Wekiva Wins 2023 FHS7v7A State Championship to Conclude Successful Weekend in The Villages
By Joshua Wilson
THE VILLAGES, Fla. – Nearly 50 high school football teams and over 1,000 athletes took part in what has grown to be the largest summer 7v7 tournament in Florida when the Florida High School 7v7 Association hosted their annual State Championship Tournament this past Friday and Saturday at The Villages Polo Club in Sumter County that would culminate with the Wekiva Mustangs winning the 2023 FHS7v7A State Championship.
Teams from the Panhandle to South Florida and all points in between participated in the two-day tournament designed for skill position athletes to gain practice and knowledge with their teammates in preparation for the upcoming 2023 football season. And as such, for many of the teams participating, the FHS7v7A State Championship Tournament bookend the 7v7 season for their teams who have been 2023 season members with the FHS7v7A.
The weekend for teams started with pool play, with five games guaranteed for all the teams that participated, with teams being split between morning and afternoon flights to accommodate travel and itinerary schedules. Despite some thunderstorms on Friday morning that delayed the start of pool play for the morning flight, Mother Nature kept peace with the tournament compared to last year, where thunderstorms wiped out most of the afternoon flight schedule, forcing a reshuffling schedule.
With many teams returning on Saturday morning, those teams competed in one more pool play game that determined the seeding for the single elimination bracket that would eventually be crowned the 2023 FHS7v7A State Champions. The seeding of the bracket allowed for some exciting matchups along the way that put many teams on edge and resulted in some competitive matchups.
In the first round of play-in games, several lower seeds pulled off upsets on higher-rated seeds, with the biggest one coming from Bradenton Christian, which was seed No. 40 defeating Fleming Island, which had earned the No. 25 seed in a 14-13 upset. Overall, six lower-seeded teams won in the first play-in round of games.
As teams started to get eliminated as several lower-seeded teams put the statement out that they were not done yet for the weekend, as No. 19 Trinity Catholic, No. 21 Durant, No. 22 Sickles, and No. 26 Wildwood pulled upsets to advance to the Sweet 16 round with upsets over No. 14 St. Petersburg Northeast, No. 12 The Villages, No. 11 Eastside, and No. 7 Lake Howell respectively.
With it reaching the Sweet 16 teams like No. 1 Vanguard, No. 2 Plant Black, No. 3 Wekiva, No. 4 St. Augustine, No. 5 Columbia, No. 6 Alonso, No. 8 Plant Gold, and No. 10 Bishop Moore was impressing all that were there including media who had been taking in the sights and sounds of all the action over the last two days. Those teams would advance to the Elite 8, setting the stage for Vanguard, St. Augustine, Plant Black, and Wekiva to advance to the Final Four.
The dramatics of the day would result in two very tight close games in the Final Four, with Vanguard and St. Augustine rematching in the semifinals for the second straight year. St. Augustine denied Vanguard the chance to win a third-straight FHS7v7A State Championship in 2022. However, in dramatic fashion, the Knights held off the Yellow Jackets by just one point to win 26-25 to advance to the state
championship game for the first time since 2021. In the other game matching up, Plant Black against Wekiva saw that game go to the wire, with the Mustangs getting a late score to upset the Panthers 20-18 to put them in the championship game.
And if saving the best for last is anything to fans, that was the case on Saturday when Vanguard and Wekiva matched up for the State Championship game.
Wekiva, which had been showing domination under the guidance of head coach Jeremiah Rodriguez-Schwartz who guided the Mustangs to an FHSAA playoff appearance last fall. Wekiva, which had jumped out 20-7 lead after making some huge defensive plays to keep the Knights out of the endzone, had to fight to keep the momentum in their corner with the comeback late in the game that put the Knights one point away from tying the game in the game’s final seconds. A defensive effort by the Mustangs on the extra point attempt after the Knights decided to go for one instead of two, and for the win, kept the attempt from being converted, giving Wekiva their first FHS7v7A State Championship and marking the seventh different school to have won the FHS7v7A State Championship since the first one was crowned in 2015.
Coach Rodriguez-Schwartz was happy with his Wekiva Mustangs’ effort during the weekend to cap off a June full of 7v7 camps around the state, fighting through adversity to cap off a great weekend.
“I am very proud of the boys for the things that we have overcome to play through. We definitely played a lot of good teams that made it hard, but we have great coaches and great players. The boys responded to adversity the whole time and played through it, which was a great job. We were able to get a lot of young guys more reps, which I was happy to see. I am really proud of my guys, and I expect us to take this momentum into the fall,” Rodriguez-Schwartz said.
We wish all the teams that participated in this year’s FHS7v7A State Championship Tournament the best of luck for a very successful 2023 season!
STATE CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SCORES
Play-Ins Round 1 Sebastian River 13, East Lee County 9 Lyman 17, Forest 12 East Lake 16, Riverview Black 0 Bradenton Christian 14, Fleming Island 13 Cambridge Christian 16, Tavares 3 Estero 22, North Marion 6 Steinbrenner 27, Gulf Breeze 20 Eustis 31, Barron Collier 21 Wildwood 29, Riverview Blue 6 Tocoi Creek 19, Winter Springs 12 St. Cloud 24, Harmony 7
Play-Ins Round 2 Vanguard 36, Sebastian River 19 Wiregrass Ranch 26, East Lake 26 Plant Gold 33, Bradenton Christian 18
St. Augustine 23, Cambridge Christian 6 Palmetto 20, Florida High 6 Durant 17, The Villages 12 Columbia 31, Estero 9 Plant Black 31, Steinbrenner 12 Bishop Moore 22, West Port 18 Wildwood 20, Lake Howell 19 Wekiva 31, Tocoi Creek 10 Trinity Catholic 24, St. Petersburg Northeast 14 Sickles 25, Eastside 23 Alonso 34, St. Cloud 12
Play-Ins Round 3 (Sweet 16) Vanguard 21, Lyman 13 Plant Gold 30, Wiregrass Ranch 21 St. Augustine 13, Palmetto 9 Columbia 23, Durant 0 Plant Black 28, Eustis 12 Bishop Moore 16, Wildwood 7 Wekiva 23, Trinity Catholic 14 Alonso 18, Sickles 9
Quarterfinals (Elite 8) Vanguard 28, Plant Gold 20 St. Augustine 20, Columbia 14 Plant Black 28, Bishop Moore 12 Wekiva 37, Alonso 26
Semifinals (Final 4) Vanguard 26, St. Augustine 25 Wekiva 20, Plant Black 18
State Championship Wekiva 20, Vanguard 19
PAST FHS7V7A STATE CHAMPIONS
2023 – Wekiva (Apopka) 2022 – Seminole (Sanford) 2021 – Vanguard (Ocala) 2020 – Tournament Canceled Due To COVID-19 2019 – Vanguard (Ocala) 2018 – Sandalwood (Jacksonville) 2017 – Spruce Creek (Port Orange) 2016 – Mandarin (Jacksonville) 2015 – St. Cloud