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Football

Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas among seven counties considering opting out of state series

Bob Putnam

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Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas are among seven counties that are considering plans to opt out of the state series and form their own conference for this upcoming school year. 

The other counties included in the plan: Manatee, Orange, Osceola and Polk. 

“The discussions on this are still in the preliminary stages,” Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said. “We’ll have to get a lot of direction from management on this, but we’re trying to find ways where we can get these kids safely back out on the courts and on the fields.”

On Monday, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to keep the current allowable starting date for practices on July 27 and for schools to declare their state series intention by a certain date. Schools that decide not to participate in the FHSAA playoffs can play regular season games through the end of the state series events on Dec. 12.

Though the date remains the same, nearly every area county has decided to wait before conducting their first official practices in cross country, football, golf and swimming. 

Bennett said public schools would not practice on July 27, though he has not been able to give a specific date when they can start. Hillsborough County pushed back practices to Aug. 10 and Pasco County moved them until Sept. 7. 

Under the proposal, the eight counties would all start practices after Labor Day. In football, there would be an eight-game regular season schedule with the openers on Sept. 25. The other sports would have roughly nine-week schedules.

All sports would have the option of a bowl or a playoff. 

The athletic directors in the eight counties plan to meet again on Tuesday. 

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Flag Football

Jared Watson, Casey Contreras receive Minahan awards

Bob Putnam

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The finalists for the Bill Minahan Award in football and flag football were not selected solely for what they did on the field. The criteria had to do more with leadership, loyalty and compassion — among the many traits that best describe the former Jesuit football coach the award is named after. 

Berkeley Prep offensive lineman Jared Watson and Steinbrenner wide receiver/linebacker Casey Contreras, the two winners, embodied those characteristics. 

Watson, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last year, devoted plenty of his time helping other children while going through the grueling stages of chemotherapy. He also spent more than 500 hours with community service projects, such as Meals on Wheels and Feeding Tampa Bay. 

Contreras, now in her fourth season with the Warriors’ flag football team, has served as a particularly on the academic side. Her help is a big reason Steinbrenner is the four-time defending Class 2A academic state champions, an honor awarded to the team with the highest combined GPA.

“(The award) is more than just how I am as a player or what I do on the field,” Contreras said. “It means a lot to get an award that’s based on more than that, one that is based more on my character and how I serve others in my community. 

“It’s really important to me to make sure that the blessings I’ve received throughout my life I’m giving back to others”

Watson and Contreras each received a scholarship check for $2,500.

The other finalists, who each received a $1,500 scholarship, included:

  • Henry Griffin, Wharton: The defensive tackle/linebacker overcame the loss of his father to excel in academics and athletics. He plans to honor his father;s Navy background by serving in the United States military.
  • Deon Silas, Steinbrenner: The 2019 Minahan Award winner is an Iowa State signee who has been elected the Warriors’ team captain a school record three straight seasons. 
  • Deborah Carvajal, Leto: The student government officer also is an academic leader and is passionate about changing the culture at her school. 
  • Catalina Rodriguez-Kretz, Sumner: She is president of the Student Government Association, a member of JROTC and is on the school’s swim, soccer and flag football team. 

Minahan, who died in 2013, coached at area high schools for 38 years, including 28 at Jesuit, where he led the Tigers to the 1968 state football title — the only one in school history. Minahan’s widow, Martha, was instrumental in starting the award in 2015. More than $55,000 in scholarships have been given to winners and finalists in the past seven years.     

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College Football

Seminole’s Chris Miller selected to coach in Tropical Bowl

Bob Putnam

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Seminole’s Chris Miller was named one of the head coaches for the Tropical Bowl, an all-star college football game featuring mostly FBS players who are potential NFL draft picks. 

Miller will coach the American team. He left Thursday to start practices for Sunday’s game, which kicks off at 11 a.m. at Kissimmee’s Celebration High. 

The staff Miller assembled includes Warhawks assistants Rob Ewing and Chris Parker and former Admiral Farragut standout Kreg Brown. 

After spending more than a decade as a player and a coach at Admiral Farragut, Miller left to become coach at Seminole in 2013. 

This is his third year coaching in a college all-star game. He was the receivers coach for the National Bowl in 2018 and was offensive coordinator for the game in 2019. 

Two locals are playing in this year’s Tropical Bowl — USF defensive back Mike Hampton (Hillsborough) and Florida International offensive lineman Shane McGough (Gaither).  

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Football

Hillsborough track star Erriyon Knighton reportedly turns pro

Bob Putnam

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Hillsborough’s Erriyon Knighton, who solidified himself as one of the nation’s top sprinters after an impressive performance this summer, has decided to forgo his high school and collegiate eligibility by signing with Adidas according to a report by Track and Field News. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Knighton becomes the second area track athlete to turn pro before exhausting his amateur status. In 2015, former Gibbs and Baylor sprinting sensation Trayvon Bromell signed with New Balance. A year later, Bromell was in the Olympics. 

Knighton is on the same path.  

At the Junior Olympics this past summer, Knighton won the 200 meters in a wind-legal time of 20.33 seconds, the fastest-ever recorded in the 16 year old’s age group (15-16) at the Junior Olympics and the nation’s top time by a high school athlete at that point last year. 

Knighton shaved 56 seconds off his personal best set in June of 2020. And his blistering 20.33 time was just 0.20 seconds off the under-18 world record set by Usain Bolt. 

That was not all. 

In the 100 meters, Knighton again sprinted to the head of the class at the Junior Olympics, this time winning in 10.29 seconds, a time that was tied for the nation’s top mark by a high school athlete this past year.

Those eye-opening times got the attention of the track-and-field aficionados — and the sporting world.

It also put him on the fast track to potential Olympic stardom. That was in part why he made the decision, according to Track and Field News. 

By doing so, Knighton is all but giving up a promising career in football. 

Knighton’s big-play ability, combined with his speed, made him a bona fide football prospect. He is already ranked as a four-star recruit and considered the state’s 15-best player for the Class of 2022 on 247 Sports’ composite list.

As a junior this past season, Knighton had 201 rushing yards, 484 receiving and accounted for eight touchdowns.  

Colleges took notice. Knighton has offers from several Division I-A programs, including Florida, FSU, Michigan and Tennessee. 

Knighton’s future is coming into his focus.

So is his vision. 

This summer, Knighton failed a physical because of poor eyesight. He had 20/100 vision in one eye and 20/80 in the other. He now has glasses and plans on getting contacts. 

“It didn’t really bother me in track,” Knighton told Prime Time Preps at the time. “I could still see. The only thing that was blurry was when I tried to read plays from the sideline in football.”

The picture is clear. No more football and track at Hillsborough, followed by four more years of both sports in college. 

The focus is now on the Olympics, something that Knighton said was a possibility this summer. 

“I might lean towards track, slightly,” Knighton told Prime Time Preps this summer.. “I’m thinking about the Olympics more and more.” 

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