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Hillsborough County top 15 football rankings

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With no kickoff classics, the opening week of the season was the first time coaches were able to evaluate where their programs stood in a game situation since last season. Some were still figuring out quarterback competitions. Others are still trying to put the right pieces in place. It is still a work in progress. But we also have a better understanding of how dominant some teams can be. Here are the rankings after the first week.

1. Gaither (1-0)

Up next: vs. Tampa Bay Tech (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 2

The Cowboys could have easily been the top-ranked team going into the season. They moved into the No. 1 spot after an efficient performance against rival Chamberlain. Kiael Kelly threw for 192 yards and accounted for four touchdowns (two passing, two rushing). Ricky Parks had 80 yards rushing and ran for two scores. And the defense, led by linebacker Nick Bartalo (13 tackles, four sacks), did not allow a point (the Chiefs’ lone score came on a recovered fumble in the end zone). This week’s game is an even tougher test against Tampa Bay Tech and its high-powered passing game.  

2. Bloomingdale (1-0)

Up next: at Tampa Bay Tech (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 3

The top spot is debatable. The Bulls can certainly claim it, especially after knocking off area powerhouse Armwood 15-14 in the season opener. With the offense struggling, Bloomingdale came through with big plays on defense and special teams to pull out the win. Jamarion Neal recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown and Philip Riley, a Notre Dame commit, returned a kickoff for a touchdown. Bloomingdale’s scheduled game against Durant this week was moved to Oct. 9. That gives the Bulls another week to prepare for their Sept. 25 matchup against Tampa Bay Tech. 

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3. Armwood (0-1)

Up next: vs. Plant (Thursday night Identity Tampa Bay Game of the Week)

Last spot: No. 1 

The season opener was a frustrating one for the Hawks. Chris Davis had four sacks to lead a ferocious front. Cam’Ron Ransom threw for a pair of touchdowns. But it was not enough. Two critical plays — an errant snap that sailed into the end zone and kickoff return for a score — were the difference in Armwood’s 15-14 loss to Bloomingdale. There is no need to panic with a loss. The Hawks know this. The same thing happened in 2018. After a loss in the opener that season, Arwmood went on to win 13 straight to reach the state semifinals. On Thursday, the Hawks will look to get back on track against rival Plant. 

4.  Jesuit (2-0)

Up next: at Sarasota Booker

Last spot: No. 4 

Down 21-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Tigers rallied with three scores to beat Clearwater 35-21. Joe Pesansky threw for three touchdowns, all going to Carter French. The senior quarterback also ran for another. On defense, Aiden Clark returned an interception for a touchdown to round out the scoring and Todd Bowles had an interception to seal the win. Jesuit has a good shot to stay undefeated against Sarasota Booker, which is playing for the first time this season. 

5. Tampa Bay Tech (1-0)

Up next: at Gaither (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 5 

The Titans had nearly 500 yards of offense in a 34-10 win over defending Class 8A state semifinalist Steinbrenner. David Wright threw for 199 yards and a touchdown. Rod Gainey, already a freshman sensation, had 130 yards on the ground and ran for a score. And Jamari Gassett, a Buffalo commit, had two receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown and returned a punt for another score.The offense will be put to the test against Gaither in one of the best matchups this week. 

6. Plant City (1-0)

Up next: vs. Bradenton Manatee (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 6

The script was perfect for an opener. Against Riverview, the Raiders jumped out to a commanding lead and cruised to a 44-7 victory. Nearly everyone on offense contributed in helping Plant City rack up 529 yards. All three quarterbacks played. Seven players had at least one rushing attempt. And six receivers had at least one catch. Mario Williams, an Oklahoma commit, did the most damage, scoring twice on receptions, throwing for another touchdown and accounting for a pair of 2-point conversions. 

7. Tampa Catholic (2-0)

Up next: vs. Land O’ Lakes

Last spot: No. 7

The Crusaders snapped a five-game losing to one of their fiercest rivals, beating Clearwater Central Catholic 35-0 to remain undefeated. Antoine Hill ran for 105 yards and scored once on the ground. AJ Williams showed off his big-play potential with a pair of long touchdowns (71 yard reception and 55 yard punt return). And the defense recorded seven sacks and picked off two passes in the shutout. 

8. Berkeley Prep (0-0)

Up next: at Jesuit (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 8

The Buccaneers started practicing three weeks ago for what will be an abbreviated season. They picked up a game against Jesuit on Sept. 25, which will now serve as the opener. The matchup also marks the first time Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao will face the Tigers since his departure in 2002. 

9. Newsome (1-0)

Up next: vs. Steinbrenner (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 11

As expected, the Wolves had to slug it out in a low-scoring, closely contested game against rival Durant in the opener. It took overtime before the outcome was decided. The Wolves’ Matthew Wingo ended it, scoring on his only carry for a 13-10 victory. In all, Newsome ran for 183 yards. The Wolves were supposed to play Lennard on Thursday but the game was pushed back to Oct. 9 because of a COVID-related issue. Now, Newsome has two weeks to prepare for Steinbrenner.   

10. Chamberlain (0-1)

Up next: vs. Bradenton Bayshore (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 9

Last weekend’s opener was a tough one against Gaither’s stacked roster. The Chiefs failed to score a touchdown on offense, marking the second time that has happened in the past three meetings. Chamberlain should be able to turn things around this week against Bradenton Bayshore. 

11. Steinbrenner (0-1)

Up next: at Alonso (Thursday)

Last spot: No. 10

After winning 12 straight regular season games from 2018-19, the Warriors have now lost two straight, a streak that dates back to last year’s regular season finale. There were some bright spots in last week’s 34-10 loss to Tampa Bay Tech. Deon Silas, an Iowa State commit, had 203 all-purpose yards. And linebacker Austin Brannen recorded 13 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Steinbrenner will try to even its record against Alonso on Thursday. 

12. Hillsborough (0-0)

Up next: at Armwood (Sept. 25)

Last spot: No. 12

The Terriers have to wait another week before starting their regular season with a tough matchup against Armwood. This gives Hillsborough three full weeks to prepare for the Hawks.

13. Jefferson (0-0)

Up next: at Middleton (Thursday)

Last week: No. 13 

The Dragons had their scheduled opener pushed back to the final week of the regular season. They now travel to Middleton to open their season. 

14. Robinson (1-0)

Up next: at Gibbs

Last week: No. 15

The Parks brothers put on a show in a season-opening 46-0 victory over Brandon. Rickeem, the quarterback, threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more. Arkese, a freshman running back, had a nice high school debut, rushing for 95 yards and scoring once. The Knights are in a good spot with their next three games all coming against teams that had a losing record last season. 

15. Lennard (1-0)

Up next: vs. Alonso (Sept. 25)

Last week: Unranked

Quarterback Gavin Henley threw for 247 yards and Amarie Jones returned an interception for a touchdown to help the Longhorns knock off Plant 29-22 in the season opener. With its game against Newsome pushed back to Oct. 9, Lennard will spend this week getting ready for Alonso on Sept. 25. 

On the bubble

Carrollwood Day (1-1), East Bay (1-0), Wharton (1-0), Sumner (1-0), Cambridge Christian (2-0).  

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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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