Surprising Cardinal Newman reaches title game of Miami Dolphins 7-on-7 tournament
Saturday, June 18, 2011
by Jeff Greer
When the quarterfinal matchups were set at the Miami Dolphins Academy 7-on-7 football tournament at Plantation Central Park, one Palm Beach County team remained.
It wasn't Glades Central, which had won the previous two tournaments. Nor was it small-schools powerhouse Jupiter Christian or always-athletic Pahokee.
It was Cardinal Newman.
And the Crusaders carried the county flag all the way to Saturday's final, where they lost, 52-28 to Miami-Jackson, which will represent the Dolphins at the National NFL 7-on-7 Finals in Cleveland July 7-10.
Not bad for the No. 38 seed in a 45-team single-elimination tournament.
"I'm not surprised," Newman's senior quarterback Brett Benes said. "I'm not going to say I expected it, but I had a ton of confidence in our team and knew we could get this far."
Newman went 0-2 Friday, when some 50-plus teams played in round-robin games after participating in a morning seminar at Davie-Nova.
Boca Raton, Glades Central, John I. Leonard, Jupiter Christian, Olympic Heights, Pahokee, Palm Beach Lakes, Suncoast and Village Academy also represented Palm Beach County at the event.
Immokalee surprised Glades Central 34-24 in the third round of the tournament. Suncoast, Palm Beach Lakes, Jupiter Christian and one of Village Academy's two teams each made the second round.
"It's a great experience for the kids," said Suncoast coach Jessie Hester, who won both the Dolphins and national NFL tournaments as Glades Central's coach in 2009 and 2010. "They get to work on their timing and fine-tune some things."
It was Newman that got the most fine-tuning on Saturday, playing in six games over the course of the morning and early afternoon.
The Crusaders beat Boca, sixth-seeded Coral Springs, No. 11-seed Pembroke Pines-Flanagan, third-seeded Lauderdale Lakes-Boyd Anderson and No. 10-seed Miami-Coral Reef en route to the final.
Benes didn't throw an interception until the championship, and he kindled up a connection with Newman's brightest star, sophomore Travis Rudolph.
Rudolph made countless catches in double and sometimes triple coverage, and he got plenty of help from 6-foot-6 junior-to-be Matt Burke and Devonte Brown, among others.
"It's all about competing," Newman coach Steve Walsh said. "We were probably outmatched in our last three games. To win two of them, it's great for the confidence of the kids."