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Northeast coach Jeremy Frioud to resign at end of season

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Northeast’s Jeremy Frioud announced this will be his final season as football coach. He turned in his resignation letter this week and has already informed the players of his decision. 

Frioud currently is 32-34 in seven seasons. The Vikings face Countryside in a play-in postseason game on Friday, which could be Frioud’s finale with the program if they lose. 

“I love Northeast,” Frioud said. “I love the kids and administration. I even love the parents. I’ve just been through way, way, way too much to heal.”

Photo courtesy of Tracy Stephens

Since taking over the Vikings in 2014, Frioud has gone through multiple tragedies with players.

Six years ago, defensive lineman Leshawn Williams, then 17, sustained a knee injury that required his leg to eventually be amputated. In August of 2018, Ruben Marcano, a 14-year-old freshman on the junior varsity team, died in an accident while at home.

But nothing compared to the pain Frioud endured last season. 

In September of 2019, Northeast running back Jacquez Welch collapsed during a game. Doctors at Bayfront Health discovered Welch had the rare arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal tangle of blood vessels and arteries that can cause bleeding on the brain if ruptured.

Days later, Welch was taken off life support and his organs were donated.

Frioud was on the field, holding Welch in his arms after he collapsed. Frioud was there in the hospital, ushering in players to say their goodbyes to a beloved teammate. 

Within days, Frioud got a tattoo to honor Welch.

The team had little time to mourn. 

After all, the Vikings were still trying to cope with the death of former teammate Marquis Scott, who was shot while riding his bike three days before Welch tragically fell on the field. 

“I’ve had two die in a week, three in a year,” Frioud said last year. “I’m not a woe-is-me guy. And there’s billions of people that’s got it worse. I do this job for free. But this is what a football coach does. He leads high school boys to what they’ve got to get through.

“Sometimes you get thrown a curveball like this and it makes it impossible to do your job and to coach football. Now all you’re trying to do is get these kids to class, make sure their grades don’t fall off. The hard part is not tucking your tail and running when things get awful. Not blown out in games awful. People are dead awful. Tragic stuff that people have no idea about.”

Frioud said he plans to get a job closer to his home in Clearwater so he can spend more time with his wife (former Olympian Brooke Bennett) and their two sons.

“I need to be closer to my boys,” Frioud said. “I want to spend every second with my beautiful family.”

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The Hernando County Football Player of the Week

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FB/LB Zack Buzze, Sr., Central

This season has been challenging for the winless Bears. 

Outscored 325-22 in eight games, Central tries to accentuate the positives to build upon next season.  

Zack Buzze is one of the bright spots. The linebacker leads the team in tackles with 44. 

Against Gulf two weeks ago, Buzze recorded a team-high 13 tackles. 

That got the attention of fans. Buzze received 49 percent of the votes (699) in the Hernando County football player of the week poll to beat out Hernando’s Jordan Williams, who had 44 percent (628 votes).

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The Pasco County Football Player of the Week

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Hunter McFarland, Sr., Mitchell

After losing 26 players to graduation, Mitchell needed to fill plenty of voids to make the playoffs for the eighth straight season. 

Hunter McFarland has stepped up on defense. 

The senior is enjoying the best season of his high school career. He has 53 tackles, more than he had in his previous two seasons combined. 

McFarland also a nose for the ball — and the quarterback. He has forced three fumbles, recorded 3 ½ sacks and recovered two fumbles. 

Against Hudson two weeks ago, McFarland finished with five tackles, two fumble recoveries, a sack and forced fumble to lead the Mustangs to a victory. 

Fans were impressed. McFarland ended up with 52 percent of the votes (1,462) in the Pasco County football player of the week poll to beat out Zephyrhills Christian’s Jayce Nixon, who had 34 percent (955 votes).  

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The Pinellas County Football Player of the Week

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LB Garrick Ponder, Sr., Pinellas Park

A transfer from Seminole, Garrick Ponder wasted no time making an impact. 

The senior not only became a starter but also turned into one of the area’s defensive stars.

Ponder leads the Patriots in tackles (72), sacks, (six), forced fumbles (three) and fumble recoveries (two). Those numbers are a big reason the Patriots are 6-1 and currently tied with Northeast for second place in Class 6A, District 11. 

Against St,. Petersburg, Ponder had one of his best performances, finishing with 14 tackles and a sack. 

Fans were impressed. Ponder received 40 percent of the votes (812) in the Pinellas County football player of the week poll to beat out Keswick Christian’s Caleb Morris, who had 32 percent (646).   

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