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For area playoff passers it’s a game of inches

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Mitchell’s Ezra Brennan and Tampa Bay Tech’s David Wright can improvise on a football field.

They can dissect defenses.

And they can flat-out throw a football.

What the two seniors cannot do is dodge the computer-printout prejudices colleges have when evaluating quarterbacks. After all, college programs measure quarterbacks not only by how many yards they can throw but by increments of height.

That is where they fall short. Both are just under 6 feet 1. Their height, or lack thereof, hangs over them like a dark cloud because colleges treat short quarterbacks like they have a virus.

Throughout the offseason — and most of the season — Brennan and Wright lived in maddening limbo, wondering whether a college would take a chance on him. 

Brennan, who has set nearly every school passing record, has no offers, only interest from several Division III programs.

“Everyone just looks at height,” Mustangs coach Andy Schmitz said.

Last week, Wright threw for five touchdowns against perennial powerhouse Lakeland to set the Titans’ career record for touchdown passes with 65. That total surpassed the previous record of 61 set by Michael Penix Jr., now a star at Indiana. 

The only offer for Wright so far has come from Iowa Western.

“I keep pounding the table with a college coach I know about not being the guy who passed on Rusell Wilson 2.0,” Tampa Bay Tech Jayson Roberts said, referring to Wright. 

The two quarterbacks are not alone. 

Of the eight area signal callers still in the playoffs, only two have committed to colleges — Gaither’s Kiael Kelly (Ball State) and Jesuit’s Joe Pesansky (Holy Cross) and just three have multiple offers. 

And it’s no coincidence that the three who have committed or have offers from schools at the Division I-A or I-AA level are among the tallest  — Pesansky (6-foot-4), Kelly (6-1) and Berkeley Prep’s Gavin Rupp (6-3). 

Still, being tall is not all there is, at least at the high school level.

After all, eight area quarterbacks still playing know how to win, no matter their height. 

Class 8A

Kamarii Findlay, Sr., Newsome

Height/weight: 5-9, 150

Stats: 38-of-75 for 810 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions (nine games). 

College offers: None

Class 7A

Ezra Brennan, Sr., Mitchell

Height/weight: 6-0, 170

Stats:  123-of-192 for 2,033 yards, 35 touchdowns and four interceptions. 24 carries for 237 yards and seven touchdowns (11 games). 

College offers: None

Tre Simmons, Sr., Bloomingdale

Height/weight: 6-0, 170

Stats: 134-of-232 for 2,262 yards, 24 touchdowns and nine interceptions. 88 carries for 334 yards and seven touchdowns (11 games). 

College offers: Avilla, Chadron State, Findlay, Graceland, Keiser, Florida Memorial and Tusculum. 

David Wright, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech

Height/weight: 5-10, 193

Stats: 144-of-234 for 2,781 yards, 31 touchdowns and six interceptions. 86 carries for 340 yards and 11 touchdowns (11 games). 

College offer: Iowa Western

Class 6A

Kiael Kelly, Sr., Gaither

Height/weight: 6-1, 195

Stats: 102-of-156 for 1,432 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions. 48 carries for 371 yards and eight touchdowns (11 games)

College offers: Committed to Ball State

Class 5A

Joe Pesansky, Sr., Jesuit

Height/weight: 6-4, 205

Stats: 134-of-208 for 2,485 yards, 29 touchdowns and five interceptions. 55 carries for 117 yards and five touchdowns (12 games). 

College offer: Committed to Holy Cross

Class 3A

Gavin Rupp, Sr., Berkeley Prep

Height/weight: 6-3, 200 

Stats: 46-of-84 for 901 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions (eight games). 

College offers: Gardner Webb, East Tennessee State and Tennessee Martin 

Class 2A

Titan Williamson, Sr., Seffner Christian

Height/weight: 6-2, 200

Stats: 157-of-272 for 1,753 yards, 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions (12 games). 

College offers: LaGrange College

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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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