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Jared Watson, Casey Contreras receive Minahan awards

Bob Putnam

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The finalists for the Bill Minahan Award in football and flag football were not selected solely for what they did on the field. The criteria had to do more with leadership, loyalty and compassion — among the many traits that best describe the former Jesuit football coach the award is named after. 

Berkeley Prep offensive lineman Jared Watson and Steinbrenner wide receiver/linebacker Casey Contreras, the two winners, embodied those characteristics. 

Watson, who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma last year, devoted plenty of his time helping other children while going through the grueling stages of chemotherapy. He also spent more than 500 hours with community service projects, such as Meals on Wheels and Feeding Tampa Bay. 

Contreras, now in her fourth season with the Warriors’ flag football team, has served as a particularly on the academic side. Her help is a big reason Steinbrenner is the four-time defending Class 2A academic state champions, an honor awarded to the team with the highest combined GPA.

“(The award) is more than just how I am as a player or what I do on the field,” Contreras said. “It means a lot to get an award that’s based on more than that, one that is based more on my character and how I serve others in my community. 

“It’s really important to me to make sure that the blessings I’ve received throughout my life I’m giving back to others”

Watson and Contreras each received a scholarship check for $2,500.

The other finalists, who each received a $1,500 scholarship, included:

  • Henry Griffin, Wharton: The defensive tackle/linebacker overcame the loss of his father to excel in academics and athletics. He plans to honor his father;s Navy background by serving in the United States military.
  • Deon Silas, Steinbrenner: The 2019 Minahan Award winner is an Iowa State signee who has been elected the Warriors’ team captain a school record three straight seasons. 
  • Deborah Carvajal, Leto: The student government officer also is an academic leader and is passionate about changing the culture at her school. 
  • Catalina Rodriguez-Kretz, Sumner: She is president of the Student Government Association, a member of JROTC and is on the school’s swim, soccer and flag football team. 

Minahan, who died in 2013, coached at area high schools for 38 years, including 28 at Jesuit, where he led the Tigers to the 1968 state football title — the only one in school history. Minahan’s widow, Martha, was instrumental in starting the award in 2015. More than $55,000 in scholarships have been given to winners and finalists in the past seven years.     

Flag Football

Monday night rewind: Flag football

Bob Putnam

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Scoreboard

Plant 18, Sickles 6

Robinson 37, Gaither 0

Spoto 7, Blake 6

Newsome 41, Plant City 0

Alonso 32, Jefferson 0

King 32, Middleton 6

Bloomingdale 12, Armwood 0

Brandon 13, Strawberry Crest 0

Durant 20, East Bay 0

Steinbrenner 6, Riverview 0

Chamberlain 18, Tampa Bay Tech 0

Wharton 28, Freedom 0

This past weekend (Feb. 25-27) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Girls Flag Football Preseason Classic. Here are the scores from the tournament. 

Feb. 25

Brandon 36, Classical Prep 0

Gaither 32, Countryside 0

Durant 33, Freedom 0

Brandon 31, Countryside 0

Durant 12, Armwood 0

Tampa Catholic 19, Plant City 0

Sickles 33, Brooks DeBartolo 0

Brooks DeBartolo 12, Plant City 7

Sickles 13, Tampa Catholic 6

Armwood 16, Freedom 0

Gaither 27, Classical Prep 0

Feb. 26

Alonso 28, Northeast 0

Steinbrenner 48, Crystal River 0

Wharton 19, Live Oak Suwannee 0

Alonso 40, Crystal River 6

Leto 6, Hollins 6

Tarpon Springs 7, Live Oak Suwannee 6

Bradenton Southeast 32, East Bay 7

East Lake 6, Bloomingdale 0

Steinbrenner 7, Northeast 6

Pinellas Park 6, Plant 6

Wharton 32, Tarpon Springs 6

East Lake 6, Plant 0

Bradenton Southeast 18, Leto 18

Pinellas Park 6, PBloomingdale 0

Hollins 13, East Bay 6

Feb. 27

Robinson 51, Dunedin 0

Lennard 19, Osceola 13

Chamberlain 35, Clearwater 0

Robinson 19, Lecanto 0

Newsome 53, Dunedin 0

Palmetto 28, Chamberlain 6

Riverview 62, Clearwater 0

Lakewood Ranch 13, Osceola 6

Newsome 41, Belleview 0

Hillsborough 34, Bradenton Manatee 0

Riverview 40, Jacksonville Mandarin 0

Lennard 26, Stuart Martin County 6

Lecanto 24, Lakewood Ranch 14

Harmony 13, Braden River 7

Sebring 12, Bradenton Manatee 7

Stuart Martin County 8, Belleview 6

Palmetto 34, Jacksonville Mandarin 0

Braden River 7, Hillsborough 7

Harmony 6, Sebring 0 

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Flag Football

Alonso, Robinson appear in national Nike flag football ad

Bob Putnam

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Robinson flag football celebrating

Alonso and Robinson are widely recognized throughout Florida as flag football juggernauts. After all, they have a combined seven state titles in the past six years. 

Now, the two powerhouse programs are receiving national recognition. 

On Tuesday, Nike unveiled a new ad campaign to promote flag football. The shoe company and the NFL have pledged $5-million in hopes of turning the game into a national varsity sport. The push includes a commercial featuring Alonso and Robinson that is scheduled to start airing on the NFL Network on Wednesday. 

The teams spent 13 hours filming the spot at Alonso on Jan. 10. 

The connection Alonso and Robinson have with Nike started in the summer of 2019. The company wanted the schools to be their flagship programs in an effort to make girls flag football a high school sport in all 50 states. 

“We did that last year and (Nike) came down to Tampa for the preseason event at the Bucs to check us out and see all the fantastic gear that they put the girls in,” Knights coach Josh Saunders said. “They did a lot of cool things for them during the pandemic, as well”

Each team received roughly $22,000 in gear, including cleats and uniforms. 

In December of last year, Saunders said Nike wanted to the two schools to be a part of a commercial. 

This is not the first time Robinson’s flag football program has had the national stage. 

In November, Knights running back Adrianna Williams got to break down game tape with Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett as part of the NFL’s Next Generation series. The segment aired on ESPN before the Buccaneers’ Monday Night Football game with the New York Giants. 

Last week, Alonso and Robinson represented the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation at the NFL Flag Bowl. 

Flag football is currently sanctioned in state associations in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York.

But the sport is growing — not just at the high school level but also in college. 

In May, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced a partnership with the NFL and Reigning Champs Experiences (RCX) to put together the first women’s flag football competition governed by a collegiate athletics association.

The plan is to increase participation at the college level through showcases that started this past summer. Competition guidelines will be outlined for colleges interested in starting a program with the first competitive season to be held this year and the first emerging sport or invitational championship in the spring of the following year. 

An emerging sport at the NAIA level must have at least 15 participating schools and invitational status needs at least 25. A sport also is required to have 40 schools involved to be considered for full championship status.

There currently are 11 state colleges that compete at the NAIA level, most of which have already added flag football. 

More on flag football

Flag football all-state teams loaded with locals

NAIA to offer flag football for females

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Baseball

No test score needed for high school athletes in Class of 2021 to be eligible at D-I or II

Bob Putnam

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The NCAA Eligibility Center announced Monday that high school rising seniors will not be required to take a standardized test to be eligible to play at play at a Division I or II school.

Part of the reason is the difficulty in taking the SAT or ACT during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

”Given the continuing impact of COVID-19, the NCAA membership made this decision with the health and well-being of incoming students top of mind,” NCAA Eligibility Center Vice President Felicia Martin said in a news release. “We understand the uncertainty in the educational environment and believe these changes will help ensure students have a fair opportunity to meet the initial-eligibility standard.”

Here is what the NCAA is requiring at the each of the two levels for high-school athletes in the Class of 2021.

Division I academic eligibility.

Grade point average: 2.3 in 16 NCAA-approved core courses, with 10 core courses (seven in English, math and science) completed by the start of their seventh semester in high school (prior to senior year).

Division II academic eligibility

Grade point average: a 2.2 grade-point average in 16 NCAA-approved core courses.

* International students-athletes enrolling in a Division I or II school during the 2021-22 academic year will be academically eligible if they complete 16 core-course units with at least a 2.3 (DI) or 2.2 (DII) grade-point average in those courses.

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