The Opening Finals concluded on Tuesday afternoon after four days of intense competition, including the 7-on-7 tournament and the Final Five lineman challenge.
The morning began with the third round of the double-elimination 7-on-7 tournament, with Team Dynamite and Ohio State four-star wide receiver target Jameson Williams on the outdoor field. He caught a touchdown pass, shaking a safety on the way to the end zone for six, but that was all Dynamite could muster on offense, and they were eliminated.
The most thrilling game of the day was between four-star cornerback commit Jordan Battle’s Team Impact and Team Elite, which ended in the third overtime with California four-star wide receiver Kyle Ford hauling in a one-handed catch – with a defensive back draped all over him – in the back corner of the end zone. Impact would lose in the semifinals, however.
Five-star wide receiver commit Garrett Wilson had another stellar morning on his way to being named to The Opening’s all-tournament team. If not for Ford’s tremendous reception — and a terrible incomplete call by the referees — Wilson’s leaping grab over two defenders in the quarterfinals would have been the catch of the day.
Wilson also shook a cornerback for a wide open go-route touchdown and had a tip-toe catch in the back of the end zone, though that was incorrectly ruled out of bounds. It ultimately didn't matter, though, as Team Hype was blown out in the semifinals.
While the 7-on-7 tournament was in full swing, the lineman challenge inconspicuously took place in the far corner of the stadium and without any media permitted in that area. That said, four-star center commit Harry Miller and West Virginia five-star offensive tackle Darnell Wright were named to the Final Five.
Miller was also named the most valuable lineman of the entire event, as he constantly battled with defensive line MVP and California four-star defensive tackle Jacob Bandes. He won both reps in the final pairings.
After a brief intermission, Team Overdrive and Team Boomin’ battled for 7-on-7 supremacy. Overdrive, led by the combination of quarterbacks Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and Brian Maurer (Tennessee), took home the crown in front of a few hundred spectators — family and media not included.
All that said, it appears The Opening Finals will be in North Texas for the foreseeable future, after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones purchased Student Sports — the organization that runs the event — and moved it to The Star.
On one hand, it’s much cheaper and easier for prospects in all corners of the country to attend. Flights to Portland can be pretty expensive, and it takes almost a full day to travel to the Pacific Northwest from the East Coast. I understand it from that point of view.
However, this year’s event lacked star power and the overall excitement that usually comes with the nation’s premier high school showcase. Most events were held inside the state-of-the-art facility, but it provided a sterile background.
Only one 7-on-7 game could take place indoors at a time, which meant the other teams had to play outside in temperatures that pushed 115 degrees on the turf. The media was restricted to a small area along the sidelines, rather than the entire length of the field — or on the field for events like the fastest player races and tug-of-war — like in years past.
Most players I talked to spoke highly of the event itself, since it’s not every day they get to compete with and against some of the nation’s prospects. But as for the venue, there’s no doubt they’d rather be at the picturesque Nike World Headquarters with 70-degree weather and little to no humidity.
It’ll be interesting to see how these changes impact The Opening Finals moving forward. I certainly don’t think it’ll be for the better.