in the nation this year. But it was unable to compete at the NFA 7v7 Nationals last weekend in Florida because of a scheduling conflict.
With about 80 percent of the Turf players coming from Marana High, a high school commitment prevented the team from making the trip.
A week later, the Turf went out and won the Pylon Elite 7v7 Nationals on Sunday in Arlington, Texas, beating Midwest BOOM 35-21 in the championship game. BOOM also reached the final at the NFA event.
Having that many players from the same school is a rarity in elite all-star 7v7, but one the Turf players and coaches embrace.
“We’re trying to do it differently and we want people to understand we’re keeping it a game,” coach Toby Bourguet said Sunday night. “We’re doing this with kids who play the game because they enjoy it, understand the opportunity in front of them and are doing it to make memories. They’re not chasing scholarships. They’re out here having fun.
“We’re from a small town and we don’t come from money. Most of these guys know each other since they were little, little kids playing at the park.
“This shows you can compete at the highest level in today’s environment and still do it with character and integrity. It’s a neat thing.”
The program also embraces its underdog status. The rosters from virtually every other team are dotted with players with multiple offers and star ratings. Not the Turf.
“We take great pride in providing a foundation for the high school level through our youth and flag programs,” Bourget said. “We have a non-profit called Life Athletix, where we try to show that football can be used a tool that if you control your attitude and effort, you can have great success in life.
“We don’t one offer on any of our kids that participated in the national championship. None of our kids are rated as a one star or two or three. Several kids have been very successful playing in their conference. … We are very, very unlikely champions, but we have solidified our spot among the best in the country.”
The Turf was led by quarterback Trenton Bourget, the coach’s son. He threw touchdowns throughout the event and also had an interception on defense to help in the title game.
Trenton is 6 foot and 160 pounds, so even though he has only lost four games in four years of 7v7 play, he is not being heavily recruited because of his size. He has two more years at Marana, though, to potentially attract recruiters.
Trenton points out that the program’s run of success for this group of Class of 2019 and 2020 players began when they played as seventh graders in an eighth-grade event. He says since then, the Turf has won five national titles.
“We’re used to being doubted and laughed at,” he said. “No offers, or rankings. But you know what? We stick together and not get down on each other. We are there for each other even if bad things happen. And we let the score do the talking.”
The surprise of the tournament might have been Teon Simmons, a two-way player who had three touchdowns in the title game. “He outperformed five-star athletes all day long,” Troy Bourget said.
Another star on the weekend was Mario Padilla. The two have won 12 national titles together in six years. Padilla is among the few players on the roster not from Marana. He plays at Salpointe in Tucson.
“It’s just really cool,” Padilla said. “This year, has basically been the new era of 2019 and 2020 kids and it means a lot to us, coming from Tucson, traveling to Dallas and now taking home the crystal ball.”