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Friday night football forecast

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Bloomingdale at Plant City, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Bloomingdale by 13

Putnam’s prediction: Bloomingdale 21-20

Mitchell at East Lake, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Mitchell by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Mitchell 35-21

Clearwater at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Clearwater by 1

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater 21-19

Pasco at River Ridge, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: River Ridge by 4

Putnam’s prediction: River Ridge 14-10

Berkeley Prep at Tampa Catholic, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Tampa Catholic by 4

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Catholic 27-20

The remaining schedule

Zarephath Academy at Zephyrhills Chr., 6 p.m.

Pinkos’ pick: Zephyrhills Christian by 32

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills Christian 42-14

Clearwater Academy at Jacksonville Sandalwood, 7 p.m.

Pinkos’ pick: Sandalwood by 1

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater Academy 23-19

Carrollwood Day at Bishop McLaughlin, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Carrollwood Day by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Carrollwood Day 31-14

Indian Rocks Christian at St. Petersburg Catholic, 7

Pinkos’ pick: St. Petersburg Catholic by 14

Putnam’s prediction: St. Petersburg Catholic 21-7

Central at Lecanto, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Lecanto by 14

Putnam’s prediction: Lecanto 28-14

Cardinal Mooney at Calvary Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Calvary Christian by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Calvary Christian 28-10

Saint Stephen’s at Northside Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Saint Stephen’s by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Saint Stephen’s 21-16

Duval Charter at Academy at the Lakes, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Duval Charter by 6

Putnam’s prediction: Academy at the Lakes 21-14

Dunedin at Parrish Community, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Dunedin by 36

Putnam’s prediction: Dunedin 38-13

Tampa Bay Christian at Bell Creek Academy, 7

Pinkos’ pick: N/A

Putnam’s prediction: Bell Creek 21-20 

Spoto at Brandon, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Spoto by 9

Putnam’s prediction: Spoto 14-13

Alonso at Palm Harbor University, 7

Pinkos’ pick: PHU by 7

Putnam’s prediction: PHU 14-7

Real Life Christian at Lakeside Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Lakeside by 39

Putnam’s prediction: Lakeside 42-7

Berkeley Prep at Tampa Catholic, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Tampa Catholic by 4

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Catholic 27-20

Seffner Christian at Victory Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Victory Christian by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Victory Christian 31-17

Sarasota Booker at Robinson, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Robinson by 11

Putnam’s prediction: Robinson 34-20

Gaither at Fivay, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Gaither by 48

Putnam’s prediction: Gaither 49-0

Gibbs at Bradenton Bayshore, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Gibbs by 6 

Putnam’s prediction: Gibbs 21-13

Zephyrhills at Sickles, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: N/A

Putnam’s prediction: Sickles 28-20 

Land O’ Lakes at Freedom, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Land O’ Lakes by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Land O’ Lakes 30-14

Leto at Pinellas Park, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Pinellas Park by 59

Putnam’s prediction: Pinellas Park 48-0

Anclote at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wesley Chapel by 25

Putnam’s prediction: Wesley Chapel 34-13

Riverview at Newsome, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Newsome by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Newsome 28-14

Chamberlain at Jesuit, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Jesuit by 13

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 24-10

Hillsborough at Jefferson, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Jefferson by 1

Putnam’s prediction: Jefferson 19-17

Tampa Bay Tech at East Bay, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Tampa Bay Tech by 35

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Bay Tech 34-16

Santa Fe Catholic at Cypress Creek, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Cypress Creek by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Cypress Creek 35-14

Mulberry at Hudson, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Mulberry by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Mulberry 27-21

Armwood at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Armwood by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Armwood 35-14

King at Wharton, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wharton by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Wharton 14-6

Citrus at Nature Coast Tech, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Nature Coast by 40

Putnam’s prediction: Nature Coast 41-7

Lakeland at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Lakeland by 66

Putnam’s prediction: Lakeland 49-0

Durant at Sumner, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: N/A

Putnam’s prediction: Durant 16-14 

Lennard at Sarasota Riverview, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Riverview by 15

Putnam’s prediction: Sarasota Riverview 31-19

Weeki Wachee at Hernando, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Hernando by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Hernando 28-16

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Football

Tampa Bay Tech’s Rod Gainey transfers to IMG Academy

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Rod Gainey, one of the nation’s premier running backs in the Class of 2024, is leaving Tampa Bay Tech after one season to attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Titans coach Jayson Roberts confirmed. 

As a freshman last season, Gainey rushed for 836 yards (7.7 per carry) and had 10 touchdowns on the ground to give Tampa Bay Tech’s high-powered passing game some balance. 

Already a youth league legend in Hillsborough County, Gainey’s performance in his debut high school season only solidified his stats as one of the county’s top recruits in his class. 

Gainey already has offers from Florida, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Penn State, Toledo, UCF, USF and West Virginia, among others. 

This is the second offseason the Titans have lost a star ball carrier to IMG. Last year, Stacey Gage, an incoming freshman at the time, said he was deciding between Tampa Bay Tech and IMG. He ultimately joined the Ascenders, who are a national powerhouse. 

Though the loss of Gainey hurts, Roberts said the ground game still is in solid shape thanks to an offensive line that returns all five starters — Kai Gadson, Shaun Lango, Fred Neal, DJ Porcher and J’shon Scott. And that list does not include Melvin Sylvester, a 6-foot-5, 270 pound incoming freshman who should get plenty of playing time. 

James Evans, John Ponder and Ronald Sims will now handle the bulk of the rushing load, Roberts said. 

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Football

Meet Lakewood’s queen of the block

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Melia Garcia knew all about the success of Lakewood’s athletic program before arriving this year as an advanced placement and honors world history teacher.

The subject that really piqued her interest was football. Discussions about the sport constantly came up, particularly among the players in her classes.

Garcia was hooked. She became one of the Spartans’ most ardent supporters, attending nearly every game.  

Still, Garcia grew tired of watching from the stands. So she came up with an idea that would allow her to be more directly involved with the program.

In January, Garcia asked Lakewood coach Cory Moore about joining the football staff. 

There were no double takes from Moore, despite Garcia having no previous coaching experience. 

“I knew she was serious about it,” Moore said. “And I welcomed it because I saw just how good of a teacher Melia is in the classroom and how well she interacted with her students.

“I thought that was exactly the kind of addition we could use on staff.”

At first, Moore had Garcia observe offseason conditioning so they could decide the best fit for her as an assistant. 

Garcia zeroed in on the trenches. 

She wanted to coach the offensive line. 

“That’s the one area I felt most passionate about,” Garcia said. 

Women have broken plenty of barriers to coach at the highest level of football. There are currently eight female coaches in the NFL, including two on the staff of the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar. 

Those trailblazers helped pave the way for other females to become coaches in the college and high school ranks.

Garcia admires what they have done, but insists that is not the sole reason she wanted to pursue a job as an assistant. 

“I really wanted to set my own boundaries,” she said. 

So Garcia created her path by instructing big-bodied students to pave the way for others on the offensive side of the ball. 

The bond with blockers grew from her friendship with Tyler Armillay, a former standout lineman from Scranton, Pa. who went to play at Assumption and is now the offensive line coach at Endicott College.

Their conversations would often be about life on the line. Armillay taught Garcia the fundamentals of pass protection and moving defenders out of the way in the run game.

Garcia felt she could do the same with her students. 

Before that could happen, she needed acceptance. Garcia worried how a bunch of teenage boys would react to a female instructing them on the field. 

Those concerns were quickly soothed.

“Once the guys could see that she knew what she was talking about, they had a great relationship,” Moore said. 

Garcia gets her point across because she knows how to teach.

“I think they wanted someone that was nurturing enough to not crush their spirit but tough enough to make sure they didn’t mess around,” Garcia said.  

Her involvement is not restricted to drawing Xs and Os on a board. During spring practice, Garcia stood among her pupils as they jabbed and punched. She talked about body balance and counterstrikes and proper footwork.

Often, Garcia demonstrated by getting in the middle of piles. 

“Melia is not just some bystander,” Moore said. “At practice, she is in the dirt, in the grind. She’s hands-on all the way.”

Isaiah Cooper, a three-year starter who has played every position on the Spartans’ offensive line, was impressed. 

“She’s phenomenal,” Cooper said of Garcia. “You couldn’t even tell she was new. There were some things I didn’t know, that she knew. And she knows how to listen and find ways to relay the information in ways that we’ll understand.”

Her impact is felt off the field, too. 

Moore made Garcia an academic advisor. Players are required to turn in progress reports, complete with signatures from the teachers. Those who fail to do so are not allowed to practice. 

“The grades were a little rough for some, and now they’ve improved tremendously,” Cooper said. “Everything has gone a lot more smoothly as far as academics.”

And they should continue to improve with Garcia running study hall this fall.

“Melia has far exceeded my expectations,” Moore said. “In the classroom. On the field. She does it all.

“She is the real deal.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama

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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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