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In 2006, the Sunshine Football Officials Association held its first clinic for officials to get up to speed on rules and regulations.
Eight county teams participated that year at Clearwater.
Six years later, the scrimmages have become so popular they are now held at three sites to accommodate 24 teams from three counties.
“It’s a nice way for the teams to get a break from hitting one another and play someone else,” said Gail Blanton, the scheduling director for the association. “But the biggest thing is that it’s a great learning tool for our officials.”
Blanton said officials have to attend at least one clinic every four years and his association tries to schedule one at least every other year.
Saturday’s live scrimmages will take place at Calvary Christian, Clearwater and Countryside. The teams will each have 10 plays on offense from the 40-yard line. There also will be plays for specific situations, including kickoffs.
Teams clamor to be included because the scrimmage does not count toward a spring practice.
“I like to tell them that it’s a freebie,” Blanton said.
And because of the proximity of the high schools that are hosting the scrimmages, colleges will be flocking there to see potential recruits. At Calvary, more than 40 colleges are expected to attend in part to watch the scrimmage between East Lake and Bradenton Manatee at 10:40 a.m. Both teams are playoff powers that are loaded with prospects.
So will the scrimmage continue to grow?
“I hope not. I don’t know if we can handle much more,” Blanton joked.
Here is the schedule for Saturday’s scrimmages:
At Calvary, 9-10:35: Calvary Christian vs. Dixie Hollins; Canterbury vs. Anclote.
At Calvary, 10:40-12:15: East Lake vs. Bradenton Manatee; Lakewood Ranch vs. Dunedin.
At Clearwater, 9-10:35: Clearwater vs. Seminole; Largo vs. Clearwater Central Catholic.
At Clearwater, 10:40-12:15: Palm Harbor University vs. Bradenton Bayshore; St. Petersburg vs. Tarpon Springs.
At Countryside, 9-10:10:35: Countryside vs. Boca Ciega; River Ridge vs. Shorecrest.
At Countryside, 10:40-12:15: Bradenton Southeast vs. Lakewood; Osceola vs. Northeast.
Just a few athletes who have caught Cotey’s eye so far this spring:
Quan Fuller, St. Petersburg Catholic: He didn’t play last year after transferring from Lakewood, but the rising sophomore is a 4.4 guy, according to the coaches, and will see lots of touches in the new offense.
Chris White, SPC: Already getting some college sniffs, will be one of the Barons’ top receivers and is a solid corner that could anchor the defensive backfield.
Jordan Adderly, Clearwater Central Catholic: Has been unblockable in practices, coach John Davis said. “Hopefully he’s as unblockable to other teams.”
Diquan Walker, CCC: Mark it down — he’s headed for a huge 2012 season and will be the Marauders’ starting running back.
Kabriel Jackson, Dixie Hollins: He’s the dash to Demondre Lambert’s smash, giving the Rebels, potentially, one of the best backfields in Pinellas County.
Countryside’s offensive line: Brandon Pertile was particularly impressive the day we were out there, but we’ll take them all. Probably the best unit we’ve seen, as usual.
Befitting a team that reached the state championship game last fall, Admiral Farragut has had plenty of players get attention from colleges this spring.
Blue Jackets coach Chris Miller said rising juniors Cortavious Givens and Napoleon Maxwell each received their first offer when Massachusetts came through this week. Todd Macon, a rising senior, also got his first offer from Ball State.
Compiled by staff writer Bob Putnam and John C. Cotey
Photo: Dixie Hollins' Kabriel Jackson