LAS VEGAS—While the Florida Fire enter Sunday as the No. 24 seed in the Pylon 7on7 Las Vegas National Championships, they earned a victory in what might have been the most anticipated showdown against Southern California gauntlet Ground Zero.
In a game littered with Division I talent, in the center of packed sidelines, the Fire held off Ground Zero, 14-7.
Ground Zero, which features Ohio State-commit Jaiden Woodbey, will head into the final day of competition seeded No. 44.
Woodbey, the imposing No. 3 safety and No. 32 player overall per the 247Sports Composite, plays for St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.).
But it was a trio from the Florida Fire that stole the show, including U. of Miami-commit Akeem Dent, ranked as the No. 1 cornerback and No. 18 player overall in the Class of 2019, per Top 247.
Dent, who transferred from Pahokee to Palm Beach Central last July, said getting his commitment out of the way early has allowed him to focus on football without the distractions that come from the recruitment process.
“It’s a relief for me because I know I have a future,” said Dent, who had seven offers on the table when he committed to the Hurricanes. “(Now) I need me a breakout year with like 10 picks, that’s what I’m hoping for this coming season.”
Meanwhile, a pair of his teammates on Florida Fire remain unsigned and are two of the nation’s most sought after wide receivers: Elijah Moore and Mark Pope.
Moore, from St. Thomas Aquinas, is ranked as the No. 31 wide receiver in the class. Insists he hasn’t narrowed his choices from 31 offers down to a top 10, yet, even when his own mother asks if he’s coming to close a decision.
“I have to talk it over with my family, I don’t really know yet,” Moore said. “My mom asks me every day, I just don’t talk about it.”
Moore said growing up he became used to watching Miami, Fla., with his father, while his mother watched Auburn and Ohio State.
If there was one intriguing thing about the Hurricanes that could keep Moore in his hometown, it was coach Mark Richt’s philosophy that “young players play.”
“They get to prove themselves and show everybody what they could do,” Moore said. “I like that along, and he’s just a great coach.”
Moore said the most important goal for him to accomplish by the time he graduates is not on the football, but in the classroom. Currently maintaining a 3.4 grade point average, he would like to raise that to 3.6 by the time he shifts the tassel on his graduation cap.
Lining up alongside Moore almost every time in the statement win over Ground Zero was Pope, who is looking to duplicate an impressive performance at the recent Pylon Southeast regional event near Orlando.
While entertaining his teammates and fans in Orlando with distinctive touchdown celebrations, Pope danced his way into everyone’s attention before every offensive drive in Saturday’s big showdown.
Hailing from Miami Southridge, Pope came into the event ranked as the No. 21 wide receiver and with 20 offers in his back pocket.
Like Moore, he doesn’t have a top 10 either, but didn’t hesitate to say his favorite childhood team was Alabama. He hasn’t decided whether he’ll major in sports medicine or criminal justice, but did say his major will be a huge intangible toward his decision.
“I haven’t made a top three or top five yet; right now I’m trying to improve as a student of the game, learning as much as I can,” Moore said. “Academics will be the top factor, and from the team standpoint, I’ll look at the depth chart at receiver and quarterback…”
At that moment, Moore interrupted in playful fashion, saying: “He’s a five-star athlete right here, he’s the best in the nation. He’s very ugly though.”
Nevertheless, Pope and the Florida Fire will be looking for a good-looking performance in Sunday’s bracket play, beginning with No. 105-seed Eastside Elite Academy.