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Prep Sports Report

Bob Putnam, Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons

Cross country: Tampa Prep's Garba, Berkeley's Ochoa prevail in IRC Open

Shorecrest's Luke Peterson, left, with Berkeley Prep's Leo Ochoa

Andy Warrener | Special to the Times

Shorecrest's Luke Peterson, left, with Berkeley Prep's Leo Ochoa

LARGO – The Indian Rocks Christian Open opened up on a sweltering summer evening Thursday. 
The JV races went off first, giving varsity runners some extra minutes to prepare. As the girls race set off, Shorecrest's Olivia Rovin and Tampa Prep freshman Josie Garba began to out-pace the field. 
The course at IRC took three laps around various landmarks. The starting chute went through the football field and the first loop wrapped around the baseball field, coming down through the parking lot and making a loop around the school before emerging onto the track with a sharp turn to the left onto the track, before starting into the second loop; each was roughly 1 mile. 
Rovin and Garba were stride-for-stride through the first mile with a pack of Berkeley Prep girls holding down the third, fourth, fifth and sixth spots.
"(Rovin) made the move early and my plan was just to stick with her," Garba said. "I had to pace it out or I was going to die from the heat."
Around for the second loop, Rovin and Garba began to put seconds on the Berkeley pack. Into the third loop, Garba made her move.
"I started to wonder if I was going to be able to pass her (Rovin) or not," Garba said. "But then I felt her wear down, and then just past the baseball field I made my move and just tried to put space between us. I don't have a big kick so I wanted to make my move early enough."
The longer-legged Rovin could have run down Garba in a finish-line kick but Garba made sure it didn't come to that as she raced across the finish in 19:43.30. Rovin, recently declared cancer-free from a battle with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, finished with a strong 19:53.90.
"The race felt good aside from the heat," Rovin said. "My arms started to seize up with three-quarters of a mile to go but I kept pushing through it."
Rovin was thrilled to knock 50 seconds off her time from Saturday's Jim Ryun Meet in Lakeland and claims she's "110 percent, feeling better than ever."
In the boys race, Shorecrest's Luke Peterson flew out to an early lead pulling the pack along with him. Around the baseball field the first time, it was Peterson building a lead on Berkeley Prep's Leo Ochoa with Carrollwood Day School's Jack Pironti in third, a few seconds back.
"By the second loop, I just wanted to stay with him (Peterson)," Ochoa said. "He went out so fast but I felt confident."
When the runners emerged at the 2-mile mark, Peterson had a good five-second lead on Ochoa, and Pironti was being challenged by IRC's Justin Nunamaker, roughly 15 seconds behind Ochoa. That's when Ochoa decided to challenge a much taller Peterson.
"Into that third loop, I started to close and I thought I had a chance," Ochoa said. "Once I got to him (Peterson), I made a definitive move and just started to kick out from the point where I passed him."
Rememeber that sharp turn coming onto the track? Ochoa remembers as he ate it, just yards from the finish line. Yet Ochoa, skinned knees and all, got up and kicked it out, taking first with a time of 16:10.30, which moves into the third-best run in Florida in the season. 
Peterson came in second with a 16:19.10, fifth best in the state. Pironti fought off a stout challenge from Nunamaker to take third in 16:53.10 and Nunamaker finished in 16:57.20.
Peterson and the Chargers roared to a team victory with 47 points to runnerup IRC's 114. CCC's boys took third with 132. 
Justin Scoby took seventh for the Chargers, and Casey Cureton grabbed 10th. All five Charger boys finished in the top 18. 
The meet grew in 2015. IRC coach Bobbi LaBrant said that with the same number of schools as last year's meet, there were 100 more runners on Thursday.
The Berkeley girls were dominant, with Caroline Brown leading the way for the Bucs with a 21:20.3. Christiana Till was not too far behind her at 21:41.50. Abby Walters grabbed fifth in 21:58.7 with IRC's Ava Labrant breaking up the Berkeley string with a 22:02.80 for sixth. 
The Bucs finished with a razor-thin 24 points, more than doubling up Shorecrest with 57. Host IRC was third with 89.

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Volleyball: Berkeley Prep pulls no punches against new district foe CCC

TAMPA – Welcome to 4A-9, Clearwater Central Catholic.
Berkeley Prep rudely greeted the defending Class 3A state champion in its move up in classification as the Buccaneers defeated the visiting Marauders 25-17, 25-17 and 25-18 Thursday.
“I thought we did some nice things tonight,” Berkeley Prep coach John Coup said. “I didn’t think we were out of synch, but not totally in synch. CCC is a good team. They will be there at the end.”
Berkeley Prep (3-0) trailed only once – at 9-8 in Game 3 – and that lasted all of one point. The Bucs' ball control was crisp, and the offense spread the attack around. Five Bucs had at least five kills.
“Everyone knows all about Jenna (Hampton),” said Bucs senior Madison Jenkins, who finished with a team-high 11 kills, a block and an ace. “We’ve been working on finding ways to get our middles involved more, which opens up things on the outside.”
CCC, which lost six seniors off last year’s state-title team, also got used to life without two of its projected top players. Transfers Channing Chambers and Lily Curci were ruled ineligible for district matches by the Florida High School Athletic Association because they played for CCC coach Stephen Shepherd's club team within the past year.
“Those two kids would have helped a lot,” Coup said. “I would have loved to see those two kids on the floor. They would have made a big difference.”
The Bucs led from wire-to-wire in Game 1 and closed things out when Kellyn Trowse (nine kills) hammered a winner through the blockers. Game 2 was tied at 16 before the wheels came off for CCC (1-0). The Bucs went on an 8-0 run, aided by five unforced Marauders’ errors, and ended it on a middle set to Emma Calverley (six kills).
“I think that speaks to the youth of our team,” Shepherd said of the Game 2 ending. “This was a learning experience for this group. I like the pieces we’ve got and we’re going to grow.”
The Bucs opened up with a 6-0 run in Game 3, including a bizarre moment. CCC played the first point of the game with only five players on the court. The Bucs were eventually awarded the point and went on a 6-0 run midway through to make it 22-14. Trowse then connected on a cross-court winner to finish the match out.
Hampton, who played despite nursing a sprained ankle, finished with seven kills while teammate Sofia Florin added six. Morgan Reyes had 20 digs for the Bucs, and Hampton accounted for 17. Cameron Fitzpatrick and Rachel Schmitz each finished with recorded nine kills for CCC.

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Baseball: Zach Roper hired as East Lake head coach

Zack Roper was named the new head baseball coach at East Lake on Thursday. Roper, 37, replaces Dan Genna, who resigned from the position in June. Roper was an assistant under Genna last season.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity,'' Roper said. "It's a great program with a lot of history. I know the guys from last season and with the depth we have, especially pitching depth, we could be a special team.''

Roper played baseball at Tarpon Springs and went on to play at Florida Atlantic University. He played five years of minor league baseball before returning to the East Lake area. He is currently a medical device salesman.

Prior to coaching at East Lake, Roper spent three seasons (2010-12) as an assistant at Tarpon Springs under Dickie Hart. Roper and Hart grew up together. Roper said it was always his goal to become a head coach in the area.

"My wife and I have three boys and we always wanted to establish roots in the area,'' Roper said. "I've been given so much because of baseball and I want to give back to the game as much as I can. This is my opportunity to do that.'' …

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Week 2 football picks

Can Robinson beat Wharton this week? All three of our staff writers certainly think so.


Can Robinson beat Wharton this week? All three of our staff writers certainly think so.

Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic at Bishop McLaughlin, 7

Bob Putnam: Santa Fe 41-21

Rodney Page: Santa Fe 28-24

Kelly Parsons: Santa Fe, 35-20

Seffner Christian at Carrollwood Day, 7

Bob Putnam: Carrollwood Day 28-14

Rodney Page: Carrollwood Day, 42-21

Kelly Parsons: Carrollwood Day, 45-31

Cambridge Christian at Shorecrest, 7

Bob Putnam: Cambridge 63-7

Rodney Page: Cambridge Christian 50-0

Kelly Parsons: Cambridge Christian, 45-6

Berkeley Prep at Lakeland Victory Christian, 7

Bob Putnam: Berkeley Prep 20-14

Rodney Page: Victory Christian 17-14

Kelly Parsons: Victory Christian 14-7

Sarasota Riverview at Tampa Catholic, 7

Bob Putnam: Tampa Catholic 21-7

Rodney Page: Tampa Catholic 28-14

Kelly Parsons: Tampa Catholic 37-10

Bradenton St. Stephen’s at Keswick Christian, 7

Bob Putnam: St. Stephen’s 24-14

Rodney Page: St. Stephen’s 36-34

Kelly Parsons: Keswick Christian 40-21

Sarasota Out-of-Door at Admiral Farragut, 7

Bob Putnam: Admiral Farragut 42-14

Rodney Page: Admiral Farragut 31-21

Kelly Parsons: Admiral Farragut 39-17

Anclote at Mitchell, 7:30

Bob Putnam: Mitchell 31-17

Rodney Page: Mitchell 10-7

Kelly Parsons: Anclote 14-13

Nature Coast at Hudson, 7:30

Bob Putnam: Nature Coast 34-31

Rodney Page: Nature Coast 31-14 …

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Huge win for Green Devils volleyball team

St. Petersburg’s volleyball season did not get off to a good start. Just days before school began, pipes burst in the school’s gym and the floor is still under repair. 

Head coach Alex Sevillano has been scrambling to find places for her team to practice. In fact, the Green Devils didn’t practice at all prior to the Indian Rocks preseason tournament and lost 3-0 to defending state champ Clearwater Central Catholic.

Despite all of that, St. Petersburg accomplished a first on Tuesday night. The Green Devils defeated East Lake for the first time in school history, 25-17, 25-23, 26-24. Even more important? It was a district match.

“I really didn’t know what team was going to show up,” Sevillano said. “We haven’t been able to practice much. But the girls really came together and played very well.”

Cristen Gunn led St. Petersburg with nine kills. Hailey Dolan, Jenna Smith and Asianna Williams each had six kills. Libero Jillian Kilgroe had 22 digs, and Natalie Danner had five blocks against East Lake.


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Golf: Calvary Invitational tees off at Innisbrook Saturday

The first big area high school golf tournament of the season will be played on Saturday.

The Calvary Christian Invitational will be held on Innisbrook's North Course. The 8 a.m. shotgun start will feature 14 schools from around the state, including last year's third-place team in Class A, Windermere Prep, and Mitchell, which was sixth in Class 2A.

The 14 schools competing are Calvary Christian, Clearwater Central Catholic, Countryside, Tampa Prep, Harmony, Shorecrest, North Broward Prep, Seacrest Country Day, Seminole, Mitchell, East Lake, Northside Christian, Windermere Prep and St. Petersburg.

Admission to the tournament is free.

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Armwood Class 6A's No. 2 in Associated Press football poll

The Associated Press' state high school football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records, rating points and previous rankings. Area teams in bold:

Class 8A
 1. Apopka (17) 1-0 179 1  
 2. Charles Flanagan (1) 1-0 163 2  
 3. Christopher Columbus Catholic 1-0 131 3  
 4. Kissimmee Osceola 1-0 130 4  
 5. Dr. Phillips 1-0 108 5  
 6. Vero Beach 1-0 92 7  
 7. West Orange 1-0 63 8  
 8. Atlantic Community 1-0 37 NR  
 9. Manatee 0-1 34 6  
10. Miramar 0-1 17 9  
Others receiving votes: South Dade 8, Fort Pierce Central 8, Palm Beach Gardens 5, Miami Southridge 3, Coral Gables 3, West Port 3, Deerfield Beach 2, Mandarin 2, Timber Creek 1, Wellington 1.  …

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Sunday Morning QB: Week 1 bonus cuts

Sunlake's Nick Valdes

Brendan Fitterer | Times

Sunlake's Nick Valdes

New coaches soar in Week 1

Bishop McLaughlin and Middleton — which posted 2-8 and 0-10 records, respectively, a year ago — both went through coaching changes in the offseason. Jeff Swymer, the Hurricanes’ baseball coach, took on the football team, too, and Fred Reid, a former King High standout, took over a Middleton program that hasn’t won more than two games in a season since 2010.

But Friday night, both coaches didn’t waste any time getting their programs back on track.

Bishop McLaughlin didn’t just get by All Saints’ Academy, it trounced it, winning 49-6.

Middleton, led by senior first-year quarterback Mike Edoga’s 117 yards passing and three touchdowns in the first half, pounced on Leto from the start, winning 34-6.

Three must-see games in Week 2

Countryside at Clearwater: The Cougars have been good for a while. The Tornadoes have not. Clearwater, however, appears to be back after some dismal seasons. They beat Tarpon Springs 38-0 to open the season. Now comes another neighborhood game that will go a long way in determining where these teams are. Boths teams scored 38 points in the opener, but both pride themselves on defense. …

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Week 1 football picks

Week 1 of the 2015 season offers quite a few intriguing matchups.

Times file

Week 1 of the 2015 season offers quite a few intriguing matchups.

Bye week: Anclote, Hudson

Bishop McLaughlin at Winter Haven All Saints’, 7

Rodney Page: All Saints, 14-12

Kelly Parsons: Bishop McLaughlin, 14-13

Bob Putnam: Bishop McLaughlin 21-7

Zephyrhills Christian at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, 7

Page: Santa Fe Catholic, 20-14

Parsons: Santa Fe Catholic, 24-21

Putnam: Zephyrhills Christian 14-7

Admiral Farragut at Carrollwood Day, 7

Page: Admiral Farragut, 27-21

Parsons: Admiral Farragut, 35-21

Putnam: Admiral Farragut 31-17

Indian Rocks Christian at Tampa Catholic, 7

Page: IRC, 23-20

Parsons: IRC, 41-27

Putnam: IRC 28-27

Keswick Christian at Canterbury, 7

Page: Canterbury, 18-16

Parsons: Keswick Christian, 21-20

Putnam: Canterbury 28-14

Shorecrest at Sarasota Out-of-Door, 7

Page: Out-of-Door, 33-24

Parsons: Out-of-Door, 18-14

Putnam: Out-of-Door 24-20

Calvary Christian at Winter Park Trinity Prep, 7

Page: Calvary Christian, 32-27

Parsons: Trinity Prep, 35-24

Putnam: Trinity Prep 28-26

Seffner Christian at St. Petersburg Catholic, 7

Page: Seffner Christian, 17-14

Parsons: Seffner Christian, 37-21

Putnam: Seffner Christian 30-14

Land O’Lakes at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

Page: Wesley Chapel, 27-17

Parsons: Land O’Lakes, 24-14

Putnam: Land O’Lakes 31-14

Mitchell at River Ridge, 7:30 …

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Back issues force Gulf football coach to step down

Jason Messamore had been the head coach at Gulf since 2013.

Times file

Jason Messamore had been the head coach at Gulf since 2013.

Jason Messamore stepped down as Gulf’s head football coach on Wednesday due to lingering back problems. Messamore’s resignation comes just two days before the Buccaneers’ preseason game against Osceola.

“I’ve had these back issues for about a year now,” Messamore said. “By mid-July it got so bad that I could hardly get out of bed. I’ve only made about four practices. It’s hard to keep trying to gut through this. I decided that I needed to take a break and take care of myself. I’m 40 and I want to be able to walk when I’m 60.”

Bruno Buonsanto, also the girls basketball coach, will be the coach in the interim until the end of the season. Messamore has been at Gulf since 2013. Prior to that he was an assistant coach at Clearwater Central Catholic and East Lake. Last season, the Buccaneers were 8-3 and made the playoffs. This season, Gulf has struggled with numbers but does have enough to play the season.

Messamore said he will remain as a teacher at the school. He is undecided about whether to undergo back surgery or rely on rehabilitation.

“I don’t think I’m done coaching,” he said. “I’m going to miss it. But I’ve got to get this straightened out before I do anything.”

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Indian Rocks Christian tied for first in state preseason poll

The Associated Press' state high school football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records, rating points and previous rankings. Local teams in bold:

Class 8A
1. Apopka (7) 0-0 149 -  
2. Charles Flanagan (8) 0-0 143 -  
3. Christopher Columbus Catholic 0-0 116 -  
4. Kissimmee Osceola 0-0 84 -  
5. Dr. Phillips (1) 0-0 79 -  
6. Manatee 0-0 57 -  
7. Vero Beach 0-0 39 -  
8. West Orange 0-0 37 -  
9. Miramar 0-0 32 -  
10. Wellington 0-0 30 -  
Others receiving votes: Lake Mary 26, Atlantic Community 24, South Dade 16, American 9, Palm Beach Gardens 6, University (Orange City) 6, Miami Southridge 5, Oviedo 4, Flagler Palm Coast 3, Wekiva 3, Plantation 3, Timber Creek 3, Homestead 2, Fort Pierce Central 1, Cypress Bay 1, Deerfield Beach 1, Ridge Community 1.  …

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Lakewood's Bo Bichette wins UA All-American Game home run derby

Lakewood's Bo Bichette won the home run derby at the Under Armour All-American Game at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Saturday. Bichette hit a total of 16 home runs, including seven in the final round, to win the trophy.

The derby took place prior to the all-star game, which is for the top high school underclassmen in the country. In the game, Bichette tripled, drove in a run and made two stellar defensive plays to help the National team beat the American team 11-5. National team catcher Andy Yerzy was named the game's MVP.

Bichette, a senior, has played the past two seasons at Lakewood. He hit .492 in 21 games as a sophomore. Last season, Bichette played in only seven games due to injury. He was hitting .692 before missing the final 22 games. He is committed to Arizona State.

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Armwood on the hunt for preseason opponent

For nearly six months Armwood had been scheduled to host St. John's (Washington D.C.) for its preseason matchup, a private-school team that made headlines last year with a season-opening 35-2 win against IMG Academy in Bradenton.
But two weeks ago, the Cadets backed out of that agreement, stating that the Maryland athletic association wouldn't allow it to play a game before Aug. 28, Armwood coach Sean Callahan said.
Now, with the hole in their schedule just two weeks away, the Hawks are looking for someone — anyone — to play, putting the word out through email and on social media.
"We've contacted everyone in the country," Callahan said. "We said we'd play them as long as they'd help us get out there and stuff."
Callahan said he was close to making a deal with IMG — which would have brought some of the best players in the Tampa Bay area back to Hillsborough County — but to make that happen the Ascenders would have had to reschedule their Aug. 22 game with American Heritage. That reshuffling didn't work out, and as of now, the Hawks are still opponentless for the preseason.

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Gibbs nabs summer basketball title

Gibbs players after defeating St. Petersburg for the TASCO championship.


Gibbs players after defeating St. Petersburg for the TASCO championship.

Gibbs opened play in the TASCO boys basketball league two months ago with a 10-point loss to St. Petersburg. Since then, the Gladiators went undefeated, setting up a rematch with the Green Devils in Monday’s championship game at Fossil Park.
This time, Gibbs applied the pressure and rallied from an early deficit to win 40-32.
“We played (St. Petersburg) the first game in the summer after two days of practice,” Gladiators coach Larry Murphy said. “I told our guys afterward I would like to see us play them again at the end of the summer. That was kind of our game plan from June 11 to now to see how much improvement we’ve made.
“For us, this was sort of a validation of the summer to show what we’ve done since June.”
It was fitting that the neighboring rivals squared off in the championship game. After all, Gibbs and St. Petersburg each advanced to the state semifinals in their respective classifications last season and were meeting in the final of the TASCO league for the second time in the past three years.
The Gladiators had some rebuilding to do after losing two Division I players – Barry Brown (Kansas State) and Sajon Ford (Northeastern). Because of that, Murphy went light on next season’s schedule to help a young team gain more confidence early on.
But after a strong showing in the summer, culminating with Monday’s win, the Gladiators still have high expectations. In typical Gibbs fashion, the defensive pressure was the catalyst in turning a 17-15 halftime deficit into a resounding win.
“Marquez Walls played well, Jerard Williams hit some big shots and David Pierce was solid throughout,” Murphy said. “DJ Johnson came on in the second half. He had some foul trouble early but the second half he helped us control the game.
“We’re young, but we’re going to be in the thick of things next season. I think we have a shot to win the district and make another run to be honest.”

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Day 1 a wash for many area football teams

After three weeks of heavy rain, area football players and coaches were hoping for some kind of refuge for the start of fall practice on Monday.

But the monsoons continued and flood warnings were issued for parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties that lasted until 4:30 p.m. Because of the conditions, most practices were washed out.

“We had to (cancel),” Anclote coach Matt Wicks said. “There’s lots of flooding. I just didn’t want to risk it.”

Nearly every practice was canceled in southwestern Pasco County, one of the hardest hit areas. The Anclote River was expected to reach 26.5 feet – more than 2 feet past the major flood stage. The schools in that area that didn’t call off practice were forced to go through drills inside the gymnasium.

Hillsborough also reported widespread flooding, especially in South Tampa. Schools in that area, such as Jefferson, Robinson and Tampa Catholic, canceled practice. Plant, which has a turf field, was planning to practice Monday night. …

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