Sumter's 803 United making impact on national stage


When Ivan Sanders and Paris Tindal formed the 803 United 7-on-7 football program three years ago, they wanted to find a way to highlight all of the great talent Sumter has to offer. They brought together athletes from across the county, regardless of which school they attended, as a way to unite Sumter under one roof.

Now the rest of the country is starting to take notice.

The program has started to get national attention after some victories over big-name teams in some of the largest 7-on-7 tournaments in the country. Their 15U and 10U teams were both nationally ranked. In their eyes, this is only the beginning.

"I guess it's just been progression, trusting the process," Sanders said. "I think everyone has gotten much better this year, including the coaches. This is our third season in, and I think the preparation we've been putting in is really starting to show. There's not one tournament that we've competed in this year where our 15U wasn't in the championship."

The 15U squad has gotten the most attention. They started the year by claiming the championship in the BEA Southside's Finest. 803 United then jumped into national polls when they played in a Next Level Greats tournament, falling in the championship to former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith's Level82 squad.

"From that tournament, we garnered national attention," Sanders said. "We were No. 15 in the nation. We didn't compete on that circuit anymore, and even though we weren't competing, we were still in the top national rankings on Pylon, which is one of the top 7-on-7 rankings in the nation."

The best was still yet to come. The 15U team traveled to Charlotte on March 16-17 to take part in a tournament hosted by one of the most well-known quarterbacks in the Carolinas: Cam Newton. The former NFL MVP issued a challenge to everyone at the camp that anyone who could beat his 15U squad, which had gone undefeated for five years, would get paid.

The stars from Sumter were ready to rock.

"They were kinda overhyped and cocky," wide receiver Franklin Richardson said. "We came ready to play, and they thought they were just going to roll over us. It came down to the last play. It was tough; we kept scoring back and forth. They didn't go down like an easy team."

803 United pulled out a 28-26 victory with each player earning $20 from Newton in the process.

"That was a big step for us," said Ja'Quaylen Dennis-Harriett. "A lot of people didn't think we could do it, but we shocked the world."

For Tindal, that showed the rest of the world what he already knew.

"I believe we have top talent in the nation," Tindal said emphatically. "I don't even look at that as a big-time matchup. I look at that as a regular game because we've got the same guys y'all have got. People say that was an upset that we beat Cam Newton. I don't think that was an upset. I think that was God putting it together where we got to play each other, and the outcome was exactly what I expected."

The victory was still an important step for the program, regardless of Tindal's expectations.

"It's big because they get sick of hearing it from us," Tindal said. "We're with them every day, so sometimes they need to hear outside voices. Rather than the voice, it was the actual action itself. We tell them every day that we can play with the best of the best, we are the best of the best.

"For them to actually get that win against them, it kinda reassures them that maybe what coach is saying is right, maybe the training we're doing is right, maybe we're on the right path."

What's their secret to success? For Dennis-Harriett and Richardson, it's their bond as a team.

"We play as a team. Nobody thinks they're better than another one," Dennis-Harriett said. "We communicate, we talk. It's just like a brotherhood; everybody's family."

Richardson added, "Trust. We trust each other to make the play when it's time for the play to be made."

Quarterback Grainger Powell came from Laurence Manning last year to compete with the elite talent from Sumter School District, and he got an early sense that the group could be something special.

"It was definitely different, but the energy they bring every day at practice, it's been great," he said. "I was kinda scared to come out at first, but over the past two years, it's been really fun."


While the 15U squad has gotten the most national attention, 803 United has been successful across the board.

"The rest of our teams aren't too shabby either," Sanders joked. "We had a 13U champion down in Summerville, we had a 10U champion down in Camden. We had an 18U champion at our 57-team tournament. Everyone has been very successful this year, and I'm excited about the smaller kids. Our 10U is a really strong team, and that's our future. They're on the same trajectory (as the 15U)."

Jackson Nelson already has a front-row seat to great football. His dad, Roosevelt, is the head coach at Crestwood. But he loves the chance to compete alongside the rest of Sumter County on the 10U squad.

"It's pretty special," he said. "It's a good experience to meet these guys and see good things in them. We get challenged enough, but I think we have the potential to be great."

The program's overall success was also evident at their own tournament. 803 United hosted a massive tournament with 57 teams at Sumter High this spring that Sanders expects to see continue to grow.

"To be able to get that done in the city, that was huge," Sanders said. "We look for that to be bigger and better next year. And I think it will be because this year we've beaten a lot of really good teams, so when we reach out next year, I think they'll be eager to come down and try to get some get-back, as they say."

While the accolades are great, Tindal's favorite part of the spring has been seeing every player improve. That success will then feed into the schools across the area as Sumter County continues to prove it has elite talent.

"Just seeing the kids compete at a high level," Tindal said of his highlight of the year. "Regardless of if we win or lose, the things we didn't do right last year, doing it right now. Some of the mistakes they made the first tournament, not making them now. Whether we get a win or loss from it, just seeing that development and improvement come into play, that's big."


803 United is always looking to partner with people in the Sumter community, whether that be in the form of formal sponsorships or helping to pay for hotels as they travel across the country.

Interested parties can reach out to Coach Sanders at

"It's a great opportunity to be involved with the kids," Tindal said. "We always talk about a lot of negative things going on in the city and wanting to mitigate those things, but nobody is putting action behind it. This is a good opportunity to put action behind it and get these kids out in the world to see things they don't normally see."