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Dorman High wins Carolina Panthers 7-on-7 tournament

Dorman (S.C.) used an early interception in the Carolina Panthers’ 7-on-7 passing tournament final to get an upper hand on Mallard Creek and win the title 24-21 on Friday.

Awarding three points for causing a turnover, Dorman forced Mallard Creek to play from behind the entire game. Both teams scored three touchdowns in the first half before their defenses shut each other out in a scoreless second half.

The Cavaliers, which were led by quarterback Grayland Fowler and wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, will represent the Panthers at the NFL 7-on-7 High School Player Development National Tournament on July 11-14 in Cleveland.

Dorman coach David Gutshall, whose team was 7-0 on the day, did not expect the win after looking at the teams competing, including 2012 champ Davidson Day, Rock Hill Northwestern and Havelock.

“The competition was unbelievable. When we saw the teams that were going to be here, we thought, ‘good grief,’ ” he said.

“But our kids responded all day, and even though we got banged up as the day went along, we just kept hanging in there and making plays to win.”

Although Gutshall and 12 of his players will travel to Ohio next month, the coach added that the biggest reward the team will take away was learning to persevere.

“This is why you do 7-on-7, so you play the very best,” he said. “It’s good for those kids, because if they learn to compete against this type of competition, they’ll carry that into the season.”

That’s why area coaches converged on the Carolina Panthers practice fields uptown – to kick-start their players as team workouts get under way.

“It’s great for us because we get our kids competing early,” Mallard Creek coach Mike Palmieri said. “I think that’s everything. … It makes them turn that on-switch and get us ready for the summer.”

Getting to play at the Panthers’ facilities and getting a pep talk by veteran receiver Steve Smith are also a big plusses.

“It’s a good experience for our kids,” said Northwestern coach Kyle Richardson, whose Trojans will host the Southern Classic 7-on-7 tournament Monday and Tuesday. “But the main thing is that you get a ton of reps and get a chance to get better. As much as you can play football, the better you get.”

Davidson Day coach Chad Grier said taking a dozen of his player to the NFL 7-on-7 tournament in Indianapolis last year, including his son, Will, a quarterback committed to Florida, helped the team come together.

“It was more of a time to bond off the field,” said Grier, whose team went on to win the N.C. 2A private-school title last year.

Dorman, whose Cavaliers played in the national tournament in New Orleans when they won the 2008 Panthers tournament, hopes to have a similar experience.

“We’re just excited to represent the Carolinas,” he said. “It’ll be the first time some of these kids will get on an airplane, so it’s just fantastic.”

Teams see varying success

Mallard Creek (6-1) led the way for area teams while Davidson Day (4-2) lost in a tight 28-27 overtime game to Dorman in the semifinals.

West Mecklenburg (2-3) and Northwestern (3-2) reached the first round of single-elimination bracket, while Independence (0-4) and York (0-4) failed to make it out of pool play.

Tovar: 704-358-5941; Twitter: @sergiotovar
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