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Football preview: No. 5 Gaither

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Gaither

At a glance

Coach: Kirk Karson, 5th season

Class: 7A, District 9

Last season: 11-1, lost in region final

Key players: QB Brooks Bentley, Jr.; WR/RB Jacoreyus Demps, Sr.; DE/OLB Mario Eugenio, Sr.; MLB/TE Logan Fiker, Sr.; WR Zion Ingram, Sr.; OT James Mancebo, Sr.; MLB/QB Kobe McCloud, Sr.; WR/DB Drelin Pittman, Sr.; DT Tawfiq Thomas, Sr.; WR/CB/FS Eugene Wilson III, Jr.

Schedule

Aug. 27 vs. Bloomingdale

Sept. 3 at Chamberlain

Sept. 10 vs. Armwood

Sept. 17 vs. Largo

Sept. 24 vs. Tampa Bay Tech

Oct. 1 at Mitchell

Oct. 8 at Steinbrenner

Oct. 15 vs. Sickles

Oct. 22 at Leto

Oct. 29 at Hillsborough

Nov. 5 Bye

Outlook

The Cowboys have been on a tremendous run, making the state semifinals for the first time in 2019 and reaching the region final last season. To maintain that success, Gaither has to replace 20 players who graduated, including quarterback Kiael Kelly (Ball State), running back Ricky Parks (Utah), offensive lineman Andrew Kilfoyl (USF), linebackers Hayden Reed (Army) and Nick Bartalo (Charleston Southern) and defensive backs Jordan Oladokun (Samford) and Jordan Young (Florida), all of whom are now playing in college. Fortunately, the roster is deep and can withstand some of those losses. Better still, the Cowboys had some reinforcements arrive. Taking Kelly’s place is Brooks Bentley, the son of USF assistant coach Bobby Bentley, who came from South Carolina to join the Bulls’ staff. The younger Bentley is ranked among the nation’s top quarterbacks in the 2023 class and already has an offer from Eastern Kentucky.In the spring, Bentley was 18-of-20 for 170 yards and a touchdown in a win over Steinbrenner. The top target is Drelin Pittman (542 yards and four touchdowns last season). Gaither is loaded on the defensive front with perhaps the two best linemen in the area, Mario Eugenio, a Michigan commit, and Tawfiq Thomas, who will make his college decision this weekend. 

Football

Football: Friday night rewind

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Scoreboard

Thursday (Sept. 23)

Palm Harbor University 27, Countryside 10

St. Petersburg 35, Dunedin 28

Gibbs 40, Seminole 14

Lakeside Christian 60, Academy at the Lakes 0

Friday (Sept. 24)

Ocala Trinity Catholic 21, Calvary Christian 21

St. Petersburg Catholic 35, Bradenton Christian 28

Central Florida Christian 47, Bishop McLaughlin 0

Springstead 14, Crystal River 7

Clearwater Academy 40, Jacksonville Raines 19

Lakewood 35, Lakeland Kathleen 19

Satellite Beach Satellite 41, Weeki Wachee 0

Keswick Christian 38, Keswick Christian 6

Shorecrest 36, Canterbury 0

Clearwater 15, Largo 12

Osceola 21, Citrus 0

Carrollwood Day 23, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 9

Foundation Academy 47, Northside Christian 35

Northeast 36, Tarpon Springs 0

South Sumter 34, Cypress Creek 15

Orlando Christian Prep 48, Seffner Christian 8

Zephyrhills Christian 55, Pasco 0

Anclote 30, Central 8

Jesuit 35, Plant City 13

Hernando 27, Nature Coast 21

Armwood 27, Steinbrenner 0

Newsome 35, Chamberlain 0

Strawberry Crest 28, Freedom 14

Land O’ Lakes 28, Sunlake 26

Tampa Bay Tech 28, Gaither 14

East Bay 41, Spoto, 7

Clearwater Central Catholic 23, Sebring 7

Leto 14, Brandon 12

Hudson 42, Gulf 13

Durant 40, Sickles 13

Wesley Chapel 48, Fivay 0

Mitchell 25, East Lake 20

Plant 23, Sumner 15

Boca Ciega 28, Lakeland George Jenkins 14

Robinson 26, Blake 13

Wiregrass Ranch 69, River Ridge, 47

Top five games

1. Land O’ Lakes 28, Sunlake 26

Ahead by 11 at the half, the Gators had to sweat it out in the latest installment of the Butter Bowl. The Seahawks made a furious rally, but the comeback fell short on a missed field goal in the waning seconds. 

2. Hernando 27, Nature Coast 21

The Leopards, who won two straight entering the rivalry game, continued their momentum by scoring the winning touchdown in the final minute. The loss snapped the Sharks’ 10-game regular season win streak. 

3. Leto 14, Brandon 12

A year after snapping a six-year losing streak, the Falcons ended another drought by winning a game at home for the first time in a decade. They did it in dramatic fashion, rallying from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. 

4. Clearwater 15, Largo 12

The Tornadoes’ defense delivered when it mattered most, stopping the Packers on downs late in the fourth quarter to seal the win.  

5. Mitchell 25, East Lake 20

The Mustangs had to hold off a second-half comeback to beat the Eagles for the third straight season. 

Prime time performers

RB Isaiah Adams, Sr., Clearwater Academy: Ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries in a win over Jacksonville Raines. 

QB Riley Allan, Sr., Osceola: Completed 14 of his 18 passes for 178 yards and had a rushing touchdown in a win over Citrus. 

RB Jason Albritton, Sr., Newsome: Ran for 85 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries in a win over Chamberlain. 

LB Jaylan Anderson, Sr., Northeast: Recorded 11 tackles and a sack in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

WR Kennen Ayala, Jr., Land O’ Lakes: Had four catches for 197 yards and a touchdown in a win over Sunlake. 

QB Rocco Becht, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Completed 12 of his 14 passes for 312 yards and five touchdowns in a win over River Ridge.

LB/DL Aiden Bell, Sr., Clearwater: Made a key stop on a two-point conversion and had a hand in five of the Tornadoes six sacks in a win over Largo.  

LB Callahan Blair, So., Calvary Christian: Recorded 13 tackles in a loss to Ocala Trinity Catholic. 

RB Jaylin Blake, Sr., Wesley Chapel: Ran for 192 yards on 16 carries in a win over Fivay.

RB AJ Blanton, Sr., Gulf: Ran for 107 yards on 24 carries in a loss to Hudson. 

RB Coby Burger, Jr., Strawberry Crest: Ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries in a win over Freedom.  

RB Anthony Carrie, So., Carrollwood Day: Scored all three of the Patriots’ touchdowns on the ground in a win over Sarasota Cardinal Mooney. 

QB Anthony Colandrea, Sr., Lakewood: Threw for 403 yards and five touchdowns in a win over Lakeland Kathleen. 

RB/WR/FS Sean Cuono, Fr., St. Petersburg Catholic: Accounted for 201 yards of offense (158 receiving, 43 rushing) and a 93-yard reception for the go-ahead score and a game-sealing interception in a win over Bradenton Christian.

RB Alex Daley, So., Durant: Ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in a win over Sickles. 

WR Dylan Djete, Sr., Clearwater Academy: Had five catches for 149 yards and one touchdown in a win over Jacksonville Raines. 

QB Jacob Drackett, So., Calvary Christian: Threw for 278 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to Ocala Trinity Catholic. 

DL Mario Eugenio, Sr., Gaither: Finished with seven tackles and two sacks in a loss to Tampa Bay Tech. 

WR/S Chris Ferrini, Jr., Mitchell: Had two catches for 70 yards and a touchdown on offense and picked off a pass and forced a fumble on defense in a win over East Lake. 

DL Tyler Geary, Sr., Mitchell: Recorded 10 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery in a win over East Lake. 

QB Kyle Horvath, Sr., Land O’ Lakes: Threw for 344 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Sunlake. 

WR Daryon James, Sr., Anclote: Finished with five catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Central. 

WR David James, Sr., Clearwater: Had six catches for 142 yards in a win over Largo. 

RB BJ Lewis, Sr., Hernando: Ran for 122 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in a win over Nature Coast.

RB Jeffery Jones, Fr., St. Petersburg: Ran for 191 yards and scored all five of the Green Devils touchdowns in a win over Dunedin. 

WR/DB Nate Johnson, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Finished with seven receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown in a win over Sebring. 

RB Vincent Ketchup,Jr., East Bay: Ran for 151 yards on six carries, had three catches for 21 yards and scored two touchdowns in a win over Spoto. 

QB Jack Lennon, Sr., Plant: Threw for 197 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Sumner. 

QB Aidan MacLean, Sr., Clearwater: Accounted for 223 yards (183 passing, 40 rushing) and had a touchdown on the ground in a win over Largo. 

DL Erik Malyszko, Sr., Palm Harbor University: Had four tackles, a sack and an interception in a win over Countryside. 

QB Bryce Martin, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Completed 16 of his 19 passes for 215 yards and accounted for three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in a win over Sebring.

RB Cornell McCrary, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Ran for 120 yards and two touchdowns on six carries in a win over River Ridge. 

LB Hunter McFarand, Sr., Mitchell: Recorded 10 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in a win over East Lake.   

WR AJ McFarlane, So., Hudson: Had six catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Gulf. 

RB Ti’lan McGee, So., East Lake: Ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in a loss to Mitchell. 

QB Caleb Morris, Jr., Keswick Christian: Threw for 169 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Trinity Christian. 

RB Markese Norfleet, Jr., Northeast: Ran for 83 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Tarpon Springs. 

LB Jacob Reed, Jr., Durant: Had 14 tackles, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble in a win over Sickles. 

WR Josh Robinson, Fr., Calvary Christian: Ended up with eight catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Ocala Trinity Catholic. 

RB Lenwood Sapp, So., Clearwater Central Catholic: Ran for 160 yards on 26 carries in a win over Sebring. 

QB Blake Smith, Sr., Hernando: Ran for three touchdowns, including the game-winner, against rival Nature Coast.

RB Ronald Sims, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Scored three of the Titans’ four touchdowns on the ground in a win over Gaither. 

RB Joquez Smith, Jr. Jesuit: Ran for 110 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries in a win over Plant City. 

WR Tyler Smith, Jr., Sunlake: Finished with four catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in a loss to Land O’ Lakes. 

QB Luca Stanzani, Sr., Clearwater Academy: Threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Jacksonville Raines. 

DB RJ Stroud, Jr., Armwood: Recorded three interceptions in a win over Strawberry Crest. 

RB/LB Maikeli Tuinakauvadra, Sr., Osceola: Ran for 105 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and had seven tackles on defense in a win over Citrus. 

DL Tawfiq Thomas, Sr., Gaither: Registered six tackles and two sacks in a loss to Tampa Bay Tech.

WR Junior Vandeross, Sr., Jesuit: Had eight catches for 117 yards in a win over Plant City. 

DL Yadiel Vazquez Benitez, Sr., Springstead: Finished with 11 tackles and two sacks in a win over Crystal River.  

RB Kenneth Walker, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch: Ran for 107 yards and two touchdowns on five carries in a win over River Ridge. 

LB Anthony Weaver, Sr., Keswick Christian: Recorded 11 tackles and had a forced fumble and a recovered fumble in a win over Trinity Christian. 

RB Luke Yoder, So., Palm Harbor University: Ran for 311 yards and two touchdowns on 51 carries in a win over Countryside. 

QB Hunter Young, Sr., Hudson: Threw for 193 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Gulf. 

WR Izaiah Williams, So., Wiregrass Ranch: Had three catches for 112 yards in a win over River Ridge. 

Up next

Friday (Oct. 1)

Faith Christian at Hillsborough Baptist, 5

Zephyrhills Christian at St. Petersburg Catholic, 7

Keswick Christian at Boca Raton Christian, 7

Calvary Christian at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 7

East Lake at Palm Harbor University, 7

Boca Ciega at St. Petersburg, 7

Shorecrest at Four Corners, 7

Clearwater at Gibbs, 7

Lakewood at Largo, 7

Lakeland Victory Christian at Carrollwood Day, 7

Hernando at The Villages, 7

Canterbury at Lakeside Christian, 7

Seminole at Hollins, 7

Tampa Catholic at Berkeley Prep, 7

Northeast at Pinellas Park, 7

Dunedin at Tarpon Springs, 7

Middleton at Robinson, 7:30

Sumner at Bradenton Southeast, 7:30

Clearwater Academy at Bradenton Manatee, 7:30

Wiregrass Ranch at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Riverview at Durant, 7:30

Countryside at Freedom, 7:30

Belleview at Springstead, 7:30

Wharton at Spoto, 7:30

Cypress Creek at Hudson, 7:30

Gaither at Mitchell, 7:30

Sunlake at River Ridge, 7:30

King at Blake, 7:30

Steinbrenner at Alonso, 7:30

Hillsborough at Jefferson, 7:30

Osceola at Central, 7:30

Cambridge Christian at Seffner Christian, 7:30

Anclote at Gulf, 7:30

Bradenton Bayshore at Land O’ Lakes, 7:30

Pasco at Ocala Vanguard, 7:30

Wesley Chapel at Nature Coast, 7:30

Leto at Sickles, 7:30

Armwood at Tampa Bay Tech, 7:30

Bloomingdale at East Bay, 7:30

Lecanto at Fivay, 7:30

Plant City at Chamberlain, 7:30

Newsome at Plant, 7:30

Weeki Wachee at Zephyrhills, 7:30

Palmetto at Lennard, 7:30

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Football: Friday night scoreboard

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Final Clearwater Academy 40, Jacksonville Raines 19

Final Lakewood 35, Lakeland Kathleen 19

Final Ocala Trinity Catholic 21, Calvary Christian 21

Final St. Petersburg Catholic 35, Bradenton Christian 28

Final Central Florida Christian 47, Bishop McLaughlin 0

Final Springstead 14, Crystal River 7

Final Satellite Beach Satellite 41, Weeki Wachee 0

Final Trinity Christian 38, Keswick Christian 6

Final Clearwater 15, Largo 12

Final Osceola 21, Citrus 0

Final Carrollwood Day 23, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 9

Final Foundation Academy 47, Northside Christian 35

Final Northeast 36, Tarpon Springs 0

Final South Sumter 34, Cypress Creek 15

Final Orlando Christian Prep 48, Seffner Christian 8

Final Zephyrhills Christian 55, Pasco 0

Final Anclote 30, Central 8

Final Jesuit 35, Plant City 13

Final Hernando 27, Nature Coast 21

Final Armwood 27, Steinbrenner 0

Final Newsome 35, Chamberlain 0

Final Strawberry Crest 28, Freedom 14

Final Land O’ Lakes 28, Sunlake 26

Final Tampa Bay Tech 28, Gaither 14

Final East Bay 41, Spoto, 7

Final Clearwater Central Catholic 23, Sebring 7

Final. Leto 14, Brandon 12

Final Hudson 42, Gulf 13

Final Durant 40, Sickles 13

Final Wesley Chapel 48, Fivay 0

Final Mitchell 25, East Lake 20

Final Plant 23, Sumner 15

Final Boca Ciega 28, Lakeland George Jenkins 14

Final Robinson 26, Blake 13

Final Wiregrass Ranch 69, River Ridge, 47

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The football player of the week

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WR Josh Robinson, Fr., Calvary Christian

A dynamic playmaker, Josh Robinson has already proved he is no ordinary freshman. 

In his first year of high school football, Robinson was given a prominent role. He continually improves, catching four passes three weeks ago and hauling in five passes the following week.

Still, that was nothing compared to Robinson’s performance last week. 

Against The First Academy, he set season highs for catches with six, yards with 167– and touchdowns with three. That’s right. Robinson reached the end zone on half of his receptions. 

Those scores helped the Warriors win 37-14 and improve to 3-1. 

Fans were impressed. Robinson received 57 percent of the votes (995) in the football player of the week poll to beat out Sunlake’s Kevin Spillane, who had 26 percent (453 votes). 

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