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Friday night rewind




Boca Ciega 26, Clearwater 16 (Thursday)

Pinellas Park 31, Gibbs 0

All Saints Academy 39, Academy at the Lakes 20 (Thursday)

Jesuit 35, Tampa Catholic 21

Bloomingdale 38, Newsome 10

Hillsborough 32, Plant City 14

Zephyrhills 21, Pasco 0

Leto 6, Robinson 0

Villages 43, River Ridge 35

Victory Christian 16, Cambridge Christian 12

Keswick Christian 26, Anclote 20

Calvary Christian 42, Land O’ Lakes 0

Zephyrhills Christian 28, Sunlake 17

Countryside 28, Northeast 12

Mitchell 48, Wesley Chapel 10

CCC 35, Sarasota Booker 6

Lakewood 52, Plant 6

SPC 44, Northside Christian 40

Seffner Christian 45, Carrollwood Day 29

Palmetto 50, Blake 8

Cypress Creek 44, Gulf 3

Strawberry Crest 36, Freedom 33

Hernando 26, Lecanto 8

Lakewood Ranch 28, Seminole 0

PHU 55, Dunedin 27

Durant 20, Wharton 9

Venice 51, Clearwater Academy 26

East Lake 35, Tarpon Springs 0

Nature Coast 56, Weeki Wachee 21

Chamberlain 56, East Bay 14

Tampa Bay Tech 75, Riverview 14

Middleton 9, Lennard 7

Jefferson 34, Alonso 31

Prime time teams

Leto: The Falcons snapped a 60-game losing streak (on the field) dating back to 2014 with a win over Robinson in the regular season finale. 

Boca Ciega: Snapped a six-game losing streak to Clearwater while extending their current win streak to six going into the playoffs. 

Jesuit: The Tigers maintained their dominance over Tampa Catholic, beating their rival for the 21st straight time in the series. 

Hillsborough: After losing the opener against Armwood, the Terriers have reeled off six straight wins, none bigger than the one against Plant City in the regular season finale. 

Bloomingdale: Completed the first undefeated regular season in school history with a win against Newsome. 

Mitchell: By beating Wesley Chapel, the Mustangs finished the regular season for the second time in school history.

Seffner Christian: After starting 1-4, the Crusaders have won four straight, including a victory state contender Carrollwood Day in the regular season finale. 

Prime time performers

QB Ezra Brennan, Sr., Mitchell: Set the school record and tied the Pasco County one for most touchdown passes in a game with six in a win over Wesley Chapel. 

QB Andrew Burgess II, Jr., Cypress Creek: Accounted for 261 yards (154 passing, 107 rushing) and scored four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing) in a win over Gulf. 

RB Contae Cason, Sr., Hernando: Accounted for 299 yards (234 rushing, 65 receiving) and two touchdowns in a win over Lecanto. 

DB Ryan Cunningham, Sr., East Lake: returned two punts for touchdowns in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

QB CJ Denmark, Jr., St. Petersburg Catholic: Threw for 211 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Northside Christian. 

ATH Dedric Hall, Sr., Nature Coast: Racked up 294 total yards (165 receiving, 70 punt returns, 59 rushing) and scored three touchdown in a win over 

RB Johnathan Henderson, Jr., Leto: His touchdown run was all the Falcons needed to beat Robinson and break their losing streak. 

WR/DB Antonio Jamison, Sr., Chamberlain: Had a touchdown reception and returned an interception and a kickoff for scores in a win over East Bay. 

RB Leroy Lopez, Sr., Countryside: Ran for 72 yards and a touchdown in a win over Northeast. 

QB Dylan Oester, Sr., Dunedin: Thew for four touchdowns, adding to his single-season school record of 22, in a loss to Palm Harbor University.

WR Marco Palaganas, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic: Had eight catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Northside Christian.  

QB Bryson Martin, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Threw for 147 yards and a touchdown in a win over Sarasota Booker. 

WR Caleb Rogers, Sr., Keswick Christian: Had a touchdown reception and scored on a kickoff return in a win over Anclote. 

RB Joquez Smith, So., Jesuit: Ran for 94 yards and two touchdowns in a win over rival Tampa Catholic. 

RB Jesse Waldrop, Sr., Strawberry Crest: Ran for 104 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Freedom. 

RB Robby Washington, So., Freedom: Ran for 228 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Strawberry Crest. 

DL Justice Williams, Sr., Seffner Christian: Recorded five tackles, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one that he recovered and returned for a touchdown in a win over Carrollwood Day. 

QB Titan Williamson, Sr., Seffner Christian: Threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a win over Carrollwood Day. 

Still perfect

Six area teams finished the regular season undefeated.

Bloomingdale (8-0) 

Gaither (8-0)

Jesuit (10-0)

Lakewood (7-0)

Mitchell (8-0)

Nature Coast (7-0) 

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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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