Team Epic 7 West out of San Jose denied the sky against TMP Elite, as the club unit snatched a regional title game record of five interceptions in their 20-0 shutout victory to clinch Passing Down’s April 10 Northern California Regional.
A sea of blue and green defenders washed away any scoring opportunities at Chabot College in Hayward against a loaded TMP squad that featured national recruits Isaiah Hodgins, Jullen Ison and Alabama commit Najee Harris.
One of those guys denying big play opportunities was tournament Most Valuable Player Ulonzo Gillian out of Merced High.
“Man it feels really good to come out on top,” Gillian said. “It all falls into what we did in practice all week. We just stuck with our game plan. We were in man and zone. I switched off one time and it threw their offense off.”
Along with Gillian, sophomore Tariq Bracy of Milpitas High and Bennett Williams of Mountain View-Saint Francis had interceptions.
Gillian showed his quick six side during one key rushing touchdown that shifted the momentum of the game. He took a handoff to the left in what was supposed to be a simple short yardage play. But instead, he discovered an open lane and accelerated 40 yards into the end zone to put Epic 7 up 13-0.
“That running play was meant for us to pick up the first down, but the lane opened up and I just took what they offered me,” Gillian said.
Outside of Gillian, a quarterback rotation of Kyle Lindquist from Chico-Pleasant Valley and Blake Stenstrom from Colorado state powerhouse Valor Christian led an efficient offensive attack.
Head coach Sione Ta’ufo’ou described his team as an unselfish group.
“It think it (our win) goes with our approach. We asked our kids to buy into our process and they’ve done a great job with that,” Ta’ufo’ou said. “They’ve been selfless, extremely competitive and very coachable.”
Epic 7 West will now enter the Best of the West Regional in two weeks at Fullerton. Joining them will be returning qualifier TMP Elite, Malu Fitness and E Force Elite.
By Lorenzo Reyna