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Friday night rewind




Cambridge Christian 42, Keswick Christian 7

Palm Harbor University 31, Alonso 17

Tampa Catholic 55, Cypress Creek 7

Bloomingdale 35, Plant City 21

Pinellas Park 28, East Bay 7

Tampa Bay Tech 39, Bartow 14

Jesuit 50, River Ridge 7

Hillsborough 31, Heritage 0

Mitchell 42, Lake Howell 6

Sarasota Riverview 42, Plant 0

Lakewood 26, Astronaut 13

Largo 33, Hollins 0

Viera 35, Sunlake 0

Berkeley Prep 33, Bishop Verot 6

Seffner Christian 21, Zephyrhills Christian 6

Lakeland Christian 41, Calvary Christian 0

Lake Gibson 77, Spoto 0

Chamberlain 40, Wesley Chapel 0

Wharton 34, Riverview 27

Hudson 27, Space Coast 20

Lake Minneola 54, Land O’ Lakes 0

Anclote 42, Central 6

Clearwater 56, St. Petersburg 6

Zephyrhills 26, Weeki Wachee 0

Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 31, CCC 24 (OT)

Gaither 41, Seminole 7

Lakeland Kathleen 27, East Lake 10

Fort Pierce Westwood 28, Middleton 0

Bayside 18, Jefferson 14

Northside Christian 48, Indian Rocks Christian 17

Bishop Moore 42, Nature Coast 14

Lake Wales 48, Gibbs 14

Auburndale 45, King 10

Pasco 9, Lecanto 8

Lakeland George Jenkins 13, Strawberry Crest 0

Deltona 19, Freedom 13

Countryside 21, Springstead 7

Hernando 55, Tarpon Springs 14

Carrollwood Day 39, St. Petersburg Catholic 14

Prime time players

RB/LB Jaiden Bivens, Jr., Cambridge Christian: Ran for 77 yards and two touchdowns on offense and had a team-leading nine tackles and a sack on defense in win over Keswick Christian.

QB Ezra Brennan, Sr., Mitchell: Three of his six completions went for touchdowns in a win over Lake Howell. 

RB Contae Cason, Sr., Hernando: Ran for 131 yards and three touchdowns on just seven carries and had a 65-yard reception for a score in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

CB Jason Cornwall, Sr., Wharton: Picked off three passes, including one he returned for a touchdown, in a win over Riverview. 

DL Mario Eugenio, Jr., Gaither: Recorded six tackles and a sack and scored on a fumble and interception return in a win over Seminole.  

WR Greg Gaines III, Jr., Tampa Bay Tech: Finished with 104 yards receiving on four catches, three going for touchdowns in a win over Bartow. 

RB Malcolm Gibbs, Sr., Pasco: Ran for 66 yards and had the go-ahead touchdown in a win over Lecanto. 

ATH Antonio Jamison, Sr., Chamberlain: Had four catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Wesley Chapel. 

QB Scott Lynch, So., Northside Christian: Threw for 243 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Northside Christian. 

CB Tymar McKever, Sr., Zephyrhills: Recorded an interception and recovered a fumble in a win over Weeki Wachee. 

ATH Jordan Oladokun, Sr., Gaither: Caught two passes for 97 yards, both going for touchdowns, and recorded an interception in a win over Seminole. 

QB Joe Pesansky, Sr., Jesuit: Threw for 323 yards and five touchdowns in a win over River Ridge. 

QB Geramyah Porter, Fr., Anclote: Accounted for 235 yards (140 passing, 95 rushing) and six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in a win over Central.

ATH Kadeem Robinson, Sr., Riverview: Accounted for all four of his team’s touchdowns in a loss to Wharton. 

RB Zyre Roundtree, Sr., Zephyrhills: Ran for136 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Weeki Wachee.  

QB Tre Simmons, Sr., Bloomingdale: Threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in a win over Plant City. 

QB Jack Smitherman, Sr., Lakewood: Completed seven of his nine passes for 218 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Astronaut. 

ATH Junior Vandeross, Jr., Jesuit: Had four catches for 207 yards and three touchdowns in a win over River Ridge.  

RB Jaydunn Walker, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Ran for 111 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Zephyrhills Christian. 

DB Josiah Whetzel, So., Countryside: Finished with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown in a win over Springstead. 

RB Mitchell Wood, Sr., Palm Harbor University: Ran for 218 yards and scored three touchdowns on 25 carries in a win over Alonso. 

QB David Wright, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Threw for 335 yards and five touchdowns in win over Bartow. He now has a combined 17 touchdown passes in his last four games. 

Auden Tate honored

Former Wharton standout Auden Tate, now a wide receiver with the Cincinnati Bengals, attended his alma mater’s Class 8A play-in game against Riverview this past weekend for a ceremony to retire his No. 18 jersey.  

Tate played for Wharton from 2011-14. As a senior, he was ranked among the top 25 receivers in the country and had offers from just about every major college program before signing with Florida State. 

With the Seminoles, Tate became a dependable target. In 2018, he was selected in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Bengals. 

Tate was in Pittsburgh for the Bengals game against the Steelers on Sunday. He finished with two catches for 24 yards. 

What a catch

Bloomingdale’s Agiye Hall and Plant City’s Mario Williams, two of the nation’s top receivers, met for the second time this season in a 7A play-in game this past weekend. 

Both put up impressive stats — again. The Bulls prevailed for the second time, sweeping the season series to move on to the quarterfinals.

Here is how they fared in the two meetings

Agiye Hall, Bloomingdale

National position ranking: 6th (ESPN), 12th (247 Sports), 15th (Rivals). 

College: Alabama

First matchup stats: 6 receptions, 104 yards, 2 touchdowns (W 37-20))

Second matchup stats: 3 receptions, 64 yards, 1 touchdown (W 35-21)

Mario Williams, Plant City

Ranking: 1st (ESPN), 2nd (Rivals), 16th (247 Sports)

College: Oklahoma

First matchup stats: 6 receptions, 81 yards, 2 touchdowns (L 20-37)

Second matchup stats: 5 receptions, 46 yards (L 21-35)

Wright in verge of record

Tampa Bay Tech quarterback David Wright needs one more touchdown pass to tie the school record of 61 career touchdown passes originally set by Michael Penix Jr., now a star at Indiana. Here are their numbers

Michael Penix Jr. 

Years: 2016-17

Games played: 24 

TDs: 61

INTs: 6

David Wright

Years: 2018-20

Games played: 32

TDs: 60

INTs: 16

Big time blowouts

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Florida High School Athletic Association decided every team that opted to stay in the state series would qualify for the playoffs this season. There were no district titles or points-based system. Instead, the pairings were determined by a blind draw. 

That meant a lot of mismatches, particularly among area teams. 

Of the 39 postseason games involving local programs this past weekend, 33 were decided by double digits, including 18 by 30 or more points. 

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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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