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Softball: The week in review

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Tuesday (April 13)

Scoreboard

Indian Rocks Christian 12, Lakeside Christian 1

St. Petersburg Catholic 6, Northside Christian 5

Shorecrest 7, Admiral Farragut 1

Grace Christian 25, Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic 15

Cambridge Christian 14, Sarasota Christian 12

Academy at the Lakes 15, Lakeland Christian 0

Seven Rivers Christian 13, Hernando Christian 3

Calvary Christian 7, Berkeley Prep 4

Sunlake 5, Tampa Catholic 4

Canterbury 9, Land O’ Lakes 7

Fivay 16, Anclote 2

Clearwater 7, Largo 4

Hillsborough 10, Middleton 4

Steinbrenner 15, Alonso 0

Riverview 10, Lennard 1

Northeast 15, Gibbs 0

Palm Harbor University 3, Dunedin 1

Hernando 17, Central 0

East Lake 19, Pinellas Park 3

Robinson 12, East Bay 0

Seminole 11, Hollins 0

Sickles 4, Plant 1

Crystal River 18, Weeki Wachee 5

Plant City 16, Armwood 6

Mitchell 10, Tarpon Springs 0

Osceola 4, Countryside 3

Newsome 8, Durant 0

Wiregrass 11, Leto 0

Nature Coast 13, Lecanto 2

Prime time performers

1B MaKenna Adams, Sr., Calvary Christian: Led the Warriors by going 3-for-4, including a walk-off, three-run homer, and finished with five RBIs in a win over Berkeley Prep.  

P/1B Ashley Altman, Jr., Mitchell: Threw a one-hit shutout with six strikeouts on the mound and went 2-for-3 with three RBIs at the plate in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

P/OF Addy Aliano, Fr., Academy at the Lakes: Threw a one-hit shutout with five strikeouts in a win over Lakeland Christian that lasted four innings. 

P/1B Angelique Ballew, Jr., Northeast: Threw three scoreless innings with seven strikeouts on the mound and had a homer and three RBIs at the plate in a win over Gibbs. 

OF Brianna Baer, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch: Went 4-for-4 with a triple and three runs scored in a win over Leto. 

1B/3B/LF Molly Blackwood, Fr., Academy at the Lakes: Powered the Wildcats offense by going 3-for-4 with a triple, a homer, three RBIs and two runs scored in a win over Lakeland Christian. 

C/OF Katie Bradbourne, Jr., Newsome: Finished 3-for-4 with two doubles, an RBI and two runs scored in a win over Durant. 

OF Jiena Carrera, Sr., Nature Coast: Led the Sharks by going 3-for-4 with a triple, a homer and four RBIs in a win over Lecanto. 

1B/3B Destiny DeHoyos, Sr., Robinson: Provided some pop by hitting two homers and finishing with three RBIs and two runs scored in a win over East Bay. 

C/OF/INF Olivia Elliott, Jr., Cambridge Christian: Went 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and five runs scored in a win over Sarasota Christian. 

P/1B Savannah Ellis, So., Hernando: Threw three perfect innings with seven strikeouts in a win over Central. 

1B/OF Rachel Fine, So., Steinbrenner: Went 2-for-3 with a double, four RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Alonso.  

SS Irianis Garcia, Fr., Canterbury: Ended up 3-for-3 with four runs scored in a win over Land O’ Lakes.

P Hannah Herring, Jr., Palm Harbor University: Threw a five-hitter, allowing one unearned run while striking out three in a win over Dunedin. 

SS Kylee Johnson, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Had two hits, including a triple, to go along with four RBIs in a win over Leto. 

1B/3B/RF Kenadi Knight, Jr., Robinson: Finished 2-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs in a win over Northside Christian. 

SS/INF/OF Nehanda Lewis, Jr., Land O’ Lakes: Finished 2-for-3 with a triple and two runs scored in a loss to Canterbury. 

OF Hannah Lynch, Jr., Hernando: Hit a three-run homer in a win over Central. 

UTIL Taylor Malz, Sr., Seminole: Had a double, a triple and three RBIs in a win over Hollins. 

C/SS/CF Brooke Markiewicz, Fr., Indian Rocks Christian: Went 4-for-4 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Lakeside Christian. 

P/INF Christina Martinez, Sr., Riverview: Recorded five strikeouts on the mound and went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs at the plate in a win over Lennard. 

OF/INF Kelli McAvoy, Sr., Plant City: Ended up 5-for-5 with three doubles and two runs scored in a win over Armwood. 

UTIL Jordyn Pentz, Sr., Osceola: Went 2-for-4 in a win over Countryside. 

2B/SS Karhys Pierce, Fr., Palm Harbor University: Had two doubles and an RBI in a win over Dunedin. 

P/1B Lindsey Randall, Fr., Plant City: Finished 5-for-5 with five runs scored in a win over Armwood. 

SS/P Jocelyn Rosario, Fr., Clearwater: Went 2-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored in a win over Largo. 

3B/INF Bella Sanchez, Sr., Sunlake: Ended up 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs in a win over Tampa Catholic. 

1B/CF Ellie Sendra, Sr., Fivay: Went 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored in a win over Anclote. 

C/3B/SS Jalyn Sharkey, Fr., East Lake: Powered the Eagles by going 3-for-4 with two homers, eight RBIs and four runs scored in a win over Pinellas Park. 

P/OF Ashley Shroll, Sr., Steinbrenner: Threw a two-hit shutout with six strikeouts in a win over Alonso that lasted four innings. 

INF Brea Simmons, Sr., Plant City: Finished 5-for-5 with a double, a triple and four runs scored in a win over Armwood. 

P/2B/3B Morgen Talley, 8th, Canterbury: Went 2-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs in a win over Land O’ Lakes. 

P Kayley Williams, Jr., Seminole: Threw a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts in a win over Hollins. 

OF/P Reese Wimberly, Jr., Sickles: Finished 2-for-3 with an RBI in a win over Plant. 

P Kelsey Winters, Jr., Newsome: Threw a three-hit shutout with 13 strikeouts on the mound and had a homer and two RBIs at the plate in a win over Durant. 

Wednesday (April 14)

Scoreboard

Academy at the Lakes 16, Clearwater Central Catholic 5

Pinellas Park 5, Clearwater 4

Countryside 9, Boca Ciega 0

River Ridge 5, Wesley Chapel 4

Fivay 10, Bishop McLaughlin 9

Nature Coast 15, Weeki Wachee 0

Prime time performers

1B/3B/LF Molly Blackwood, Fr., Academy at the Lakes: Went 3-for-5 with three RBIs in a win over Clearwater Central Catholic. 

SS Brooke Blankenship, Sr., River Ridge: Went 2-for-2 with a homer and two RBIs in a win over Wesley Chapel. 

CF/3B Jasmine Blossfield, Jr., Fivay: Had two hits, including a double, to go along with three RBIs and two runs scored in a win over Bishop McLaughlin. 

P/SS Haley Bradshaw, Jr., Countryside: Threw a three-hit shutout with five strikeouts on the mound and scored three runs on offense in a win over Boca Ciega. 

3B/C Samantha Bradshaw, Jr., Countryside: Went 2-for-3 with three RBIs in a win over Boca Ciega. 

P/3B/OF McKenna Carr, So., Nature Coast: Threw a two-hit shutout with four strikeouts in a win over Weeki Wachee that lasted four innings. 

3B/SS/OF Lesieli Joseph, Fr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Finished 4-for-4 in a loss to Academy at the Lakes. 

C/3B/OF Izzy LaRoche, So., Nature Coast: Ended up 3-for-3 with a double and five RBIs in a win over Weeki Wachee. 

SS Tori Ratigan, Sr., Nature Coast: Went 4-for-4 with three runs scored in a win over Weeki Wachee. 

P/2B/CF Alisha Wagoner, Sr., Pinellas Park: Ended up 4-for-4 with a run scored at the plate and recorded nine strikeouts on the mound in a win over Clearwater. 

Thursday (April 15)

Scoreboard

St. Petersburg Catholic 10, Lakeside Christian 0

Palm Harbor University 3, Osceola 2

Seven Rivers Christian 4, Academy at the Lakes 3

Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic 11, Keswick Christian 8

Shorecrest 8, Cambridge Christian 2

Nature Coast 4, Hernando 3

South Sumter 15, Bishop McLaughlin 2

Indian Rocks Christian 16, Northside Christian 3

Calvary Christian 16, Clearwater Central Catholic 1

Berkeley Prep 19, Admiral Farragut 4

Cypress Creek 8, Tampa Catholic 0

Hernando Christian 9, Real Life Christian 7

Clearwater 9, Tarpon Springs 2

Riverview 10, Sickles 4

Plant City 16, Tampa Bay Tech 6

Sumner 18, King 3

Strawberry Crest 9, Alonso 3

St. Petersburg 13, Pinellas Park 8

Mitchell 4, Land O’ Lakes 2

Jefferson 4, Spoto 3

Wharton 8, Freedom 6

Newsome 13, East Bay 0

Hillsborough 25, Brandon 2

River Ridge 18, Gulf 0

Seminole 5, Dunedin 0

Durant 14, Armwood 0

Leto 17, Blake 0

Prime time performers

P/1B Ashley Altman, Jr., Mitchell: Went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored in a win over Land O’ Lakes. 

SS Brooke Blankenship, Sr., River Ridge: Powered the Royal Knights by hitting three homers and finishing with eight RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Gulf. 

P/OF Maria Brooks, So., Newsome: Pitched five nearly perfect hits, walking two batters while striking out eight on the mound and went 3-for-5 with three RBIs at the plate in a win over East Bay. 

OF/2B Emma Chisolm, So., Durant: Ended up 3-for-3 with a double, a triple and two RBIs in a win over Armwood. 

SS Megan deVilliers, So., Sumner: Had a double, a triple and five RBIs in a win over King. 

P Mackenzie Duford, Jr., Seminole: Threw a seven-hit shutout with nine strikeouts in a win over Dunedin. 

UTIL Emma Edwards, So., Newsome: Finished 4-for-4 with three runs scored in a win over East Bay. 

UTIL Nathaly Galvis, Jr., Leto: Had two triples, a double and three RBIs in a win over Blake. 

UTIL Kathyria Garcia, Jr., Jefferson: Went 2-for-3 with a double in a win over Spoto. 

P/3B Alexa Grande, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic: Threw a no-hitter and recorded three strikeouts on the mound and went 2-for-4 with four RBIs and two runs scored at the plate in a win over Lakeside Christian.

3B/2B Janessa Hernandez, Sr., Leto: Ended up 3-for-3 with a double, a triple, four RBIs and three runs scored in a win over 

1B/3B Kaylee Higgins, Sr., Hernando Christian: Went 3-for-5 with a double, a triple and two RBIs in a win over Real Life Christian. 

INF Trinity Hobley, Sr., Riverview: Hit a two-run homer and scored two runs in a win over Sickles. 

SS Amelia Kent, So., Berkeley Prep: Powered the Buccaneers’ offense by going 3-for-3 with a double, a homer and seven RBIs in a win over Admiral Farragut.

C/OF/1B Abbee Klinefelter, So., Clearwater: Finished 4-for-5 with a double and two RBIs in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

3B/C/UTIL Reagan Lavina, Fr., Calvary Christian: Ended up 2-for-2 with a triple, three RBIs and two runs scored in a win over Clearwater Central Catholic. 

OF/INF Kelli McAvoy, Sr., Plant City: Had two doubles and a triple in a win over Tampa Bay Tech. 

P/1B/OF Sarah Miller, So., Clearwater: Threw six scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out 10 in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

SS/INF/P Adriana Onessimo, Sr., St. Petersburg: Went 3-for-4 with a triple, two RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Pinellas Park. 

P/SS Annissa Quinonez, Jr., Alonso: Ended up 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs in a loss to Strawberry Crest. 

P/INF Hailey Ragozine, Jr., Indian Rocks Christian: Recorded eight strikeouts on the mound and had a two-run triple at the plate in a win over Northside Christian.  

UTIL Lauren Ray, Jr., Strawberry Crest: Finished 3-for-4 with a triple and four RBIs in a win over Alonso. 

OF/1B Samantha Raynor, Sr., Palm Harbor University: Went 2-for-3 with an RBI in a win over Osceola. 

2B/3B/1B Isabella Rittle, Jr., Wharton: Hit a two-run triple and scored two runs in a win over Freedom. 

1B Madison Robitaille, So., Sumner: Had a double, a triple and five RBIs in a win over King.

SS Deanna Ross, Fr., Pinellas Park: Hit two doubles and finished with three RBIs in a loss to St. Petersburg.  

2B/OF/SS Dom Sekelsky, Jr., Nature Coast: Finished 3-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored in a win over Hernando. 

3B Mandy Schwartz, Jr., Cypress Creek: Had a double, a triple and a homer to go along with four RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Tampa Catholic. 

P/1B/OF Jordan Sheets, Jr., River Ridge: Threw three scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out eight in a win over Gulf. 

OF Kiley Shelton, So., Newsome: Hit two triples and a double to go along with three RBIs and four runs scored in a win over East Bay. 

INF Brea Simmons, Sr., Plant City: Ended up 5-for-5 with four runs scored in a win over Tampa Bay Tech.

C/SS/UTIL Emily Smith, Sr., Durant: Finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Armwood. 

P/1B Mckenna Thompson, Sr., Durant: Threw three scoreless innings, allowing one hit while striking out eight in a win over Armwood.  

P/1B Olivia Townsend, Sr., Hernando: Went 3-for-3 with a homer and two RBIs in a loss to Nature Coast. 

P/CF Alyssa Vallad, So., Sumner: Finished 4-for-5 with two triples, a homer and three RBIs in a win over King. 

P Hailey Vazquez, Sr., Cypress Creek: Threw a no-hitter (one walk away from a perfect game) and finished with 19 strikeouts in a win over Tampa Catholic. 

Friday (April 16)

Naples Longshore Tournament

Sickles 8, Naples Lely 0

Calvary Christian 7, North Fort Myers 4

Robinson 19, Estero 1

Sickles 11, Miami St. Brendan 0

Robinson 5, Naples 0

Coral Springs Charter 9, Calvary Christian 1

Other games

Palm Harbor University 6, Canterbury 2

Academy of the Holy Names 4, Academy at the Lakes 3

Tampa Catholic 4, Indian Rocks Christian 2

Osceola 19, Gibbs 0

Strawberry Crest 15, Middleton 0

Bloomingdale 14, Plant 4

Zephyrhills 13, Anclote 1

Lennard 12, Chamberlain 9

Hernando 2, Lecanto 0

Dunedin 10, Northeast 2

Springstead 18, Central 8

Lakeland George Jenkins 15, Plant City 0

Prime time performers

P/1B Ava Braswell, Fr., Hernando: Threw a three-hit shutout with six strikeouts in a win over Lecanto. 

3B/P/SS DaNia Brooks, So., Sickles: Went 4-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs in wins over Naples Lely and Miami St. Brendan.. 

1B Tyrah Checkley, Sr., Lennard: Finished 2-for-4 with a homer, four RBIs and two runs scored in a win over Chamberlain. 

1B/3B Destiny DeHoyos, Sr., Robinson: Had a combined two doubles, a homer and four RBIs in wins over Estero and Naples. 

P/1B Maddie Droz, Sr., Bloomingdale: Hit a double, a homer and had an RBI in a win over Plant. 

SS/2B Elizabeth George, Jr., Calvary Christian: Went 2-for-3 with two runs scored in a win over North Fort Myers. 

3B/2B/C Mariah Gradzki, So., Dunedin: Powered the Falcons by going 4-for-5 with a double, a homer, two RBIs and four runs scored in a win over Northeast. 

C/P/1B Kendall Hyatt, Fr., Palm Harbor University: Finished 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs in a win over Canterbury. 

P Hayley Lynch, Sr., Strawberry Crest: Threw a two-hit shutout with four strikeouts in a win over Middleton. 

C/1B Riley Onisawa, So., Robinson: Went 3-for-4 with a double, a homer and three RBIs in a win over Estero. 

UTIL Jordyn Pentz, Sr., Osceola: Ended up 2-for-4 with a double and four RBIs in a win over Gibbs. 

3B/SS Rachael Petrarca, Sr., Academy of the Holy Names: Led the Jaguars by hitting two doubles, two triples and finishing with four runs scored in a win over Academy at the Lakes. 

2B/OF Alyssa Santos, Jr., Bloomingdale: Went 3-for-5 with a double and three RBIs in a win over Plant. 

3B/2B Grace Smith, Sr., Calvary Christian: Ended up 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored in a win over North Fort Myers.

CF Jordan Stephens, Sr., Robinson: Was perfect at the plate, going 4-for-4 with four RBIs and four runs scored in a win over Estero.   

P/OF/INF Sonya Stevenson, So., Sickles: Threw four scoreless innings, allowing two hits while striking out three in a win over Naples Lely.

UTIL Hannah Taylor, So., Hernando: Ended up 3-for-4 with a triple and an RBI in a win over Lecanto.  

1B/OF Megan Waltermeyer, Sr., Tampa Catholic: Went 2-for-3 with a triple and an RBI in a win over Indian Rocks Christian. 

OF/P Reese Wimberly, Jr., Sickles: Finished 3-for-3 with a double and three runs scored in a win over Naples Lely. 

Saturday (April 17)

Naples Longshore Tournament

Robinson 13, Coral Springs Charter 3

Calvary Christian 12, Immokalee 4

Miami Doral Academy 14, Sickles 0

Calvary Christian 19, Naples Barron Collier 0

Naples 6, Sickles 4

Miami Doral Academy 5, Robinson 4

Other games

Spoto 11, Tampa Bay Tech 10

Academy of the Holy Names 7, Wesley Chapel 1

Prime time performers

3B/P/SS DaNia Brooks, So., Sickles: Hit two homers and had four RBIs in a loss to Naples. 

3B/P Lindsey Chadwick, Jr., Robinson: Went 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI in a loss to Miami Doral Academy. 

1B/3B Destiny DeHoyos, Sr., Robinson: Led the Knights by hitting a double, a homer and finishing with four RBIs in a win over Coral Springs Charter.

CF/SS Camryn Feast, So., Academy of the Holy Names: Finished 3-for-3 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Wesley Chapel.  

SS/C Leah Jarnac, Sr., Calvary Christian: Went 3-for-3 with a homer, three RBIs and three runs scored in a win over Immokalee. 

3B/C/UTIL Reagan Lavina, Fr., Calvary Christian: Had two hits, including a homer, and finished with five RBIs in a win over Naples Barron Collier. 

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General

FHSAA releases softball class and district assignments

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The Florida High School Athletic Association released the classifications, districts and regions for softball this coming season. The assignments are based on student enrollment numbers from October 2020. This is a one-year cycle that the FHSAA board of directors voted on earlier this year. There likely will be a two-year cycle starting with the 2022-23 calendar year. Below is the list for area teams. For the full  boys softball list click here.

Class 7A, District 6

Durant

Newsome

Plant City

Riverview

Class 7A, District 7

Alonso

East Lake

Steinbrenner

Palm Harbor University

Plant

Class 6A, District 5

Gaither

Land O’ Lakes

Largo

Leto

Mitchell

Sickles

Class 6A, District 6

Armwood

Strawberry Crest

Tampa Bay Tech

Wharton

Wiregrass Ranch

Class 6A, District 7

Bloomingdale

Bradenton Manatee

Lennard

Palmetto

Class 5A, District 5

Fivay

Lecanto

River Ridge

Springstead

Sunlake

Class 5A, District 6

Auburndale

Groveland South Lake

Lakeland Kathleen

Pasco

Class 5A, District 9

Blake

Freedom

Hillsborough

Jefferson

King

Class 5A, District 10

Countryside

Osceola

Pinellas Park

Seminole

Class 5A, District 11

Boca Ciega

Hollins

Northeast

St. Petersburg

Class 5A, District 12

Braden River

Bradenton Southeast

Brandon

East Bay

Spoto

Class 4A, District 9

Cypress Creek

Hudson

Nature Coast

Wesley Chapel

Zephyrhills

Class 4A, District 10

Anclote

Clearwater

Dunedin

Gulf 

Tarpon Springs

Class 4A, District 11

Chamberlain

Lake Region

Middleton

Mulberry

Robinson

Class 3A, District 6

Central

Hernando

South Sumter

Weeki Wachee

Class 3A, District 9

Academy of the Holy Names

Berkeley Prep

Brooks DeBartolo

Lakeland McKeel

Tampa Catholic

Class 3A, District 11

Calvary Christian

Clearwater Central Catholic

Lakewood

Parrish

Sarasota Cardinal Mooney

Class 2A, District 6

Bishop McLaughlin

Hernando Christian

Mount Dora Christian

Ocala Trinity Catholic

Seven Rivers Christian

Class 2A, District 9

Academy at the Lakes

Cambridge Christian

Carrollwood Day

Foundation Christian

Lakeside Christian

Seffner Christian

Class 2A, District 10

Admiral Farragut

Canterbury

Indian Rocks Christian

Northside Christian

Shorecrest

St. Petersburg Catholic

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Former Largo and Illinois standout Bobby Roundtree dies

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Bobby Roundtree, the former Largo High and Illinois standout defensive lineman who became an inspiration for many by vowing to walk again after suffering a spinal cord injury, died Friday afternoon, the family confirmed. He was 23. 

No other details were provided. 

A candlelight vigil will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ridgecrest YMCA. Those in attendance are encouraged to wear their 97Strong apparel.

Roundtree’s death came two weeks after he received the Bruce Capel Award for Courage, an honor given annually by the Illinois football program. 

Less than 24 hours ago before he passed, Roundtree posted a message on his Twitter page.

More than two years ago, Rountree was in a hospital bed, the result of a swimming accident near the docks off John’s Pass that required spinal cord surgery. It left him in a wheelchair. 

Before the accident, the goals were all related to football. A former two-sport star, Roundtree developed into a ferocious pass-rusher, first at Largo, then at Illinois. As a sophomore in 2018, he won the Dick Butkus Outstanding Defensive Player award after leading the Illini in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (7.5) and pass breakups (7). His play made him a viable NFL draft pick.

Photos courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Since then, the ambitions have been different. 

Roundtree wanted to be independent. He wanted to travel. He wanted to coach, maybe even start his own rehabilitation center. 

Most of all, he wanted to walk again. 

“I just want to show everybody that anything’s possible,” Roundtree recently said last year in his first interview (via Zoom) with reporters since the accident. “You can be on top of the world and something happens, things might not go as planned, but there’s something out there for everybody.

“This injury isn’t going to overcome me. I’m going to beat this and be successful.”

After the accident, once the surgery was over, Roundtree woke up to machines beeping in every corner of the room. His mother, Jacqueline Hearns, kept saying he was special, that he was beating the odds. 

Friends and teammates were there, too, including former East Lake standout Jake Hansen, now a starting linebacker with the Illini. 

The coaching staff also came to the Tampa Bay area to be by Roundtree’s side. Illinois head coach Lovie Smith practically lived at the hospital, even while preparing for the 2019 season. 

The bond between the player and coach has always been strong. After all, Roundtree was one of the marquee names in Smith’s first recruiting classes. 

“Everything that Lovie said during the recruiting process, about being a family, he stuck by,” Packers coach Marcus Paschal said last year. “You could see it during Bobby’s injury and hospital stay. I don’t know of too many other college coaches who would have done what he did. That was big.”

In June of 2019, Rountree was transported to a rehabilitation center in Chicago. He had lost 70 pounds. He could barely raise his right hand, much less do push ups, after the surgery. 

Roundtree ignored conservative prescriptions for recovery, continuingly defying odds. Before long, he was manually pushing himself in a wheelchair. His triceps muscles were developing.

None of this came as a surprise to Jeremy Busch, the head athletic trainer for Illinois football. 

“After this injury you watched a person that eventually was at the worst point in his life, and yet he doesn’t acknowledge that to where it beats him, but he acknowledges it to motivate him,” Busch said last year of Roundtree. “He’s truly your idea of hope and inspiration on a daily basis. He’s gone from the simplest of struggles to absolutely overcoming everything that you put in front of him.”

Roundtree also was determined not to stay in football exile. He kept in contact with teammates. The coaching staff included him in meetings, virtually. 

The grit Roundtree showed through the grueling stages gave the Illini inspiration. A sign was displayed on the top of a tunnel that the players would touch before heading out to Memorial Stadium. It read: 97 Strong (referring to Roundtree’s number).

Illinois became the feel-good team of college football in 2019. The wins kept coming, often in dramatic ways. 

A field goal as time expired was the difference when the Illini handed the Badgers, ranked No. 6 at the time, their first loss in October of last season. It was the Illini’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2011. Afterward, Illinois players recorded videos of their celebration and sent them to Roundtree.

Three weeks later, the Illini rallied from a 21-point third quarter deficit to beat Michigan State 37-34. 

“I would do anything for the kid,” Hansen said last year of Roundtree. “He’s been a huge inspiration.”

Roundtree attended the 2019 regular season finale, his first game at Memorial Stadium since the injury. He led the team in a pregame prayer. 

And Roundtree remained part of the team. His locker was untouched. 

“Having the team I have now I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Roundtree said last year. “They’ve been very supportive. They know I’m going to work. I know they’re going to work. We’ve got each other’s backs.”

The Illini faithful have shown financial support, too, pledging money to help offset some of Roundtree’s medical expenses. 

“With everybody so behind me and pushing me, that makes me want to go harder,” Roundtree said last year. “The support of everybody fundraising and everybody donating that means a lot having that support. I don’t have a million dollars to help me through this all. People are giving their last pennies to help me out. That’s just a lot of love right there, and I appreciate everybody for that.”

Roundtree spent the past year at home in Largo rehabilitating. He kept posting video messages of his progress. He bench pressed. He did core work. He rolled on to his side, even tried to stand up with the aid of athletic trainers.  

The final steps Roundtree wanted to take were on his own. 

“When somebody tells me I can’t do something I’m going to prove them wrong and show that I’ll be able to do it,” Roundtree said last year. “It might take me a couple of tries, but I’m going to do it.

“I want to show everybody that anything is possible, no matter the situation.”

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College Football

Lakewood’s Amari Niblack commits to Alabama

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Lakewood’s Amari Niblack had offers from 15 schools entering this week, including Florida, Florida State, Georgia and LSU. 

Then Niblack went to a camp at Alabama and picked up an offer from the Crimson Tide. 

That was all the three-star prospect needed to make up his mind. 

On Thursday, Niblack announced on social media that he committed to Alabama. 

A 6-foot-4 pass catching target, Niblack can play receiver or tight end. This past season, he had seven receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns according to the stats listed on MaxPreps. 

This is the second straight season Alabama has landed an area receiver and the third time in the past five seasons the Crimson Tide has picked a local skill player.

Agiye Hall, who starred at Armwood and Bloomingdale, was part of the 2021 class. He was an early enrollee and has already made an impact with several highlight-worthy catches in the spring game. 

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