Belmont Shore are two-time defending national 7s champions, and return to the national championships the top seed out of Southern California.
They have to be the #1 pick for Pool A. But club president James Walker is quick to point out that last year’s run to the championship involved a little bit of luck and could have easily turned sideways.
“The Hawaii team missed a conversion in front of the posts, and had they made that, we would have lost and would have been out of the Cup Round,” Walker said of 2012. “So it could have been very, very different. And it could be that way this year, too, and who knows how it ends up?”
It’s not exactly the same as last year. The Belmont Shore team is a year older, and a year wiser. It’s a team with good balance – power from the likes of Jack Tracy, Riaan Hamilton and Gary Golding, and smart playmaking ability from Mike Teo and Tai Enosa. They have good runners in Peter Sio, who has been coaching as well, and Ed Pitts. Perhaps what they don’t have is an out-and-outpace guy, or anyone who can win ball in the air.
But they have good overall team speed, smart players, and their finishers Robert Ah Sue and Ollie Cregg, are not well-known, and therefore more able to sneak up on you.
“The guys understand their roles, which I think is very important,” said Walker.
Look out for Faaletonu Leituala, a player who has been with Belmont for a while but will get his first chance to showcase his skills in front of national team advisors. He can run, he can play defense, and is a good sidestepper, too.
Facing Belmont Shore is an impressive trio of teams, all of which could upend the defending champs. The San Diego Old Aztecs may well have been playing the best pure 7s of the SoCal season.
Nic Hawkins, Justin Boyd and Ben Nicholls are very experienced, while Pierce Reed and Mike Shea bring a lot of enthusiasm to a squad bolstered by young college talent, such as young All American Stephen Tomasin. Jaime Kelm is a workhorse and Dylan Carrion from Arkansas State is a speedy little pest of a halfback, and a gamebreaker.
Having played through a tough Southern California season, and only barely beaten out of 1st in that series, the Old Aztecs are certainly capable of beating Shore.
The Titans out of Hawaii feature Dusten Umeda, who has been considered for higher honors before and should be central to their attack, but they also have an excellent group of athletes. Kamala Umu was a star defensive end for the University of Hawaii football team. Jared Tomaszek was an all-state wide receiver in high school. Loto Tagaloa has played 7s for the American Samoa national team. They have known they would be at Nationals for two months, and have had that time to really work on their game.
Have the Titan’s been challenged? Maybe, maybe not, but the Hawaiian team in 2012 almost shocked everyone. This team could, too.
And then there’s Atlanta Old White. While everyone acknowledges that the South 7s competition this summer was sad – only three teams showed up for the championships – that’s no reason to discount the territorial winners. AOW has been at the National Championships several times, and they have a team that is difficult to control.
Richard Kanda, Leslie Mango and Ronald Omondi are three Kenyan players who are very difficult to bring down and play very tough defense. David Ngamau has been with the team on repeated runs to Nationals. They have some University of Alabama youngsters and Michael Sapp from Life University adds to their power quotient.
They can’t be counted out.
Atlanta Old White
Robert Ah Sue