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Friday night rewind

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Scoreboard

Bloomingdale 37, Plant City 20

CCC 14, Clearwater 10

Armwood 34, Wiregrass Ranch 6

River Ridge 35, Pasco 6

Berkeley Prep 19, Tampa Catholic 14

Tampa Bay Tech 47, East Bay 6

Sandalwood 39, Clearwater Academy 38

Zephyrhills Chr. 35, Zarephath Academy 0

Calvary Christian 20, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 10

Lecanto 67, Central 0

Sickles 14, Zephyrhills 13

Carrollwood Day 44, Bishop McLaughlin 13

Palm Harbor University 14, Alonso 9

Mitchell 35, East Lake 0

Jesuit 41, Chamberlain 12

Wesley Chapel 16, Anclote 7

Newsome 49, Riverview 14

Wharton 14, King 0

Lakeland 44, Strawberry Crest 0

Hillsborough 17, Jefferson 13

Sarasota Riverview 49, Lennard 26

Robinson 29, Sarasota Booker 7

Gaither 43, Fivay 0

Durant 34, Sumner 6

Gibbs 26, Sarasota Booker 16

Academy at the Lakes 53, Duval Charter 18

Northside Christian 58, Bradenton Saint Stephen’s 36

Dunedin 41, Parrish Community 0

Victory Christian 34, Seffner Christian 0

Cypress Creek 47, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic 0

Pinellas Park 44, Leto 0

Prime time teams

Berkeley Prep: The defense came through with a goal-line stand in the final minutes to preserve a much-needed 19-14 victory over previously undefeated Tampa Catholic. 

Clearwater Central Catholic: The Marauders have a knack for winning games with some last second panache. Anthony Colandrea hit Jarquez Green for the go-ahead touchdown with eight seconds remaining  to beat rival Clearwater 14-10. That win came two weeks after CCC scored in the final minute to knock off Wiregrass Ranch.  

Hillsborough: After being idle for two weeks and losing to Armwood in its opener, the Terriers showed their resolve by rallying to beat Jefferson 17-13 for their first win of the season. 

Bloomingdale: The Bulls, who scored a combined 39 points in their first wins of the season, nearly matched that total Friday night in a 37-20 win over Plant City to remain unbeaten. 

Mitchell: The Mustangs allowed just 85 yards of offense in shutting out East Lake 35-0. In three games, Mitchell has given up a combined 15 points. 

Prime time performers

RB Joey Sipp, Jr., Hillsborough: Scored two rushing touchdowns, the last coming midway through the fourth quarter that put the Terriers ahead for good against Jefferson.  

QB Tre Simmons, Sr., Bloomingdale: The dual-threat quarterback had his best game of the season, throwing for 236 yards and three touchdowns and adding 73 yards and two more scores on the ground in the win over Plant City.  

RB Xavier Townsend, Jr., Berkeley Prep: The Buccaneers’ biggest playmaker scored twice on two short runs to help his team beat rival Tampa Catholic. 

WR/DB Jarquez Green, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Accounted for both Marauders’ touchdowns, including a 13-yard touchdown catch for the winning score against Clearwater.  

RB Joquez Smith, So., Jesuit: The dependable runner got off to a strong start with two touchdowns in the first quarter that gave the Tigers a lead they never relinquished against Chamberlain. 

What a catch!

Friday’s Bloomingdale-Plant City game was a matchup between two of the nation’s top receivers. The Bulls’ Agiye Hall, an Alabama commit, is a four-star recruit who is ranked as one of the nation’s top receivers in the 2021 class. The Raiders’ Mario Williams, an Oklahoma commit, is another four-star prospect and is listed as the top receiver in the 2021 class according to ESPN. 

Both lived up to the hype. 

They each had a pair of touchdown caches, along with some of other highlight-worthy grabs. 

Okay, that was on offense.

What about defense? 

The two made plays on that side of the ball, too.

Hall knocked down a pass intended for Williams. 

Williams picked off a pass. 

But Hall had the better result. His team won 37-20. 

Unbeaten, untied, unbelievable

There are still plenty of undefeated teams left in the area. Some were expected to be in that position. Others have opened some eyes with their perfect start. Here are three of the biggest turnarounds this season. 

Robinson (4-0): The Knights have already surpassed their win total from last season thanks to an offense that is averaging 37 points per game. Their win streak will be put to the test against undefeated Jesuit on Oct. 15.  

Wesley Chapel (3-0): The momentum for this strong start began last season when the Wildcats won four of their last games. They have a good shot to still be undefeated when they face River Ridge on Oct. 11.   

https://twitter.com/WhartonWildcats/status/1312207182952243200

Wharton (3-0): Under new coach Mike Williams, the Wildcats are off to their first 3-0 start since 2015. The success is due largely to a defense that has allowed just three points in the first three games. 

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College Football

Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits

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Since arriving at Iowa State five years ago, Matt Campbell has guided the program to four straight bowl appearances, including a Fiesta Bowl win this past season that vaulted the Cyclones to No. 9 in the final AP poll, the highest ranking in school history. 

That success is due in part to the talent accumulated in Florida, especially the Tampa Bay area. 

There are currently five local players on the roster, all of whom were recruited by Campbell’s staff. Anthony Johnson, a former standout at St. Petersburg, starts at cornerback. Two other defensive backs, T.J. Tampa (Lakewood) and Kym-Mani King (Mitchell), should get significant playing time this season. 

It does not end there. 

This offseason Iowa State had perhaps its biggest haul of local talent with three offensive stars — Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Rocco Becht, Tampa Bay Tech receiver Greg Gaines III and Berkeley Prep athlete Xavier Townsend — all committing to the Cyclones as part of the 2022 class.  

Gaines is a four-star recruit while Becht and Townsend are both three-star prospects according to 247Sports. The addition of that trio helped the Cyclones’ current recruiting class rise to No. 5 in the Big 12 and No. 23 nationally. 

The recruiting efforts are not just limited to the staff. Becht, who committed in April, said he tried his best to get more offensive talent from the area to join him. 

“I talked to Greg and Xavier everyday,” Becht said of his recruiting pitch to that duo. “I was on them from the beginning.”

Rocco Becht

Iowa State’s staff also zeroed on those targets — and the area.

“The Tampa Bay area is a huge priority,” said Cyclones assistant head coach/linebackers coach Tyson Veidt, who recruits locally. “Some of our best players are from there and it has helped us develop some all-around continuity.”

Iowa State has a knack for landing playmakers in the bay area, particularly on the defensive side. It started more than a decade ago with linebacker Jeremiah George (Clearwater) and defensive back Leonard Johnson (Largo), both of whom played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their NFL careers. 

There has been even more of an emphasis on the area with Campbell and his staff.

That comes from experience. 

Before taking over the Cyclones, Campbell was an offensive coordinator (2009-11) and head coach (2012-15) at Toledo. During his time with the Rockets, the program landed several prospects from the area, including former Lakewood star Bernard Reedy, who went on to play in the NFL. 

In fact, Campbell had at least one local commit in each of his recruiting classes as Toledo’s head coach. That helped the Rockets rank among the top two recruiting classes in the MAC in three of the four years during Campbell’s tenure. 

The trend has continued at Iowa State. 

And it is having an impact, especially with the camaraderie among locals. 

“Well, of course, the decision was for me and my future as a student athlete,” said Townsend, who committed to the Cyclones on Sunday. “But it was icing on the cake knowing a couple of my boys are coming up with me.”

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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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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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