Saturday, March 16, 2013
Lessons Learned: New Level Youngstown
By Brad Bournival and Jared Shanker
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- The New Level Athletics 7-on-7 Midwest Regional attracted 21 teams from Delaware, Indiana, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Canada. The competition was strong Saturday from this one-day tournament as the teams battled well into the night. The Class of 2014 stood out, but individuals from 2015 and 2016 showed their presence as well. There were even some eighth-graders giving it their all, as each squad fought for the title.
RecruitingNation writers Brad Bournival and Jared Shanker attended the regional. Here are five things they learned:
The Virginia Beach Six, led by Virginia Watch List commit Quin Blanding (left), made an impact at the New Level Athletics 7-on-7 Midwest Regional on Saturday.
But it wasn’t just the Class of 2014 showing up, as Ocean Lakes prospects Jaason Lewis and wide receiver Jahvoni Simmons, along with Bayside cornerback Jamez Brickhouse, showed the sophomores can play, too. That all six have Division I offers and come from the same city proves Virginia Beach isn’t just a vacation destination.
2. Behind the times…..still
The day of the three-sport athlete is all but dead as high school kids are starting to concentrate more on one sport. With the 7-on-7 tournament nestled in the Eastern corner of the state, not a single Ohioan was on the field because of a rule that the Ohio High School Athletic Association enforces. The state’s governing body states players are not permitted to participate in any type of organized football -- tackle, arena, 7-on-7, flag and even touch football -- between the end of football season and June 1. Athletes who participate would be ineligible this fall. While the six states and Canada saw a select few individuals work together on timing and route running Saturday, the Buckeye State again was shut out.
“The main reason is to protect participation in other sports,” OHSAA director of information Tim Stried said. “If kids do workouts and get together and throw the ball on the field on their own, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. We certainly encourage that, but quote unquote organized spring football is not something the OHSAA is in favor of adopting.”
3. No offense, but this one was about defense, too
While the 7-on-7 tournament is geared toward offenses, the three best players on the field were arguably Blanding, Ohio State cornerback commitment Damon Webb of Detroit Cass Tech and uncommitted cornerback Montae Nicholson (Monroeville, Pa./Gateway). The three proved life on the outside or in center field is just as good as anything on the offensive side of the ball. Quarterbacks routinely tested the three and routinely the ball was either going the other way or it was turned over on downs. It almost seemed unfair at times, as the three kept their teams in games while keeping the scores down at the same time.
4. Welcome to varsity
Todd LaRocca (Henrietta, N.Y./Rush Henrietta) just turned 14 in November, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he played Saturday for the CTC Elite team. Forced into a starter’s role when junior Tyler Kirton (Rochester, N.Y./Bishop Kerney) couldn’t make it, the freshman quarterback held more than his own. A class of 2016 standout with a rifle for an arm, LaRocca threw three touchdown passes of 40 yards in one game and continuously beat squads with the deep ball.
His best pass came early in the day when he hit his receiver on a fade route to the back corner of the end zone. You guessed it. It came on a 40-yard throw. The expected starter for Rush-Henrietta in the fall, LaRocca is expecting his recruiting to heat up. Given his play on Saturday, that isn’t far-fetched.
5. Sophomore superlatives
Several sophomores in attendance hold scholarship offers, and Saturday proved why many college teams are trying to get a jump start on their recruitment. Whether it was Cass Tech stars Michael Weber or Jayru Campbell excelling or the likes of cornerback/wide receiver Brian Cole (Saginaw, Mich./Heritage), who has an offer from Michigan State, the Class of 2015 proved it is ready to take the next step and shine not only in high school, but at the college level.