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Pinellas County top 10 football rankings

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No more waiting or wondering when the season will begin. After a delayed start, football is back with most Pinellas County public and private schools kicking off the regular season on Thursday or Friday. That also means it is time for rankings. Here is the first top 10 of the season.

1. Lakewood

Last season: 12-1 (lost in state semifinals)

Up next: vs. Gibbs

The Spartans were the only area team to go undefeated in the regular season last season. They also came darn close to being the lone local program to advance to a title game, losing 9-7 to eventual Class 4A state champion Miami Booker T. Washington in the state semifinals. There were some holes to fill in the lineup, particularly in the interior of the defense with county defensive player of the year Andarius Wilson and Illinois freshman Tre’von Riggins both graduating. Jaden Ledbetter will help anchor the line. The linebacking corps, led by Pittsburgh commit Derrveron Maxwell-Black and Division I-A prospect Cortez McKenzie, who combined for 17 sacks last season. And don’t forget about Aumhryaun Brown, who can drop back in coverage or rush from the edge. On offense, the biggest question was who would replace dual-threat quarterback Greg Spann II, now a freshman at Illinois. Lakewood solved that problem with the addition of Jack Smitherman, a strong-armed senior who transferred from Miami Edison. Artez Hooker, a Buffalo commit, will be among the top receiving targets. 

2. Clearwater

Last season: 9-3 (lost in region semifinals)

Up next: at Jesuit

Tornadoes coach Don Mesick said this has the potential to be one of the best teams he has ever had. The talent is certainly there. The interior of the defensive line is among the area’s best with Division I-A recruit Tim Williams and August Salvati manning the middle. Demetrius Garland, another major prospect, headlines a solid linebacking corps. Jhaylen Murray and Leon Williams lead the secondary. On offense, Countryside transfer Kahmren Simpkins takes over at quarterback for Rent Montie, now at Lafayette. The receiving corps is deep, led by USF commit Cardrece Mobley, and David James. Mesick raves about the talent of running back Marquvion Jeter, who can do a little bit of everything.  Aaron Sanez anchors the offensive line.

3. Clearwater Academy

Last season: 8-2 (independent)

Up next: at Brentwood Academy (Tenn.)

The Knights are ranked 117th nationally, highest among Pinellas County teams. The loft MaxPreps status stems from a roster full of Division I-A talent. Quarterback Luca Stanzani, a junior, has already thrown for more than 9,000 yards in his high school career. But Stanzani does not have to do it all. He can hand off to Brandon Barrow, a Stanford commit. The offensive line, led by Rutgers recruit Albert Reese and Admiral Farragut transfer Percy Speights, is huge, averaging nearly 320 pounds per starter. Defensively, Clearwater Academy had to replace the bulk of the starters line who are now in college. Defensive back Shakespeare Louis is a captain on that side of the ball. 

Boca Ciega's Chris Phillips
Boca Ciega’s Chris Phillips

4. Boca Ciega

Last season: 6-5 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: at Tarpon Springs (Thursday)

The Pirates have been the verge of a postseason breakthrough. Two years ago, they missed out on a wild card spot despite going 7-3 and made it last year as an at-large team. The offense has the potential to be dynamic thanks to the pieces still in place. Quarterback Taffrey Peterman returns, as does electric running back Chris Phillips, who might be the best player in the county. The passing game got a boost with the addition of Desean Henry, who transferred from St. Petersburg Catholic. He will team with Shurod Clark to form an explosive receiving duo. Evan Graham, a linebacker who has already committed to Georgia State, and Mikal Sanders, who had seven interceptions last season, lead the defense.   

5. Calvary Christian

Last season: 8-3 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: at Carrollwood Day

This might be the most talented team in school history. The two biggest playmakers on offense, running back Kai Martin (1,000 yard rusher) and receiver Richie Ilarraza (Howard commit), both return. They’ll make life easier for quarterback Brandon Marcsisson, who takes over for Harold Cook, now a freshman at Shorter. The line is led by TJ Demas and Preston Cushman, who transferred from Northside Christian. There also were some nice additions defensively with Makkah and Melvin Jordan both transferring from IMG Academy . They join a ballhawking group that includes linebacker Isaiah Washburn, as well as London Hall and Carlos Quarles, who each had three interceptions last season.  

6. East Lake

Last season: 6-5 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: vs. Sarasota Riverview

Matt Trotto, who threw for 2,295 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, graduated. The Eagles are going with a committee of quarterbacks to replace him. Jake Bechtel, Mark Brady and Aidan MacLean will all see playing time in Friday’s opener against Sarasota Riverview. The running game will be done by committee, too. Austin Huff is the lone returning starter on an offensive line that was fortified with the addition of Trent Ramsey, a four-star prospect who came from Arizona at the beginning of the year. On defense, Dylan Rosiek, an Illinois commit, and Lane Hansen, younger brother of Illini star Jake Hansen, form a solid linebacking duo. Ryan Cunnigham and Terry Handsel are the biggest playmakers in the secondary.   

7. Clearwater Central Catholic

Last season: 10-4 (lost in state semifinals)

Up next: at Tampa Catholic

To make their eighth state semifinal appearance in the past nine years, the Marauders will get over some growing pains — quickly. After all, Clearwater Central Catholic had 20 players graduate from last year’s team, including 2,000 yard rusher Jordan Niles and most of the offensive linemen who cleared those rushing lanes. Marauders coach Chris Harvey said he could more than 15 sophomores starting this year. The strategy will change, too, with CCC taking to the air more to take advantage of the playmaking ability of receivers Johntavious Bonner, Jarquez Green and Kevary Jenkins. The Marauders are still deciding on who will be throwing the ball to that trio. Anthony Colandrea and Bryson Martin, a Plant transfer, are the leading candidates. Both will play until someone emerges as the leader, Harvey said. 

8. Largo

Last season: 8-4 (lost in region semifinals)

Up next: vs. Pinellas Park

Several starters graduated, including the Packers’ top two linebackers, Jayion McCluster (FSU) and AJ Mathis (FIU). The Gurney twins, Garrett and Connor, both started as outside linebackers last season and will be counted on to be leaders on that side of the ball. The two are also versatile enough to play multiple positions. Garrett spent time at quarterback last season and Connor can fill in at running back. There are still plenty of McClusters left at Largo. Zayvion, a sophomore, is the latest star from the Packers most recognizable football family. Last year, Zayvion had 73 tackles, two interceptions and a sack as a defensive back. 

9. Pinellas Park

Last season: 6-5 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: at Largo

The biggest task this offseason was finding a replacement for Lawrance Toafili, the electrifying running back who is drawing rave reviews as a freshman at Florida State. This will be a group effort with as many as four backs — Columbus Holston, Eric Jackson, Aaron Mezei and Cameron Kier — sharing the load. Paving the way up front will be Matthew Rotkis, the top returning lineman. Brandon Brearley is back at quarterback. The linebacking unit has as many as six guys who can start. The top returning tackler from that group is Malachi McCalip. The special teams are solid, led by kicker Robert Gunn, ranked tops in the nation for his age group. 

10. Countryside

Last season: 6-5 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: vs. Hollins (Thursday)

The Cougars took some hits from graduation and a few defections. But they still have enough to make another playoff run. Running back Zyterius Watts and receiver Leroy Lopez are the top returning skill players. Lopez is a true deep threat. He set the school record for longest touchdown reception with a 94-yarder last season and also has scores that went for 79, 85 and 89 yards last season. The line is led by David Tibbs, a 6-foot-7, 290 pound tackle who gained 20 pounds in the offseason. Carson Burbee, a tight end, also is great as a run blocker. On defense, the Cougars’ top returner is linebacker Matt Sattinger, a three-year starter who had 123 tackles last season. Colin Kroeger is an explosive defensive end who has an offer from Ohio Wesleyan. 

On the bubble

Hollins, Northeast

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Football: Friday night scoreboard

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Final Tampa Bay Tech 21, Wharton 12

Final St. Petersburg Catholic 47, Bishop McLaughlin 15

Final Gibbs 50, Gulf 21

Final Countryside 28, Sunlake 7\

Final Berkeley Prep 49, New Orleans Newman 24

Final Zephyrhills Christian 30, Bradenton Christian 7

Final Boca Ciega 28, Seminole 21

Final Lakeland Christian 38, Calvary Christian 13

Final Clearwater 48, Tarpon Springs 7

Final Clearwater Central Catholic 56, Kissimmee Gateway 0

Final Northeast 21, Hollins 20

Final Sumner 14, Braden River 10

Final Legacy Charter 21, Indian Rocks Christian 14

Final Mount Dora Christian 48, Keswick Christian 0

Final Seffner Christian 62, St. Joseph Academy 16

Final Zephyrhills 35, Nature Coast 0

Final Largo 25, Sickles 7

Final Osceola 48, St. Petersburg 9

Final Steinbrenner 35, Chamberlain 21

Final Carrollwood Day 42, Cambridge Christian 7

Final Tampa Catholic 38, Winter Haven 0

Final Land O’ Lakes 36, Pasco 0

Final Jesuit 44, Blake 0

Final Armwood 41, Wiregrass Ranch 11

Final Palmetto 23, Bloomingdale 3

4th Q Alonso 52, Robinson 17

Final Plant City 31, Plant 24

Final Wesley Chapel 44, Hudson 6

Final Newsome 55, Riverview 7

Final Pinellas Park 46, Palm Harbor University 0

Final Fivay 27, Freedom 25

Final Bradenton Manatee 29, East Bay 13

Final Dunedin 48, Anclote 22

Final Spoto 46, Brandon 0

Final Durant 49, Middleton 6

Final Cypress Creek 43, Weeki Wachee 0

Final Lennard 33, Jefferson 31

Final Gaither 48, Leto 7

Final McCallie (Tenn.) 47, Clearwater Academy 14

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Football: FACA District 14 team announced

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Here are the selections for the Florida Athletic Coaches Association District 14 team, which includes all Pinellas County schools. The picks were made by coaches who belong to the FACA.

Overall Coach of the year: Shawn Davis, Northeast

Overall Player of the year: D’Angelo Hutchinson, Northeast

Players of the year (by classification)

Class 8A: Luke Yoder, Palm Harbor University

Class 7A: Tre’son Everett, Largo

Class 6A: D’Angelo Hutchinson, Northeast

Class 5A: CJ Lee, Clearwater

Class 4A: Terrell Crosby, Lakewood

Class 3A: Preston Cushman, Calvary Christian

Class 2A: Anthony Weaver, Keswick Christian

IND: Cortland Mitchell, Osceola

Coaches of the year (by classification)

Class 7A: Marcus Paschal, Largo

Class 6A: Shawn Davis, Northeast

Class 5A: Thor Jozwiak, Clearwater

Class 4A: Cory Moore, Lakewood

Class 3A: Chris Harvey, Clearwater Central Catholic

Class 2A: Phil Hayford, Keswick Christian

IND: Cody Montgomery, Osceola

Teams

Offense

QB Anthony Colandrea, Jr., Lakewood

QB Aidan MacLean, Sr., Clearwater

RB Lenwood Sapp Jr., Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic

RB Luke Yoder, Jr., Palm Harbor University

RB Terrion Williams, Sr., Pinellas Park

RB Jaden Griffin, Sr., Countryside

WR Amari Niblack, Sr., Lakewood

WR Nate Johnson, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic

WR Eric Jackson, Sr., Pinellas Park

TE Wyatt Stiehl, Sr., East Lake

C Tyrek Tripp, Jr., Clearwater

C Jacob Johanning, Sr., Pinellas Park

OL Preston Cushman, Sr., Calvary Christian

OL Connor Homa, Sr., Palm Harbor University

OL Aaron Sanez, Sr., Clearwater

OL Franklin Miller, Sr., Northeast

K Robert Gunn III, Sr., Pinellas Park

UTIL CJ Lee, Sr., Clearwater

Defense

DL Jack Hostetler, Sr., East Lake

DL Maikeli Tuinakauvadra, Sr., Osceola

DL Jaylan Anderson, Sr., Northeast

DL Deondre Randall, Sr., Largo

LB Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

LB Melvin Jordan, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

LB Adarius Hayes, So., Largo

LB Anthony Weaver, Sr., Keswick Christian

CB Terrell Crosby, Sr., Lakewood

CB London Hall, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

SS Jaeden Atkins, Sr., Calvary Christian

FS D’Angelo Hutchinson, Sr., Northeast

P Logan Gregory, Sr., Countryside

UTIL Jordan Jiminez, Sr., Pinellas Park

UTIL Sammy Miller Jr., Jr., Gibbs

LS Mac Wiand, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic

LS Liam Holden, Jr., St. Petersburg

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FNF Campus Tour Preview: Pinellas Park at PHU

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Pinellas Park (6-1) at Palm Harbor University (3-4), 7

Three things to know

Pound the rock

Both teams have strong rushing attacks. Palm Harbor University’s ground game is led by Luke Yoder, whose father is former Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Todd Yoder. The younger Yoder currently leads the Tampa Bay area and ranks fourth overall in the state with 1,271 yards so far this season. Pinellas Park is more diversified in its approach. Isaiah Hampton (780 yards) and Terrion Williams (652 yards) are the Patriots’ top two leading rushers. 

Trap game

Pinellas Park is tied with Northeast for second place in Class 6A, District 11 and needs a win against Boca Ciega on Oct. 29 to force a three-way tie at the top of the standings. Before the Patriots can worry about playoff implications, they have to focus on Palm Harbor University. After starting 1-3, the Hurricanes have lost three straight and dropped out of contention for the 8A, District 11 title. That relegated Palm Harbor University to playing the role of spoiler the remainder of the season. 

Check out the FNF Campus Tour

The Friday Night Football Campus Tour, presented by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a free, interactive event that includes games and prizes for all fans, including the opportunity to get Tampa Bay Buccaneers swag. A 15-foot-tall replica of the NFL’s Super Bowl trophy is on display at each stop.. Buccaneers cheerleaders and Captain Fear, the Bucs’ mascot, also will be in attendance.   

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