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FHSAA to set safety considerations for summer conditioning

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The Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors passed a motion to provide COVID-19 safety considerations for student-athletes returning to school campuses for summer conditioning during Tuesday’s video conference meeting. 

FHSAA staff members will work with the Student Medical Advisory Committee (SMAC) to put together those considerations within a week and have them ready to deliver to member schools. 

The state’s organizing body for high school sports also plans to assemble a task force this summer to discuss safety protocols and calendars once practices and games begin in the fall.

What the FHSAA did not formulate was a uniform policy regarding when schools can start summer conditioning. Plant athletic director Lauren Otero, set to be the president of the board this coming school year, said a summer policy should have been in place a month or two ago — before school districts started setting schedules for when athletes could start summer workouts. 

For years, the FHSAA did little to regulate summer workouts. Other than mandating proper paperwork and equipment, the organization leaves workout schedules up to districts and private schools to decide.   

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, school districts have been cautious about when to allow students back on campus to start those workouts. Three area counties, Pinellas, Hernando and Hillsborough, are starting June 15. Pasco is waiting until July 1.  

Many private schools, especially in Pinellas County, have already conducted summer conditioning. Keswick Christian’s first workout was on June 1. Admiral Farragut, Calvary Christian and Clearwater Central Catholic all started on Monday. The disparity has angered some public school coaches, particularly those whose districts or regular season schedules include private schools or teams in other counties.

For other parts of the state, the wait is even longer. Broward and Dade County public schools are still off limit to students because they are dealing with so many outbreaks of COVID-19. The lack of any state guidelines also drew criticism last summer when Middleton incoming freshman Hezekiah B. Walters collapsed and died during a conditioning session with the football program in June of 2019. The family recently reached an agreement with the Hillsborough County school district on a $1-million settlement that has been recommended for approval at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Once fall sports to cleared to start, football players will be allowed to play in six quarters rather than one game week after a proposal was passed.

This means football players can now participate in junior varsity and varsity games in the same week, a move that will help bolter the development of programs, particularly at the junior varsity level.

For the past few, many area teams have either not fielded a junior varsity squad or struggled to maintain one.

Florida was among just nine states that allowed football players to participate in one game per week. Under the new policy, teams would need a waiver to apply the rule and would have until the Monday of the third week of the regular season to submit one. A program’s history and roster size would factor into the decision for each waiver.

The FHSAA also made policy changes regarding heat safety measures to keep in line with the Zachary Martin Act that was unanimously passed by the Florida Senate three months ago. The biggest changes are the requirements of wet bulb global thermometers and immersion tubs at every school. 

The bill, named after the former Riverdale offensive lineman who died 11 days after collapsing during a summer conditioning session in 2017, still needs to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis but that is expected to happen with new measures becoming mandatory on July 1. 

Athletic directors in every area county have either purchased global thermometers and immersion tubs or are in the process of doing so. 

Cooling zones, which include the tubs, are now required. Water breaks are mandatory, too. And if temperatures rise to a certain degree, outdoor practices have to either be canceled or moved indoors. Complicating matters is the typical rise in the temperature on turf fields, which have been installed in four public high schools this spring. 

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Flag Football

Sydney Stout reaches 100 touchdown passes — this season

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Robinson quarterback Sydney Stout reached an impressive milestone with her 100th touchdown pass on Monday.   

That is not a career mark.

Stout reached that total this season.

The senior already had shattered the flag football single-season state record of 79 touchdown passes and entered the Class 2A region final needing just three touchdowns to hit triple digits. 

No problem. 

Stout threw four touchdown passes — in the first half. 

She added another in the second half to give her 102, a number that will continue to grow. 

After all, the Knights beat Lecanto 34-0 in the region final. Robinson, which has won state titles in five of the past six seasons (the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic), advances to the state semifinals on Friday. Stout could end up playing in two more games if the Knights keep their state title streak intact. 

And there’s a good chance of that happening considering Robinson has outscored foes by a combined 816-50 this year.  

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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