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FHSAA board member John Gerdes explains his voting decisions



Florida High School Athletic Association board member John Gerdes wrote a letter explaining his voting decisions from last week’s two emergency meetings that he shared with Prime Time Preps.

Gerdes, who also serves as Clearwater Central Catholic’s athletic director, voted against maintaining the July 27 start date for fall practices during the first meeting on July 20.

In the second meeting three days later, Gerdes said he would not have supported the initial recommendations from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee before fall practices could begin. He voted for delaying the start of fall practices until Aug. 24.

As an FHSAA Board member, the past week was a rollercoaster ride regarding two meetings that led to opposing decisions. In the rear view mirror for now, I realize people will judge what the “right” or “wrong” vote was, although I suggest that task is difficult at best. With that said, I would like to address my two votes and that of every Board member.

I did a great deal of reading and communicated with a wide variety of athletics directors from Naples through Tampa Bay ahead of each meeting. I trust and believe each Board member did the same with their respective constituencies. In my case – and I assume with each Board member – there were opposing opinions, all from administrators and coaches I respect and proudly consider friends. Without question, I could find opinions – even from doctors – that would support each side of the play/delay debate.

To be clear, like anyone, I have personal opinions. Mine was that full-go football on July 27 was still risky in our specific case at Clearwater Central Catholic High School. But I recognized that was not the case for many schools in various places in the state. Generally speaking, I am all in on subsidiarity or local decision-making.

So, why did I vote against the July 27 start in the first meeting, and for a state-wide delay in the second meeting?

Having sat on the task force heading into the Board meetings, and in my discussions with administrators and coaches between those meetings, there were strong but respectful arguments presented on both sides. But there was also a clear consensus in my view that July 27 was too soon, and a delay until August 10 would at least allow more schools to be better prepared to start. In my mind, two weeks was not a huge deal and August 10 would have generated broad-based acceptance that we could set as a firm date. Based on my conversations with the people I represent in my region, that is why I voted against July 27.

In the second meeting, I would not have supported the initial motion to utilize the recommendations on data points to be met before football and volleyball could start. I felt it was essentially the end of fall football and volleyball. That was too extreme for me. While I would have preferred August 10, I felt August 24 was an acceptable compromise.

I realize August 24 is not set in stone as a start date, but my position is we (and I) should do everything we can to make that the case. That is my goal.

Whether I am judged as “right” or “wrong” in either vote is up to whomever wishes to weigh in. I made my decisions based on an effort to gather and consider as much information as possible. It was by no means easy.

Further, I have zero doubt that each Board member tried their best to do the same. While I have not yet met the three new Board members, I have come to know each remaining member to be thorough and deliberate in every single matter that has come before us. We are each blessed with different personalities and skill sets, and we cannot be expected to completely divorce ourselves from that. The result ranges from fiery passion to meticulous dissection to legal considerations to all points beyond. In the end, our personality and skills lead us to present our opinions accordingly. We should and do respect them all – even in opposition.

I extend these same thoughts to each and every member of the FHSAA staff, who regardless of what any critics maintain, work extremely hard and always with the goal of giving students an outstanding athletic experience. Agree with them or not, they deserve our respect and admiration.

I spoke of my belief in subsidiarity above, and I offer that it should be balanced with solidarity. It is my commitment to stand in solidarity with every FHSAA member school to do our absolute best to defeat the virus and get as many kids as possible back to full-go practice on August 24.

John Gerdes

FHSAA Board of Directors

Athletics Director – Clearwater Central Catholic High School

(By way of disclosure, should comments be posted I will not respond due to the possibility that other Board members may read and/or react, posing potential Sunshine Law conflicts. Feel free to e-mail me at I will do my best to respond in timely fashion)

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Flag Football

Sydney Stout reaches 100 touchdown passes — this season



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



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



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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