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Pasco County super seven

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

1. Mitchell

Last year: 10-2 (lost in region semifinals)

Up next: vs. Pinellas Park (Sept. 18)

Andy Schmitz has guided the Mustangs to the playoffs every year since taking over in 2014, including five straight district titles in that span. That postseason streak should continue with perhaps the fastest and most complete team Mitchell has had during this recent run. But the Mustangs will have to wait until getting started. This week’s opener against Land O’ Lakes was cancelled after the Gators’ varsity and junior varsity teams went through quarantine due to a positive coronavirus test. On offense, Mitchell returns quarterback Evan Brennan (2,301 yards, 31 touchdowns last season) and two of his top receivers, Johnny Fairbank (697 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Ronnie Fiumara (424 yards, six touchdowns). The Mustangs also added Maguire Anderson, who transferred from Sunlake and recently picked up an offer from Valparaiso. Mitchell’s opportunistic defense got even better in the offseason with the addition of Cole Castro, who transferred from River Ridge. Castro had 10 interceptions last season and was named the Sunshine Athletic Conference’s Western Division defensive player of the year. With Castro, the secondary has four starters — Nic Fairbank, Khamari Smith and Garnell Wilds are the others — who had a combined 21 interceptions a year ago. And that total does include linebacker Johnny Fairbank’s’ seven picks. 

2. Wiregrass Ranch

Last year: 7-4 (lost in region quarterfinals)

Up next: at St. Petersburg

There should really be a 1A and 1B at the top of the rankings. That’s how even the Bulls are with Mitchell and the debate over which team is the likely will not be settled until the two square off on Oct. 9 in the most anticipated matchup in Pasco County this season. Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht, who threw for 1,985 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first full season as starter, has gotten the attention of colleges. In the offseason, the three-star prospect picked up offers from five schools, including FIU, Iowa State, Toledo and Wake Forest. Though the Bulls top two receivers graduated, they do return receiver Broden Guirl and tight end Gabe Thompson, who has committed to Army. On defense, the biggest loss was Dylan Ridolph, who set nearly every school record for sacks and is now playing at Catawba. There still are some playmakers left, most notably defensive back Grady Clower (three interceptions last season) and linebacker Craig Kailimai. Kicker Adam Mihalek is among the best in the area. 

3. River Ridge

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

Up next: at Fivay

The loss of Cole Castro, now at Mitchell, hurt because the versatile playmaker contributed on both sides of the ball. But the Royal Knights still have talent to win another district title. Trenton Hawks is back at quarterback and should get plenty of protection from a veteran offensive line that includes Robby Rinaldi and Alex Storey. The defense is led by linebackers Connor Finer and Aidan Benjamin and defensive back Aaron Wyman. 

4. Pasco

Last year: 4-6

Up next: at Auburndale 

The Pirates closed out last season with two straight wins, including a huge 27-9 victory over bitter rival Zephyrhills in the finale. Devin Jernigan returns at quarterback. Graduation took away a lot of the production at the other skill positions. JaBrounze Cooley, a receiver, and running backs Amir Burgess and Savion Spaights, will be counted to be go-to guys. Burgess, who had a team-leading 96 tackles last season, leads the linebacking crew once again. On the edge, watch out for Ja’bari Mention, who had three sacks last season. 

5. Zephyrhills

Last season: 5-5

Up next: at Tampa Catholic (Sept. 25)

The Bulldogs had to endure some setbacks. A player tested positive for coronavirus last week, forcing most of the team to quarantine. Because of that, Zephyrhills had to cancel its first two games of the season and likely will have just six games on the schedule. Once the Bulldogs play on Sept. 25, they can lean on a trio of skill players — quarterback Timothy Jackson, running back Zyre Roundtree and receiver Tre Gallimore — for offensive production. Gallimore, who had four interceptions last season, is part of an opportunistic defense that includes Jaylin Thomas. Up front, look for Maguire Neal (13 sacks last season) to apply the pressure. 

6. Fivay

Last season: 7-3

Up next: at River Ridge

After winning a combined three games in his first two seasons, Falcons coach Matt Durchik started seeing results with what was being built. Fivay won four games in 2018 and seven last year. That 7-3 record a year was the program’s first winning season since 2012. The foundation still is there for continued success. On offense, it starts with the running game with two productive backs, Austin Blanford and Angel Gonzalez-Gordon both returning. The defense is led by defensive back Melvin Rivera, who had 112 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception last season. 

7. Sunlake

Last season: 4-6

Up next: at Wesley Chapel

The Seahawks went through some growing pains under Trey Burdick, who became just the program’s second coach last year when he took over the legendary Bill Browning. The result was the team’s fourth straight season going 4-6. Sunlake is equipped to take the next step, especially in the passing game with the return of quarterback Kevin Spillane. Defensively, the Seahawks graduated their top three leading tacklers. The top returner is linebacker Mitch Hammond. 

On the bubble

Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills Christian 

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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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