Commentary

Southeast dominates Gridiron Kings

Updated: July 26, 2010, 9:34 AM ET
By Jamie Newberg | ESPN Recruiting

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- In an absolutely dominating performance, the Southeast won the second annual Gridiron Kings, beating the Southwest 36-0 in the championship game. The Southeast defense didn't allow a point in its last three wins, after beating the West team 22-20 in the opener on Sunday morning. That's almost unheard of in a 7-on-7 event.

The Southeast defense had 12 interceptions, including three by the Gridiron King defensive MVP Karlos Williams (Davenport, Fla./Davenport). Williams had a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Southwest in the final.

South East Team
Courtesy of Jamie Newberg Southeast team wins championship by beating the Southwest team, 36-0.

The offense was led by replacement quarterback Tony McNeal (Chester, S.C.). The Clemson commit did a real nice job of distributing the football to his various playmakers and minimizing mistakes, throwing only three interceptions in four games on Sunday.

"Man, this is one of the best feelings I have ever had coming off a football field," McNeal said. "I obviously had a great group of guys to work with. I know I was a little shaky at first but I settled down. I just had to get used to the speed of the game. It also helped that I had some great guys to throw to and when I got in trouble I just had to find the tight end [Nick O'Leary (West Palm Beach, Fla.)] and the running back [Demetrius Hart (Orlando, Fla.)]. Those guys were awesome."

Awesome would be the appropriate word to describe the play of both Hart and especially O'Leary. Simply put he was unstoppable, running wild in the secondary and catching just about everything coming in his direction. When the Southeast needed a first down, a touchdown or a conversion, he made the play. In the end, O'Leary was voted the Gridiron King offensive MVP in a cakewalk. He was that dominant.

"I had a good day and just got open," O'Leary said. "I am a big target and [McNeal] just threw me the ball and I caught it."

Ironically, his former high school teammate, tight end Gerald Christian (Florida signee), was the offensive MVP last season of the Gridiron Kings.

"I had to win it this season for Gerald. In fact, I can't wait to call him when we are done and tell him."

Hart, a small and compact running back who is ultraquick and explosive, was impressive in each game for the Southeast. He made a ton of big plays and some great catches.

"It was a couple of great days," Hart said. "I think the key was that we, as a team, bonded early. I was just happy I got to contribute the way I did."

Other standouts for the Southeast offense were running back Devondrick Nealy (Monticello, Fla.), wide receivers Chris Conley (Dallas, Ga.), Tacoi Sumler (Miami) and T.J. Thorpe (Durham, N.C.).

Ten of the champion Gridiron Kings players were named to the 2010 EAS All Performance Team. The offensive members were McNeal, Hart, O'Leary and wide receiver Jaxon Shipley (Brownwood, Texas) of the Southwest and Victor Blackwell (Santa Ana, Calif.).

"I had a lot of fun," Shipley said. "It was very competitive but you want to play against the best. That last game was a little rough against the Southeast guys. They were really good on defense."

For Blackwell, he took his experience of the weekend and hopes to apply that to the way he plays the game, starting this fall.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me," Blackwell said. "Now I need to evaluate what I did well and what I need to work on. I want to get better from this. I know I missed some opportunities out there that I should have capitalized on. So for me moving forward I know I have to seize opportunities."

Some other offensive standouts were Southwest stars Herschel Sims (Abilene, Texas) and Michael Brewer (Austin, Texas); Midwest stars DeAnthony Arnett (Saginaw, Mich.), Shaquille Washington (Maple Heights, Ohio) and Damiere Byrd (Sicklerville, N.J.); West stars Brandin Cooks (Stockton, Calif.), Devon Blackmon (Fontana, Calif.), Michael Bercovici (Woodland Hills, Calif.) and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Gig Harbor, Wash.).

After beating the West in a competitive first game, the Southeast rolled, beating the Southwest 37-0, the Midwest 38-6 (the Midwest scored on a pick six) and then the Southwest again in the final, 36-0.

Jamie Newberg has been covering recruiting in the Southeast and nationally for 19 years. He can be reached at jamienewbergbw@yahoo.com.