Football

Football | IMG players shine in 7v7 tournament opener

BRADENTON -- During the week leading up to the IMG 7v7 National Championship Football tournament, Tavares Chase got a surprise call from a former IMG Academy teammate. Malik Henry was on the other line to tell his wide receiver he'd be in Bradenton to quarterback Team Tampa at the National Championship.

"That woke me up," Chase said.

Henry, who spent the spring with the Ascenders before parting ways with the program earlier this month, led a team that also included IMG's Khalil Ladler, Saivion Smith, Isaac Nauta and Tony Jones Jr. to a 4-0 record during pool play against CTC Rochester, the Colorado All-Stars, BOOM Yellow and Lakeland's Next Level Hawks.

Team Tampa has won two of the four tournaments since the event began at IMG, claiming back-to-back championships in 2012-13.

"We did pretty good. Came out here, got a little bit of chemistry together," Chase said. "Tomorrow's gonna be that day. Defense is gonna be locked in, offense is gonna be locked in. We're gonna be ready to play all day."

The Henry-Chase connection was the spine of Tampa's offense during the first day of competition. The five-star quarterback and four-star wideout stretched the field with deep balls down the sideline and picked apart their opponents with short passes through tight windows near the goal line.

The first play of Team Tampa's win against BOOM, a team from Chicago, brought Tampa within yards of the end zone. Chase lined up along the right sideline for the second play and darted past his defender. Henry turned his body and tossed a goal-line fade up to Chase for the first touchdown of Team Tampa's third game of the day.

About an hour later, Chase opened Tampa's final game with a long touchdown on its first play of the game and later added another score on a short slant.

"He's competitive," Chase said of Henry. "He gets the ball to you. He'll find the

open guy and put it in."

For bracket play Sunday, Team Tampa will add four-star quarterback Jack Allison, who missed pool play while leading Palmetto High School to a championship at the Adidas 7v7 State Championship in Orlando.

All rankings are according to the 247sports composite, which compiles an aggregate rating from the major recruiting services.

"We're gonna have both of them coming," Chase said. "The receivers have gotta be ready to play."

Nauta, a five-star tight end, is verbally committed to play at Florida State with Henry, and had one final chance to play with him during 7v7 before Henry heads elsewhere in the fall. The California native's departure leaves the Ascenders with an opening under center and Nauta with a more limited opportunity to work with his potential collegiate signalcaller.

Before Henry left Bradenton to return to California, Team Tampa expected to have one of the best quarterback duos at the National Championship. Tampa would've been fine with Allison shouldering the load himself, but Henry's return was welcome news.

"I was real happy," Nauta said. "Malik's obviously a great quarterback. When it comes to 7-on-7 tournaments you throw a lot of balls and you need extra arms."

And for as good as Allison is, he doesn't have the same familiarity with Chase, Nauta and Jones -- a four-star running back -- that Henry does. Tampa typically practices once a week and Allison said he's not always able to attend.

On Sunday, Team Tampa will probably have the best quarterback tandem in Bradenton. During pool play, they had one of the best anyway.

"We threw a lot during the spring and we had a 7-on-7 period every day," Nauta said, "so we're pretty much being able to work on it and, with Malik, obviously working on our timing."

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