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Friday night football forecast



Games to watch

Armwood (3-2) at Gaither (5-0), 7:30

Outlook: This is perhaps the most anticipated game of the season. Players from both teams took to social media this summer to stake their claim as to which team is the best in Hillsborough County. Gaither has zeroed in on this game ever since the schedule came out. Last season, the Cowboys’ chance to go undefeated in the regular season was wiped out with a 14-0 loss to the Hawks. Gaither was able to take solace in holding Armwood to its lowest point total of the 2019 season. This year, the Cowboys’ defense is even better, allowing just 20 points in five games and recording three straight shutouts entering tonight’s game. Armwood’s offense has been the team’s biggest strength this season.. In the last four games, the Hawks are averaging 45 points per game. Both of Armwood’s losses this season have been by a point (15-14 to Bloomingdale and 48-47 to Tampa Bay Tech).   

Pinkos’ pick: Armwood by 4

Putnam’s prediction: Gaither 20-19

[Total_Soft_Poll id=”48″]

Bloomingdale (5-0) at Lakeland (3-1), 7:30

Outlook: The Bulls already exacted revenge for a pair of losses to Armwood by beating the Hawks in the season opener. Now, Bloomingdale can get payback for its other loss last season by knocking off the Dreadnaughts. A win would do more than just settle scores. It also would make the Bulls the favorite to advance out of a highly competitive region in Class 7A. 

Pinkos’ pick: Bloomingdale by 4

Putnam’s prediction: Bloomingdale 14-10

[Total_Soft_Poll id=”49″]

Carrollwood Day (4-2) at Cambridge (6-0), 7

Outlook: This game is exactly what the Lancers needed: a test. All six of Cambridge Christian’s wins this season have come against teams with a losing record. Carrollwood Day, winless a year ago, is a serious playoff contender thanks to a number of high-profile transfers that arrived in the offseason. A win here would make the Patriots the team in Class 2A, Region 3. 

Pinkos’ pick: Cambridge by 6

Putnam’s prediction: Carrollwood Day 28-21

[Total_Soft_Poll id=”50″]

Newsome (4-0) at Sarasota Riverview (4-1), 7:30

Outlook: A 20-14 loss in last year’s meeting ultimately cost the Wolves the Class 8A, District 8 title. There is no district title to play for this season, but Newsome still has plenty at stake. A win would keep a perfect season intact but also get payback for last year’s loss and instill some confidence going into the postseason. 

Pinkos’ pick: Sarasota Riverview by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Newsome 21-16

[Total_Soft_Poll id=”51″]

Remaining schedule 

Bell Creek Academy at Academy at the Lakes, 7

Pinkos pick: Academy at the Lakes by 39

Putnam’s prediction: Academy at the Lakes 34-21

Northside Christian at Keswick Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Northside Christian by 19

Putnam’s prediction: Northside Christian 31-20

Bishop McLaughlin at St. Petersburg Catholic, 7

Pinkos’ pick: St. Petersburg Catholic by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Bishop McLaughlin 28-26

Lakewood Ranch at Hollins, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Lakewood Ranch by 20

Putnam’s prediction: Lakewood Ranch 30-14

Shorecrest Prep at Gainesville Oak Hall, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Oak Hall by 43

Putnam’s prediction: Oak Hall 42-7

Springstead at Citrus, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Springstead by 16

Putnam’s prediction: Springstead 28-14

Steinbrenner at Palm Harbor University, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Steinbrenner by 17

Putnam’s prediction: Steinbrenner 28-16

Out-of-Door Academy at Indian Rocks Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Indian Rocks Christian by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Indian Rocks Christian 21-14

Seffner Christian at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Cardinal Mooney by 13

Putnam’s prediction: Cardinal Mooney 24-13

Merritt Island Christian at Lakeside Christian, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Lakeside Christian by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Lakeside Christian 28-21

Tampa Bay Christian at Bradenton Saint Stephen’s, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Saint Stephen’s by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Saint Stephen’s 28-20

Hudson at Dunedin, 7

Pinkos’ pick: Dunedin by 17

Putnam’s prediction: Dunedin 34-30

Jesuit at Gibbs, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Jesuit by 52

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 49-14

Brandon at Blake, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Blake by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Blake 20-7

Haines City at Lennard, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Lennard by 35

Putnam’s prediction: Lennard 45-14

Hernando at Central, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Hernando by 63

Putnam’s prediction: Hernando 56-0

Ridge Community at Riverview, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Ridge Community by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Ridge Community 35-17

Sickles at Pinellas Park, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Pinellas Park by 13

Putnam’s prediction: Pinellas Park 24-6

Spoto at Middleton, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Middleton by 20

Putnam’s prediction: Middleton 28-6

Strawberry Crest at Durant, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Durant by 26

Putnam’s prediction: Durant 42-13

Tarpon Springs at Anclote, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Anclote by 3

Putnam’s prediction: Anclote 16-10

Land O’ Lakes at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wiregrass Ranch by 30

Putnam’s prediction: Wiregrass Ranch 37-14

Cypress Creek at Fivay, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Fivay by 19

Putnam’s prediction: Fivay 31-12

Chamberlain at Sarasota Booker, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Chamberlain by 28

Putnam’s prediction: Chamberlain 35-7

East Lake at Leto, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: East Lake by 35

Putnam’s prediction: East Lake 42-7

Robinson at Bradenton Bayshore, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Robinson by 41

Putnam’s prediction: Robinson 34-6

Crystal River at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Weeki Wachee by 6

Putnam’s prediction: Weeki Wachee 20-14

Wharton at Plant, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wharton by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Wharton 28-7

Lecanto at Nature Coast Tech, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Nature Coast by 18

Putnam’s prediction: Nature Coast 34-13

Gulf at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Wesley Chapel by 35

Putnam’s prediction: Wesley Chapel 34-0

CCC at Pasco, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: CCC by 25

Putnam’s prediction: CCC 21-6

King at Hillsborough, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Hillsborough by 24

Putnam’s prediction: Hillsborough 31-14

Plant City at Lakeland Kathleen, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Plant City by 26

Putnam’s prediction: Plant City 35-9

Mitchell at Sunlake, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Mitchell by 49

Putnam’s prediction: Mitchell 49-14

Zephyrhills Christian at Sarasota, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Sarasota by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Sarasota 28-20

Berkeley Prep at Lakeland Christian, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: N/A

Putnam’s prediction: Berkeley Prep 21-20 

East Bay at Jefferson, 7:30

Pinkos’ pick: Jefferson by 15

Putnam’s prediction: Jefferson 28-13

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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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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama



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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