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The football fans throughout the state of Indiana know all about the quality of football in the Fort Wayne-area. But this weekend, 20 of the best high school players in the area made a statement to the rest of the nation.
AWP Sports Performance performed well at the IMG Madden 7-on-7 Football National Championships in Bradenton, Fla. and brought home a fifth-place finish while competing against the top squads in the nation.
“The competition was good, but none of those guys respected us because we were from Indiana,” Bishop Luers High School linebacker Jaylon Smith said. “We made a name for ourselves.”
The squad was coached by Michael Ledo, while Virgil Tharp (defensive coordinator), Antoine Taylor (quarterbacks coach) and Aaron Lane (receivers coach) assisted.
The team played 10 games over the two-day event, which was held at the renowned IMG Academies and the Fort Wayne team won six of those games.
AWP battled Florida Express valiantly in a 21-20 defeat, but that effort made an impression on the victors.
“They were saying that we couldn’t be from Indiana,” Ledo laughed. “Florida Express probably had 12 or 13 players that were going to BCS programs.”
Ledo has had teams competing in 7-on-7 events for the past seven seasons and the format and level of competition has become “huge” according to the coach.
The AWP kids train year-round with the facility staff and that type of commitment really shows up at competitions such as this one.
“Most of the athletes are just freakish, raw athletes,” Ledo said of his squad. “But we develop them and they are able to compete because of that skill development.”
The national scouting service 247Sports rated Smith as the second best performer at the competition, just behind Vernon Hargreaves III, a cornerback from Tampa. Smith has already verbally committed to attend Notre Dame, which ironically happens to be on Hargreaves’ short list of suitors.
“I didn’t get to talk to (Hargreaves) much,” Smith said. “I talked to him a little bit. But he is visiting Notre Dame later this month and I’m going to be up there and tell him everything about it.”
One player not mentioned by the scouting service that caught Ledo’s eye was his own receiver Jared Murphy.
The Columbia City High School athlete has verbally committed to Miami (Ohio) and Ledo understands why.
“Jared is one of the most underrated players in the nation,” Ledo said. “People wonder how this kid from Columbia City and looks like Justin Bieber can be so hard to cover.”
Murphy was AWP’s best performer in the regional competition, which the team won, and on Sunday, Ledo said “Jared was our MVP.”
The group of athletes put aside their high school rivalries when they come under the name of AWP Smith explained, and regardless of the finish, he believed that there was a lot accomplished over the weekend.
“It was a great experience,” Smith said. “Just getting to bond with my team, this was a lot of fun.”