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Mitchell adds another ball hawk to its defense



Mitchell already had a swarming, ball-hawking defense. After all, the Mustangs returned their top three leaders in interceptions from last season. 

That opportunistic unit was bolstered even more with the addition of River Ridge’s Cole Castro, the Sunshine Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in the West Division after recording an area-best 10 interceptions last season. His total also was tied for the third-most in the state.  

Castro, a senior, said he switched schools because he now lives with his father, who resides in Mitchell’s zone. 

“I feel like we are going to be a really good secondary and an overall great defense,” Castro said.

The Mustangs’ four starters in the secondary — Castro, Nic Fairbank, Khamari Smith and Garnell Wilds — had a combined 21 interceptions a year ago. And that total does include linebacker Johnny Fairbank’s’ seven picks. 

Mitchell’s penchant for swiping passes is due in large part to their team speed. Castro’s athleticism allows him to stay stride-for-stride with opposing receivers. And when the football is thrown Castro’s way, he has a knack for jumping in front of errant throws to create the turnover. 

The leaping ability comes from track and field. Castro specializes in the pole vault but is good in a variety of events.

:We have more team speed on defense than we’ve ever had,” Mustangs coach Andy Schmitz said. “(Cole) is a really versatile kid. So we can play him in a few spots.”

Mostly, Castro’s job will be to patrol the secondary.

“Cole might play a little receiver, but we’re pretty deep there,” Schmitz said. “This is definitely the deepest we’ve ever been at receiver and defensive back. And the fastest team we’ve had. We just have to figure out how to put the pieces together. Summer 7-on-7 would have been really helpful this year.”

The sultans of swipe

Mitchell has plenty of defenders who can pick off passes. Just look at the totals from last year.

DB Cole Castro 10 INTs

LB Johnny Fairbank 7 INTs

DB Nic Fairbank 5 INTs

DB Khamari Smith 5 INTs

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Football: State semifinal rewind (Dec. 3)



Three Hillsborough County teams — Berkeley Prep, Jesuit and Tampa Bay Tech — all were undefeated entering the state semifinals. They ended up keeping their perfect seasons intact by reaching the final. It is the first time since 2018 a local team has made a state title game appearance and just the third time three area teams have made it in the same season. 

Class 7A

Tampa Bay Tech 42, Lake Gibson 14

The start of Friday’s state semifinals was not exactly what the Titans envisioned.

Quarterback Xavione Washington fumbled near the goal line on a fourth down attempt. Lake Gibson capitalized by driving for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Washington more than made up for the miscue. 

The junior quarterback threw touchdown passes to Greg Gaines III and Javion McKay and had another pretty pass to Gaines that set up a short run by Ronald Sims for a score to give Tampa Bay Tech a 21-3 halftime lead. 

On defense, the Titans’ biggest task was stopping Braves running back Jaylon Glover, a Utah commit who had rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season. Glover scored twice in the second half, but it was not enough to get Lake Gibson back in the game.

Washington was not done. He added another touchdown on the ground in the third quarter for a 28-17 lead that provided enough of a cushion for Tampa Bay Tech to its first undefeated season intact. 

The win also puts the Titans in the state championship game for the first time. They will face Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in the final.  

Class 6A

Jesuit 37, Miami Northwestern 12

Five times in the past six seasons, the Tigers made it to the state semifinals but never to the championship game. 

On Friday, the drought ended. 

Jesuit, ranked 12th in the nation by MaxPreps, ended years of frustration by demolishing perennial state power Miami Northwestern to reach the final for the first time since 1992.

The past three trips the Tigers made in the state semifinals were to Fort Lauderdale or Miami to face teams that would go on to win the title. Twice, it was Plantation American Heritage. The other losses were to Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons and Northwestern.

This time, it was different.

This time, Jesuit was at home. 

The Tigers earned the trip by having the highest RPI in their region thanks in large part to beating Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas earlier in the season. That win not only helped Jesuit rocket up the national rankings but also gave the Tigers the confidence they needed to beat elite teams in South Florida. 

Led by its passing game, Jesuit got off to a hot start. Luke Knight hit Jarriett Buie on a 20-yard touchdown pass and connected with Liam Conroy on another 15-yard pass for a score to build a 14-6 lead.. Caleb Williams followed by recovering an onside kick that led to a field goal that put Tigers up 17-6 at the half.

After that, Joquez Smith did the rest on offense.

Smith scored three rushing touchdowns in the second half to put the game out of reach. 

Jesuit’s defense also did its part in keeping Bulls quarterback Taron Dickens in check. Dickens, who had thrown for more than 3,400 yards and 41 touchdowns entering the game, was held to just two touchdown passes, the last one coming in the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided.  . 

Class 4A

Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons 36, Lakewood 18

For one half, everything went the Spartans way. 

Montrevious Lloyd scored on a short run and Anthony Colandrea threw touchdown passes to Amari Niblack and Diezel Spann to give Lakewood an 18-13 lead at the half over the defending 4A state champions.  

The Spartans were prepared for playing such a strong opponent thanks to a late season schedule that included games against Hollywood Chaminade and Lakewood. 

Then everything fell apart.

Turnovers and special teams miscues were costly. The Chiefs took advantage, scoring the final 23 points of the game to reach the final for the second straight season. 

Class 3A

Berkeley Prep 42, Lakeland Christian 14

The Buccaneers, who were in the state semifinals for the second straight season, took the next step by reaching the final for the first time in school history.

They did it in convincing fashion thanks to a devastating running game. 

Relying on the 1-2 punch of Travis Bates and Xavier Townsend, Berkeley Prep racked up more than 400 yards on the ground through the first three quarters to build a commanding lead. 

Bates, who had 1,500 yards entering the game, rushed for more than 300 and scored three touchdowns. Townsend added more than 100 and finished with two rushing touchdowns. 

The win sets up a rematch with Hollywood Chaminade in the final. Last season, the Buccaneers lost a 23-21 heartbreaker to the 3A powerhouse in the state semifinals. 

State final schedule

Class 3A

Friday (Dec. 10/Gene Cox Stadium, Tallahassee)

Berkeley Prep (12-0) vs. Chaminade (10-1), 7

Class 7A

Dec. 17 (DRV PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale)

Tampa Bay Tech (14-0) vs. Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, 7

Class 6A

Dec. 18 (DRV/PNK Stadium, Fort Lauderdale)

Jesuit (14-0) vs. Pine Forest (12-1), 7

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Football: Friday night scoreboard — state semifinals (Dec. 3)



State semifinals

Class 7A

Final Tampa Bay Tech 42, Lake Gibson 24

Class 6A

Final Jesuit 37, Miami Northwestern 12

Class 4A

Final Fort Lauderdale Gibbons 36, Lakewood 18

Class 3A

Final Berkeley Prep 42, Lakeland Christian 14

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Football: Hidden gems — Dec. 3



Football recruiting is heating up. Still, many area players are looking for place to play at the next level. Here are 10 more standouts who have little to no offers that college coaches should consider. All have qualifying grade-point averages and test scores, too.

Class of 2022

QB Riley Allan, Osceola

An efficient quarterback who threw for 1,422 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions while leading the Warriors to an 8-3 record as an independent.

DB Amiir Austin, Newsome

The ballhawk led the Wolves with five interceptions and helped the program win a district title this season.

QB Connor Dugan, Boca Ciega

The veteran showed what he can do as the starter, finishing with 1,752 yards and 19 touchdowns to lead the Pirates to a playoff berth, He also has a 4.2 grade-point average.

WR/DB Daniel Galarza, Dunedin

A dependable target in the passing game, Galarza had 16 catches for 283 yards and a touchdown for the Falcons this season.

OL Connor Homa, Palm Harbor University

The all-star and FACA District 14 first-team selection anchored a line that set the school record for rushing yards in a season.

OLB Will Maafu, Clearwater Central Catholic

Recorded 59 tackles, 4.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries as a defensive leader for the Class 3A region finalist Marauders.

QB Marcus Miguele, Durant

The second team all-conference and all-star selection threw for more than 1,000 yards, ran for another 600 and accounted for 23 touchdowns while leading the Cougars to the playoffs.

OL/DL Lanness Robinson III, Wharton

The versatile lineman played a key role for the Class 7A region finalist Wildcats. He also has a 5.2 weighted grade-point average.

OL Connor Walters, Alonso

The durable lineman helped the Ravens go 6-4, their best record since 2011.

WR Jakari Williams, Sickles

The dynamic playmaker had 42 catches for 742 yards and eight touchdowns for the Ravens this season.

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