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Football: Region semifinal preview (Classes 8A-5A)

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All games start at 7:30

Class 8A

Steinbrenner (4-2) at Newsome (6-2)

Stat leaders: Steinbrenner: RB Deon Silas, Sr. (160.0 rushing, 62.8 receiving yards per game); QB Bryce Lowe, Jr. (160.2 passing yards per game); LB Austin Brannen, Sr., (11.7 tackles per game); DB Matt Durrance, Sr. (0.5 interceptions per game). Newsome: RB Jason Albritton, Jr. (73.4 rushing yards per game); ATH Kamarii Austin, Sr., (81.6 passing yards per game); LB Caden Huffman (8.8 tackles per game); DB Kevin Osborne, Sr. (0.3 interceptions per game) 

Outlook: This is a rematch from last year’s region quarterfinals that Steinbrenner won 49-20 en route to reaching the state semifinals for the first time. Both teams can pile on the points but so in differing styles. The Warriors use a more balanced approach, led by versatile running back Deon Silas, an Iowa State commit who gained more than 300 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns on the ground in last week’s win over Ridge Community. The Wolves are all about the running game, relying on Jason Albritton (587 yards, 10 touchdowns this season) and J.C. Roque (528 yards, five touchdowns) to move the chains. 

Pinkos’ pick: Newsome by 4

Putnam’s prediction: Steinbrenner 28-20

Class 7A

Armwood (5-3) at Bloomingdale (10-0)

Stat leaders: Armwood: QB Cam’Ron Ransom, Sr. (198.8 passing yards per game); ATH Charles Montgomery, Sr. (73.8 receiving yards per game); WR Jamal Jones, Sr. (57.5 receiving yards per game); DL Desmond Watson, Sr. (4.8 tackles per game); DL Chris Davis, Sr. (1.8 sacks per game); DB Kye Stokes, Jr. (0.5 interceptions per game); DB Demarion Hopkins, Sr. (0.5 interceptions per game). Bloomingdale: QB Tre Simmons (197.3 passing yards per game); WR Agiye Hall, Sr. (93.8 receiving yards per game); LB Wa’myron Howard, Sr. (6.7 tackles per game); DL Malik Simmons, Sr., (0.9 sacks per game); DB Britton Pascoe, Jr. (0.7 interceptions per game).   

Outlook: One of the most anticipated matchups in the region semifinals. The rivals square off again in a rematch from the season opener the Bulls won 15-14. That helped Bloomingdale, ranked 11th overall in the state and 42nd nationally by MaxPreps, go undefeated in the regular season for the first time. Though the Hawks enter with three losses, they have all been by a combined nine points. Special teams were costly in the first meeting with the Bulls. Armwood had a snap sail over the punter’s head that was recovered for a touchdown and allowed a kickoff return for the other score. 

Pinkos’ pick: Bloomingdale by 7

Putnam’s prediction: Bloomingdale 14-13

Lakeland (6-3) at Tampa Bay Tech (7-3)

Stat leaders: Lakeland: QB Mason Martin, Jr. (104.3 passing yards per game); RB Reggie Kellum, Sr. (100.1 rushing yards per game). Tampa Bay Tech: QB David Wright, Sr. (243.2 passing yards per game); RB Rod Gainey, Fr. (64.5 rushing yards per game); WR Jamari Gassett, Sr. (90.1 yards receiving per game); DL/LB Keyon Clark, Jr. (5.5 tackles per game, 1.0 sacks per game); DB Steven Parker, Sr. (0.4 interceptions per game). 

Outlook: This is the game the Titans have been waiting for all season. Last year, Tampa Bay Tech nearly pulled off the upset of the Dreadnaughts, falling 37-30 in the region semifinals. This sime, the Titans get the rematch at home. David Wright threw for 200 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s meeting. He will need another strong performance for Tampa Bay Tech to have a chance to prevail. 

Pinkos’ pick: Tampa Bay Tech by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Tampa Bay Tech 35-34

Mitchell (10-0) at Wekiva (6-3)

Stat leaders: QB Ezra Brennan, Sr., (185.2 passing yards per game); RB Andy Treto, Jr. (82.9 rushing yards per game); WR Jonathan Fairbank, Sr. (55.2 receiving yards per game); WR Elijah Hadley, Sr. (55.4 receiving yards per game); WR Maguire Anderson, Sr. (33.4 receiving yards per game); DB Cole Castro, Sr. (6.4 tackles, 0.5 interceptions per game). Wekiva: QB Junior Muratovic (177.0 passing yards per game); RB Chad Davis, Jr., Sr. (55.8 rushing yards per game); WR Asaad Waseem, So. (60.2 receiving yards per game); LB Johnny Chaney, Sr., (6.4 tackles per game, 0.8 sacks per game); DB Tamareon Foster, Jr. (0.8 interceptions per game).  

Outlook: The best season in Mustangs history continues. They have already won two playoff games for the first time (the first one was a play-in game). Now Mitchell will try to take the next step by making its first region final. To get there, the Mustangs will have to get past its biggest challenge yet. Wekiva’s three losses have all come against quality opponents, including a one-point overtime defeat against undefeated Orlando Jones. The key will be how well Mitchell handles adversity. The Mustangs have won every game this year by 28 or more points.  

Pinkos’ pick: Wekiva by 10

Putnam’s prediction: Mitchell 28-24

Class 6A

Lake Minneola (8-1) at Largo (5-4)

Stat leaders: Largo: RB TJ Holmes, Sr. (134.4 rushing yards per game); QB Garrett Gurney, So. (72.6 passing yards per game); S Zayvion McCluster, So., (8.4 tackles per game); LB Adarius Hayes, Fr. (8.5 tackles per game); DL Deondre Randall, Jr. (1.0 sacks per game); DB Burhaan Hamm, Jr. (0.5 interceptions per game). Lake Minneola: QB Robbie Sanders, Jr. (71.8 passing yards per game); RB Sidarius Walker, Sr. (128.4 rushing yards per game); DB Jamel Butts, Sr. (11.0 tackles per game); DL Brendan Flakes, Sr. (1.0 sacks per game). 

Outlook: A rematch from last year’s region semifinals the Hawks won 33-13. The Packers have not played in two weeks. They advanced in last week’s region quarterfinals after Deltona was forced to forfeit after having multiple players in quarantine due to contact tracing. Largo cannot afford to be rusty, especially on defense. Lake Minneola is averaging 56 points in each of its last four games, all wins. 

Pinkos’ pick: Lake Minneola by 21

Putnam’s prediction: Lake Minneola 28-16

Gaither (10-0) at Countryside (8-3)

Stat leaders: Gaither: QB Kiael Kelly, Sr. (155.4 passing yards per game); RB Ricky Parks, Sr. (69.5 rushing yards per game); WR Drelin Pittman, Jr. (56.9 receiving yards per game); LB Nick Bartalo, Sr. (8.0 tackles per game); LB Hayden Reed, Sr. (6.4 tackles per game); DL Mario Eugenio, Sr. (2.0 sacks per game); DB Jordan Young, Sr. (0.3 interceptions per game); DB Jordan Oladokun, Sr. (0.3 interceptions per game). Countryside: QB Gabe Olds, Sr. (95.0 passing yards per game); RB Zyterius Watts, Jr. (59.7 rushing yards per game); LB Matt Sattinger, Sr. (10.7 tackles per game); DL Carson Burbee, Jr. (0.5 sacks per game). 

Outlook: The Cowboys, ranked 18th overall in the state, are in the region semifinals for the second straight season. They have been dominant against Pinellas County foes in the playoffs, beating Seminole and Clearwater by a combined 76-7 in the first two rounds. The Cougars, meanwhile, are in the region semifinals for the first time since 2010. To pull off the upset, Countryside will have to rely on its running game for some clock-eating drives that produce scores. That will be a tough task against a Gaither defense that has allowed just 45 points all season. 

Pinkos’ pick: Gaither by 28

Putnam’s prediction: Gaither 35-14

Palmetto (7-3) at Hillsborough (8-1) 

Stat leaders: Palmetto: QB Josh Siplin, Sr. (128.1 passing yards per game); RB Sagel Hickson, Sr. (73.9 rushing yards per game); LB Rubin Stamp, Sr. (10.6 tackles per game); DL Jordan Renaud, Sr. (0.6 sacks per game). Hillsborough: QB Caleb Pierce, Jr. (193.7 passing yards per game); RB Jordaan Bailey, Jr. (57.3 rushing yards per game); WR Kareem Chambers, Sr. (58.0 receiving yards per game); LB Joey Sipp Jr. (11.3 tackles per game); LB KJ Harris, Sr. (0.9 sacks per game).  

Outlook: The Terriers, who have won eight straight since dropping the season opener to Armwood, are in the region semifinals for the first time since 2017. Now, Hillsborough is trying to take the next step by reaching the region finals for the first time since 2012. To do that, the Terriers will continue to rely on their balanced offensive attack, led by quarterback Caleb Pierce and running backs Jordaan Bailey and Joey Sipp Jr. The Tigers, which made the state semifinals last season, are in the region semifinals for the third straight season. 

Pinkos’ pick: Palmetto by 6

Putnam’s prediction: Hillsborough 21-19

Class 5A

Zephyrhills (8-2) at Orlando Jones (8-0)

Stat leaders: Zephyrhills: QB Jaxson Rivera, Jr., (48.0 passing yards per game); RB Zyre Roundtree, Sr. (95.7 rushing yards per game); LB Theotis Smith, Jr. (8.4 tackles per game); DL Maguire Neal, Jr. (1.0 sacks per game); DB Tre Gallimore, Sr. (0.3 interceptions per game). Orlando Jones: QB Tysan Robbins, Sr. (156.0 passing yards per game); RB Daquan Harris, Jr. (102.0 rushing yards per game); LB Daniel Mosley, Jr. (6.2 tackles per game); LB Jonathan Aleem Jr., Sr. (0.7 sacks per game). 

Outlook: The Bulldogs, who made the region semifinals for the third time in the past four seasons, were supposed to host this game. But Pasco County implemented new COVID-19 safety guidelines that restricted fans and media members from attending games. To accommodate spectators from both teams, the Florida High School Athletic Association decided to move the game to Orlando Jones. To extend its eight game win streak, Zephyrhills will have to continue to rely on a strong running game, led by Zyre Roundtree and Tre Gallimore. The Fightin’ Tigers, who are ranked 44th in the nation and fifth overall in the state by MaxPreps, played in last year’s state final and are in the region semifinals for the third straight season.  

Pinkos’ pick: Orlando Jones by 31

Putnam’s prediction: Orlando Jones 34-21

Orlando Bishop Moore (6-2) at Jesuit (11-0)

Stat leaders: Orlando Bishop Moore: QB Luke Hedrick, Sr. (236.6 passing yards per game); RB Daniel Flatch, Sr. (61.8 yards per game); WR Marc Morrison, Sr. (85.1 receiving yards per game); LB Sonny Rao, Sr. (7.8 tackles per game); DL/LB Karlis Bailey-Vice, Sr. (1.0 sacks per game); Jesuit: QB Joe Pesansky (204.4 passing yards per game); RB Joquez Smith, So. (80.4 rushing yards per game); WR Junior Vaneross, Jr. (60.6 receiving yards per game); WR Jaydn Girard, So. (46.5 receiving yards per game); LB AJ Cottrill, Jr. (13.1 tackles per game); DB Tyler Corish, Sr. (0.5 sacks per game). 

Outlook: This is familiar territory for the Tigers, who are making their eighth straight region semifinal appearance. Jesuit has been to go on cruise control, winning nine games this season by double digits. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Tigers have outscored River Ridge and Chamberlain by a combined 85-14. It won’t be as easy against the Hornets, whose two losses this season were by a combined seven points. 

Pinkos’ pick: Jesuit by 14

Putnam’s prediction: Jesuit 27-14

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Flag Football

Sydney Stout reaches 100 touchdown passes — this season

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Robinson quarterback Sydney Stout reached an impressive milestone with her 100th touchdown pass on Monday.   

That is not a career mark.

Stout reached that total this season.

The senior already had shattered the flag football single-season state record of 79 touchdown passes and entered the Class 2A region final needing just three touchdowns to hit triple digits. 

No problem. 

Stout threw four touchdown passes — in the first half. 

She added another in the second half to give her 102, a number that will continue to grow. 

After all, the Knights beat Lecanto 34-0 in the region final. Robinson, which has won state titles in five of the past six seasons (the 2020 season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic), advances to the state semifinals on Friday. Stout could end up playing in two more games if the Knights keep their state title streak intact. 

And there’s a good chance of that happening considering Robinson has outscored foes by a combined 816-50 this year.  

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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