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Canterbury reclaims softball supremacy by winning 2A title

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For four years, Canterbury’s softball program tried to reclaim what it had lost. 

From 2008-2017, the Crusaders were among the best in Florida. They made nine state semifinal appearances and won a bay area record four titles, cementing their legacy as the greatest softball dynasty in Tampa Bay. 

In fact, Canterbury had been on top for so long it seemed as if the state tournament could not go on without them. 

So when the Crusaders fell out of title contention the past three seasons, losing to eventual champion Academy at the Lakes in the region final in 2018 and ‘19 and having their season cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, many figured their abdication was temporary and they would be back to beat all pretenders to their throne.

Sure enough, Canterbury regained its supremacy in 2A, winning its fifth state title in that classification with a 3-1 win over Jacksonville University Christian on Wednesday.

All the luster of past championships, all the postseason confidence they carried, helped the Crusaders make their opponents feel uneasy, especially at the 2A level. 

That is part of a detailed blueprint that includes putting together a schedule that yields few easy nights. Those tough games prepared the Crusaders for anything they would face in Clermont this week. 

University Christian, meanwhile, was confined to playing teams primarily in the Jacksonville area at its level. While the Christians compiled an impressive 18-2 record and gave up just 28 runs , they had not faced nearly the caliber of competition as their state final opponent.

The difference showed, though it took some time. 

Canterbury — gasp! — trailed 1-0 going into the bottom of the second inning. 

The deficit didn’t last. The Crusaders manufactured two runs in the bottom half of the inning to take the lead, then added another in the fifth for some insurance.

And they did it with Irianis Garcia and Alayah Pedersen providing the only hits for Canterbury.  

The pitching of Mackenzie Bergstrom and Morgen Talley did the rest. They allowed a combined.two hits and one earned run.  

For the Crusaders, this title looked like a debutante party for softball’s next generation. The roster has just one senior (Sarah Young) and includes three freshmen (Payton Cushman, Irianis Garcia and Tayten Moore) and three eighth-graders (Sammy Beltran, Gisselle De Meyer and Morgen Talley). 

Knowing the core of this team has a future together, the dynasty could last for a while.

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Football

Football: Friday night scoreboard

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Final Tampa Bay Tech 21, Wharton 12

Final St. Petersburg Catholic 47, Bishop McLaughlin 15

Final Gibbs 50, Gulf 21

Final Countryside 28, Sunlake 7\

Final Berkeley Prep 49, New Orleans Newman 24

Final Zephyrhills Christian 30, Bradenton Christian 7

Final Boca Ciega 28, Seminole 21

Final Lakeland Christian 38, Calvary Christian 13

Final Clearwater 48, Tarpon Springs 7

Final Clearwater Central Catholic 56, Kissimmee Gateway 0

Final Northeast 21, Hollins 20

Final Sumner 14, Braden River 10

Final Legacy Charter 21, Indian Rocks Christian 14

Final Mount Dora Christian 48, Keswick Christian 0

Final Seffner Christian 62, St. Joseph Academy 16

Final Zephyrhills 35, Nature Coast 0

Final Largo 25, Sickles 7

Final Osceola 48, St. Petersburg 9

Final Steinbrenner 35, Chamberlain 21

Final Carrollwood Day 42, Cambridge Christian 7

Final Tampa Catholic 38, Winter Haven 0

Final Land O’ Lakes 36, Pasco 0

Final Jesuit 44, Blake 0

Final Armwood 41, Wiregrass Ranch 11

Final Palmetto 23, Bloomingdale 3

4th Q Alonso 52, Robinson 17

Final Plant City 31, Plant 24

Final Wesley Chapel 44, Hudson 6

Final Newsome 55, Riverview 7

Final Pinellas Park 46, Palm Harbor University 0

Final Fivay 27, Freedom 25

Final Bradenton Manatee 29, East Bay 13

Final Dunedin 48, Anclote 22

Final Spoto 46, Brandon 0

Final Durant 49, Middleton 6

Final Cypress Creek 43, Weeki Wachee 0

Final Lennard 33, Jefferson 31

Final Gaither 48, Leto 7

Final McCallie (Tenn.) 47, Clearwater Academy 14

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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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