LAS VEGAS—Heading into this past weekend’s Pylon 7on7 Las Vegas National Championships, there was a list of four-star football players and a handful of 7-man teams expected to rise to the top.
None of the lists included members of the Tucson Turf or Las Vegas’ All-American Pride.
But along with a chilly breeze that whisked through the fields at Heritage Park, roughly 30 minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, the Turf and Pride blew through the 136-team field with unheralded rosters to meet in the finals.
Tucson got past a scrappy, young FSP squad out of Seattle, made up of freshmen and sophomores who won the middle school title two years ago, in this same event, while the Pride used a staunch defensive effort to shut down a talent-rich Florida Fire squad that was loaded with four-star talent.
And while the Turf hoisted the trophy after a 35-28 victory, led by a sophomore tandem that has been playing together since they were 9-year-olds, it was both teams that secured victories in their own right.
For Tucson, as receiver Mario Padilla said, it was long overdue respect for “a bunch of overlooked Arizona kids who deserve recognition” for all their hard work.
“All these other programs, they recruit; we don’t recruit—we’re a hometown team,” Padilla said. “We come out here and we don’t talk, we don’t throw (shade). We deserve recognition, but we get overlooked because we’re kids from Arizona.
“We all have good chemistry and to win this big tournament means a lot for us.”
For the Pride—a team comprised of seven high schools in Las Vegas, predominately Liberty—there was redemption after much of the hype surrounded the highly talented 702 Elite squad that won the event last year, and is made up mainly of players from three-time defending USA TODAY Super 25 national champion Bishop Gorman.
“We came into the tournament knowing we could make a run based on how we played the last two weekends,” said quarterback Kenyon Oblad, who led the Pride to wins over three of the best teams in the tournament: Ground Zero (Calif.), Rharebreed (Calif.) and Florida Fire. “We showed that we can hang with the good teams, just like (702 Elite) can.
“I think it’s really good that we went far, because everyone says Gorman put Las Vegas on the map, but I think Gorman put Gorman on the map. Everybody forgot about the rest of us, and there is a lot of talent in Las Vegas that is overlooked. But now that we made it to the final, and beat the teams we did, people see we do have talent in the entire town.”
Oblad said despite the loss, he couldn’t be any more pleased with how his team has come together, considering it had “maybe four practices” before competing in the Pylon 7on7 event in Los Angeles, where it finished fifth, and in an adidas 7on7 event in Redondo Beach, Calif., where it lost to eventual champion Ground Zero in the semifinals.
Oblad, also the starting quarterback from Liberty, completed 15-of-24 pass attempts in the final game, working well with Green Valley High’s Christian Mayberry, who caught seven passes.
But in the end, it was Turf quarterback Trenton Bourguet and Padilla who stole the show, connecting for four of the team’s five touchdowns in the title game.
Bourguet, who plays basketball and football for Marana High School in Tucson, completed 11 of 13 passes, while Padilla hauled in six receptions. Both were named co-MVPs of the tournament.
“Unlike other teams, we’re not just an all-star team. We’re all in the same neighborhood, come from the same towns, so we’re not only football players—we’re brothers,” Bourguet said. “Once are backs are against the wall, we’re used to that situation. Together, you can just see how we’re close.
“And really, we’re just out here to have fun and luckily we took first place.”
1 Tucson Turf
2 All-American Pride
3 FSP 5-Star
4 Florida Fire
5 Valor Elite
6 Rharebreed Congo
7 DB Guru 1