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Friday night football forecast



Games to watch

Robinson (4-0) at Jesuit (6-0), 7:30

Outlook: The Knights, who are off to their best start in years, are dealing with COVID issues that forced their starting quarterback and kicker to quarantine. Being depleted does not bode well against the Tigers, who could likely finish the regular season undefeated. 

Pinkos’ pick: Jesuit by 42

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 42-14

Victory Christian (4-1) at Calvary Christian (5-0), 7

Outlook: This is the biggest test of the season so far for the Warriors. Expect a high-scoring game. Last week, the Storm fell short in a 41-35 loss to Berkeley Prep. 

Pinkos’ pick: Victory Christian by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Calvary Christian 35-34

Wesley Chapel (3-1) at River Ridge (3-2), 7:30

Outlook: Both teams are trying to rebound after losing last week. Points could be at a premium. The Wildcats have allowed 34 points all season. The Knights have given up 67.  

Pinkos’ pick: River Ridge by 19

Putnam’s prediction: River Ridge 28-13

Sickles (2-2) at East Lake (3-2), 7:30

Outlook: Three of the Gryphons’ four games have been decided by a combined eight points. This could be another tight one that could come down to the last possession. 

Pinkos’ pick: East Lake by 21

Putnam’s prediction: East Lake 20-13

Tampa Bay Tech (2-3) at Armwood (3-1)

Outlook: The Hawks have reeled off three straight wins since losing by a point to Bloomingdale in the season opener. The Titans know all about close outcomes. Twice, they have lost on the final play of regulation.  

Pinkos’ pick: Armwood by 13

Putnam’s prediction: Armwood 27-26

The remaining schedule

NFEI at Zephyrhills Christian, 4 p.m.

Pinkos’ pick: Zephyrhills Christian by 18 

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills Christian 31-16

Jacksonville Young Kids in Motion at Keswick Christian, 6

Pinkos’ pick: Keswick Christian by 1 

Putnam’s prediction: Keswick Christian 30-28

Bishop McLaughlin at CFCA, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Central Florida Christian by 26

Putnam’s prediction: Bishop McLaughlin 27-26

Academy at the Lakes at Shorecrest Prep, 7

Pinkos’ pick: AATL by 21

Putnam’s prediction: AATL 35-21

Jordan Christian Prep at Cambridge Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Cambridge by 37

Putnam’s prediction: Cambridge Christian 42-7

Northside Christian at Bradenton Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Bradenton Christian by 4 

Putnam’s prediction: Northside Christian 21-16

Central at Crystal River, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Crystal River by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Crystal River 14-7

AACA at Carrollwood Day, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Carrollwood Day by 20

Putnam’s prediction: Carrollwood Day 35-14

Pasco at Lake Minneola, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Lake Minneola by 32

Putnam’s prediction: Lake Minneola 26-21

Countryside at Clearwater, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Clearwater by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater 31-14

Chaminade at Clearwater Academy, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Chaminade by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Chaminade 38-34

Cypress Creek at Dunedin, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Cypress Creek by 3 

Putnam’s prediction: Dunedin 17-14

St. Petersburg Catholic at Sarasota Out-of-Door, 7

Pinkos’ pick: SPC by 13

Putnam’s prediction: SPC 28-13

Pinellas Park at Sunlake, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Pinellas Park by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Pinellas Park 27-14

Nature Coast at Springstead, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Nature Coast by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Nature Coast 31-7

Blake at Steinbrenner, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Steinbrenner by 47

Putnam’s prediction: Steinbrenner 48-6

Parrish Community at Hudson, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Hudson by 29

Putnam’s prediction: Hudson 35-7

Jefferson at Brandon, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Jefferson by 55

Putnam’s prediction: Jefferson 49-0

Newsome at Haines City, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Newsome by 60

Putnam’s prediction: Newsome 

Lennard at Ridge Community, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Lennard by 1 

Putnam’s prediction: Lennard 20-19

Anclote at Zephyrhills, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Zephyrhills by 27

Putnam’s prediction: Zephyrhills 35-20

Durant at Lakeland, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Lakeland by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Lakeland 30-14

Middleton at King, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: King by 1

Putnam’s prediction: King 14-12

Citrus at Hernando, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Hernando by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Hernando 42-21

Fivay at Freedom, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Fivay by 36

Putnam’s prediction: Fivay 42-7

Gaither at Land O’ Lakes, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Gaither by 59

Putnam’s prediction: Gaither 41-0

Sarasota Riverview at Riverview, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Sarasota Riverview by 31

Putnam’s prediction: Sarasota Riverview 42-13

Lakeland Kathleen at Bloomingdale, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Bloomingdale by 45

Putnam’s prediction: Bloomingdale 49-6

Hillsborough at Spoto, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Hillsborough by 46

Putnam’s prediction: Hillsborough 52-7

East Bay at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wiregrass Ranch by 17

Putnam’s prediction: Wiregrass Ranch 24-14

Avon Park at Seffner Christian, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Seffner Christian by 14

Putnam’s prediction: Seffner Christian 21-7

Gibbs at Chamberlain, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Chamberlain by 28

Putnam’s prediction: Chamberlain 26-20

Gulf at Tarpon Springs, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Tarpon Springs by 34

Putnam’s prediction: Tarpon Springs 14-0

Alonso at Wharton, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wharton by 20

Putnam’s prediction: Wharton 24-6

Cardinal Mooney at Clearwater Central Catholic, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: CCC by 14

Putnam’s prediction: CCC 20-14

Lecanto at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Lecanto by 3

Putnam’s prediction: Weeki Wachee 14-10

Palm Harbor University at Plant, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Plant by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Plant 23-14

Strawberry Crest at Plant City, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Plant City by 52

Putnam’s prediction: Plant 56-7

Leto at Mitchell, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Mitchell by 63

Putnam’s prediction: Mitchell 49-0

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College Football

Iowa State now a hotspot for local football recruits



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



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



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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