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Clearwater falls in Class 5A state semifinals

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There was plenty of Plantation American Heritage defense and a gracious dose of layups from the start. Big-plays abounded for the Patriots, including a buzzer-beating shot by four-star recruit Sydney Shaw .

Still, despite its stellar play, American Heritage had just a 10-point lead over Clearwater in the first quarter of Thursday’s Class 5A state semifinal. No time for the Tornadoes to panic considering they still had plenty of it left to stage a comeback.  

But the Patriots were just too much to handle. They wanted more. And they took it.

By halftime, the three-time defending state champions were ahead 37-15. That was more than enough for American Heritage to advance with a  66-29 victory. 

It was not that the Tornadoes were bad. It was just that the Patriots were so good.

American Heritage had more depth, more big-time experience and more of most other good things.

Clearwater had a willingness to mix it up and never quit, but the Tornadoes missed some shots, turned the ball over frequently and simply wore down.

With all those pluses on one side and the minuses on the other, the game quickly turned in the Patriots’ favor.

The turnovers were costly. American Heritage took advantage, outscoring Clearwater 34-2 in points off turnovers. Shaw, who has had an offer from Miami since she was in middle school, led the Patriots in scoring with 20 points, followed by Tatyana Wyche with 14 and Joey Delancey with 10. 

Liv Fuller scored a team-high 13 and had six rebounds for the Tornadoes, who were making their first state semifinal appearance since 2007. 

Despite the loss, Clearwater’s players were able to take solace in knowing they had a future together. The Tornadoes had only one senior on the roster and are expected to have an influx of talented freshmen arriving next season, making them a favorite to not just get back to the state semifinals but to win it all. 

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The Hillsborough County Football Player of the Week

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LB/S Cole Highsmith, Jr., Plant City

After becoming a starter as a sophomore last season, Cole Highsmith took on a more prominent role as one of the leaders of Plant City’s defense. 

He took on that task by making play after play. 

This season, Highsmith has recorded 73 tackles and six sacks. Those totals already surpassed what he ended up with last year. 

Against Bloomingdale two weeks ago, Highsmith had 13 tackles, two sacks and an interception to lead the Raiders to victory. 

Fans paid attention. Highsmith received 50 percent of the votes (746) in the Hillsborough County football player of the week poll to beat out Wharton’s Daveon Crouch, who had 25 percent (376 votes). 

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Thursday night football forecast

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Seffner Christian (2-3) at St. Petersburg Catholic (3-3), 7

After starting 2-0, the visiting Crusaders have lost three straight. The host Barons, meanwhile, have rebounded from a 1-2 start to win two of their last three games. 

Putnam’s prediction: St. Petersburg Catholic 30-28

Gibbs (3-3) at Tarpon Springs (3-3), 7

An important Class 5A, District 10 game for both teams not only to stay in the mix for a title but also to get above .500 for the season. 

Putnam’s prediction: Gibbs 34-21 

Clearwater (5-1) at Anclote (1-5), 7:30

The Tornadoes have won five straight and are the clear favorite to the Class 5A, District 10 title. The host Sharks are on a two-game losing streak. 

Putnam’s prediction: Clearwater 42-7

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Thursday sports schedule (Oct. 14)

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What to watch

Volleyball

Sunlake (12-5) at Wesley Chapel (13-4), 6

The Seahawks, who have won four straight, try to maintain their streak against the Wildcats in a rematch from last week that Sunlake took in five sets. 

Palm Harbor University (14-8) at Mitchell (18-0), 6:30

The Mustangs have a shot at going undefeated in the regular season. To do that, Mitchell has get the Hurricanes, who have turned things around. 

St. Petersburg (15-8) at East Lake (16-7), 7

The Pinellas County Athletic Conference final is between teams with impressive streaks. The Green Devils have won seven straight while the host Eagles have won five in a row. East Lake has owned the series this season, sweeping its rival in the previous three meetings. 

Newsome (16-7) at Bloomingdale (11-5), 7:30

Both teams have won three straight heading into their regular season finale. 

The schedules

Volleyball

Solid Rock Christian at Grace Christian, 4:30

Zephyrhills Christian at Hernando Christian, 5

Hillsborough Baptist at Foundation Christian, 5

Tampa Prep at Ocala Trinity Catholic, 5:30

Oldsmar Christian at Elfers Christian, 5:30

Brandon Academy at Universal Academy, 6

Sunlake at Wesley Chapel, 6

Tampa Bay HEAT at Shorecrest, 6

Weeki Wachee at Hernando, 6:30

Wiregrass Ranch at Anclote, 6:30

Carrollwood Day at Calvary Christian, 6:30

Citrus at Nature Coast, 6:30

Palm Harbor University at Mitchell, 6:30

St. Petersburg Catholic at Sarasota Christian, 7

Zephyrhills at Gulf, 7

Gulf Coast HEAT at Tampa SLAM, 7

Seven Rivers Christian at Cambridge Christian, 7

Alonso at Freedom, 7

Crystal River at Springstead, 7

St. Petersburg at East Lake, 7

Central at Lecanto, 7:30

Sumner at Brandon, 7:30

Cypress Creek at Pasco, 7:30

Tampa Bay Tech at Gaither, 7:30

River Ridge at Hudson, 7:30

Riverview at East Bay, 7:30

Newsome at Bloomingdale, 7:30

Spoto at Durant, 7:30

Middleton at Leto, 7:30

Plant at Robinson, 7:30

Jefferson at Armwood, 7:30

Indian Rocks Christian at Countryside, 7:30

Swimming

Plant at Berkeley Prep, 5

Tampa Prep at Berkeley Prep, 5:30

Lennard, Riverview at East Bay (Apollo Beach), 6

Blake, Leto at Hillsborough (Copeland), 6

Spoto, Tampa Bay Tech at Plant City (Plant CityYMCA), 6

Freedom at Academy of the Holy Names, 6:30

Steinbrenner, Wharton at Robinson (Bobby Hicks), 6:30

Gaither at Middleton (Cyrus Green), 6:30

Spoto, Sumner at Jefferson (Interbay), 6:30

Brandon, Tampa Bay HEAT at Bloomingdale (High five), 7

Golf 

East Bay at Riverview (boys), 2

Hillsborough at Leto (boys), 2:30

Freedom at Jesuit (boys), 2:30

Alonso at Chamberlain (boys), 3

Sickles at Jefferson (boys/girls), 3

Steinbrenner at Gaither (boys), 3

Newsome at Plant City (boys), 3

Sumner at King (boys/girls), 3:30

Plant at Robinson (boys), 3:30

Berkeley Prep at Tampa Prep, 4

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