Central Florida Top Recruits coach Keiwan Ratliff acknowledged that a few teams were likely sandbagging during Saturday’s pool play in the IMG Regional 7-on-7 tournament. However, he is happy with his team’s undefeated record and top seed after Day 1.
“I would much rather have the momentum of winning over anything else,” Ratliff said. “I’m fully aware that Pro Impact (Jacksonville-based team) is going to probably have 2 or 3 kids come out tomorrow that weren’t here today.
“I know that Team Tampa and South Florida Express Elite didn’t show their whole playbook today. But that’s all right, I wanted our guys to focus on competing and executing plays and that’s what they did.”
Top Recruits, who won last week’s AIRO Qualifier in Tallahassee, finished the day 4-0 and edged Florida Fire for the overall top seed by giving up less total points.
They will not have to play until 11 a.m. this morning when they play the winner of Belle Glade-Pro Impact, both of whom went winless on day one.
“The good thing about being the top seed is that we can wake up at 8:30 and play at 10:30 or 11 a.m. instead of waking up at 7 a.m. and playing at 8:30,” Ratliff added.
Top Recruits really got rolling in the second game of the day against Tampa-based Unsigned Preps when Lake Minneola wide receiver Terry Jernigan made the play of the day. Jernigan hauled in a pass on a short crossing route from Deondre Francois, of Orlando Olympia, and completely broke down his defender one-on-one and waltzed in the end zone.
The play came in the final three minutes of the game with nearly every eye in the area watching and the reaction from the spectators gave Top Recruits an additional boost.
“I was just really trying to make a big play out there,” said Jernigan. “I knew if I could get past my guy I could get to the end zone. I’m happy we got the victory.”
Jernigan is one of several players on Top Recruits that’s hoping to use this event as a springboard for his recruitment.
Ratliff says that the team came into this weekend feeling a little disrespected and were playing with a chip on their shoulders.
“You know all the websites are here like the Rivals and the 247s and they are all talking to the kids from South Florida and the kids from Tampa,” Ratliff said. “No one is really talking about the players from Central Florida and we have some real talented guys here and they are hungry. They want to show everyone that the talent goes all the way through the state of Florida, not just in certain parts.”
Corey Long, formerly of ESPN Recruiting Nation, is a freelance writer based in St. Petersburg.
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