Football | AWP Sports rolls to title in IMG 7v7 National Championships

BRADENTON -- In the celebratory huddle after its championship-sealing 30-2 win against Cam Newton All-Stars Blue, AWP Sports traded chants of two distinct area codes. "260!" the AWP players would yell, then "615!"

The first code is for Fort Wayne, Ind., where AWP is based out of. The second is for Nashville, more than 400 miles and two states away. For AWP, which stands for Athletes with Purpose, to win the IMG 7v7 National Championship Football tournament in Bradenton it needed an assist from its sister facility in Tennessee. With three new defensive contributors, AWP Sports shred its all-offensive reputation to win its first National 7v7 Football Association tournament.

"They were honestly the missing pieces," AWP quarterback Aidan Smith said. "We won, so that obviously tells something about them and their talent. 260, 615."

In the double-elimination format, AWP didn't lose once during Sunday's bracket play and beat the Cam Newton All-Stars in each of their final two games to win the national championship. In the semifinal, defense carried AWP to a 30-4 win against the Atlanta team coached by the Panthers quarterback.

In the final, that group one-upped itself to seal the title.

"We've been kind of in pieces," Smith said. "We have everyone show up to one tournament, we perform really well then we have other times they didn't show up."

Even the new acquisitions didn't change AWP's unique sense of unity. Most teams that compete in the 7v7 National Championships at IMG Academy come from all over large cities and communities. They aren't high school teammates and many times aren't even high school opponents. They typically just come together once a week or so for a practice to prepare for national tournaments.

Fort Wayne isn't a major city like Atlanta, Miami or Tampa, or any of the others represented at the 7v7 National Championship. Most players have at least one high school teammate and if they don't, then they've played against almost everyone else. They still only practice once a week, but they train together with AWP Sports.

"It's like more of a family thing," said Auston Robertson, a defensive end verbally committed to Michigan State. "We trust each other."

They run more complex offenses and defenses than most of their opponents. Whereas most teams run a straight man-to-man defense with safety help, AWP went with a Tampa 2. On offense, AWP eschews the typical spread approach for a bunched-up three-man backfield and employs heavy pre-snap motion.

"That's our offensive coordinator," Smith said of Antoine Taylor, who's also the quarterbacks coach. "He's a genius, really. Instagram #QBGenius. That's his hashtag. He definitely knows what he's talking about."

Smith also views this as a potential turning point for recruiting in Fort Wayne. He'll be a senior at Carroll next year and the three-star prospect is already verbally committed to play at Northwestern, and he's seen the area draw more and more scouting attention during his three years in high school. This year, he says, is the biggest ever for Fort Wayne in terms of Division I offers.

Seven of the top 30 players from Indiana in the Class of 2016 are from Fort Wayne including Robertson, who's a four-star prospect and the top player in the state.

All rankings are according to the 247sports composite, which aggregates rankings from all the major recruiting services.

"We're putting Fort Wayne and Indiana on the map," Smith said. "Now that we've come out here and performed we've kind of got a spotlight on us. We'll definitely use that spotlight because we've got talent up there."