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Football: Player of the Week Poll (Week 1)

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Here are the nominations for the football player of the week. Voting lasts until midnight on Thursday. 

WR Kenen Ayala, Jr., Land O’ Lakes: Hauled in four passes for 171 yards, all for touchdowns, in a win over Weeki Wachee.

WR AJ Durham, Sr., Plant: Had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in a win over Jefferson.

RB James Evans, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Helped fill the void left by Rod Gainey’s departure by rushing for 62 yards on nine carries and accounting for three of the Titans’ five touchdowns in a win over Plant City. 

ATH Eric Jackson, Sr., Pinellas Park: Recorded two interceptions on defense and had six catches for 163 yards and a touchdown on offense in a win over East Lake. 

ATH C.J. Lee, Sr., Clearwater: Finished with eight catches for 144 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to Lakeland.

RB Montravious Lloyd, Jr., Lakewood: Ran for 153 yards and scored four touchdowns in a win over Boca Ciega. 

OLB Cortland Mitchell, Sr., Osceola: Recorded 12 tackles and had a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in a win over Bradenton Bayshore.

S Nick Sheldon, Sr., Zephyrhills: Had six tackles, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, one of which was returned for a touchdown in a win over Lakeland Kathleen. 

ATH Ladamien Starks, Sr., Hudson: Did a little bit of everything for the Cobras, finishing with four catches for 181 yards and three touchdowns, as well as a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception on defense in a win over River Ridge.

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NFL: The list of locals in this weekend’s wild-card games

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Diontae Johnson

There are a number of former high school standouts to keep tabs on during this weekend’s NFL wild-card games. Here is the schedule along with the list of locals.

Saturday, Jan. 15

Las Vegas Raiders at Cincinnati Bengals, 4:30 NBC

Las Vegas

  • No local players

Cincinnati

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
CB Vernon Hargreaves IIIWhartonFlorida
WR Auden TateWhartonFlorida State
TE Mitch WilcoxTarpon SpringsSouth Florida
* Auden Tate is currently on the reserves list

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills, 8:15 CBS

New England

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Nelson AgholorBerkeley PrepSouthern California
OL Isaiah WynnLakewoodGeorgia
* Isaiah Wynn is out because of injuries

Buffalo

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
RB Matt BreidaNature CoastGeorgia Southern
DE Mike LoveCountrysideSouth Florida
* Mike Love currently is on the practice squad

Sunday, Jan. 16

Philadelphia Eagles at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1 FOX

Philadelphia

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Deon CainTampa Bay TechClemson
* Deon Cain currently is on the practice squad

Tampa Bay

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
P Sterling HofrichterArmwoodSyracuse
OG Brandon WaltonSeminoleFlorida Atlantic
* Sterling Hofrichter and Brandon Walton currently are on the practice squad

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys, 4:30 CBS

San Francisco

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
OG Jon HalapioSt. Petersburg CatholicFlorida
LB Azeez Al-ShaairHillsboroughFlorida Atlantic
* Jon Halapio currently is on the practice squad

Dallas

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
CB Anthony BrownHillsboroughPurdue

Pittsburgh Steelers at Kansas City Chiefs, 8:15 NBC

Pittsburgh

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
OT Chaz GreenTampa CatholicFlorida
WR Diontae JohnsonLennardToledo
WR Ray-Ray McCloudSicklesClemson
* Chaz Green currently is on the practice squad

Kansas City

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Byron PringleRobinsonKansas State

Monday, Jan. 16

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 ESPN, ESPN 2, ABC

Arizona

  • No local players
Tight end (89) Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams catches a pass and scores a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals and celebrates during the Rams 31-24 victory over the Cardinals in an NFL Week 17 regular season game, Sunday, December 29, 2019, in Los Angeles, CA. (Jeff Lewis)

Los Angeles Rams

Position, nameHigh schoolCollege
WR Jacob HarrisPalm Harbor UniversityCentral Florida
TE Tyler HigbeeEast LakeWestern Kentucky
* Jacob Harris currently is on the reserves list
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Football: Jesuit’s Matt Thompson named state coach of the year

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Jesuit coach Matt Thompson, who led the Tigers to their first state title since 1968, was named the overall state football coach of the year by the Florida Dairy Farmers. 

Thompson, named the 6A coach of the year two weeks ago, won the overall award following a final round of voting by a statewide panel of football coaches and media representatives. He finished with 10 first-place votes and 157 points to beat out Venice’s John Peacock, the 8A coach of the year who led the Indians to a state title. 

After reaching the state semifinals each of the last four seasons, the Tigers took the next step by beating perennial powerhouse Miami Northwestern in the state semifinals to advance to the championship game for the first time since 1992. 

In the 6A final, Jesuit rallied from a 15 point second half deficit to beat Pensacola Pine Forest for its first title in 53 years. The Tigers finished the season undefeated and ended up ranked No. 8 nationally, the highest of any area program in the MaxPreps era. During the regular season, Jesuit beat 7A state champion Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, becoming the first area program to knock off the national power. 

Thompson has 99 games and made six state semifinal appearances during his tenure.  

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Football: Pinellas Park’s Kenny Crawford steps down as coach

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Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford, who transformed the school’s downtrodden football into a consistent playoff contender, said he was stepping down after 13 seasons. 

“It was time,” Crawford said. “The job was just becoming too much.”

Former Boca Ciega coach Max Smith, who served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator this past season, will replace Crawford as coach. The decisions were announced to the team on Monday. 

Crawford, a former assistant at Northeast, was hired at Pinellas Park in 2009. He inherited a program that won five games from 2004-08. 

It did not take long for Crawford to turn things around. He went 10-10 his first two seasons in (2009-10), doubling the win total from the previous five seasons combined. Since then, Crawford has guided the Patriots to the playoffs in 10 of the past 11 seasons. 

He finishes as the school’s all-time leader in wins with 95. 

“When I took over, this was the worst team in the county,” Crawford said. “We never had a losing season during my time as coach. That’s something to be proud of.”

Crawford also spent countless hours helping kids play football at the next level. More than 100 of his players went on to play in college during his tenure.  

Part of the reason Crawford decided to step down was because of health issues. In the past five years, he has had surgery on his spine and both hips.

“I coached half of this past season in a golf cart,” Crawford said. “It just became too much.”

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