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Wed. September 5, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Midweek Grab Bag: Here to feed the football minds of millions

Grab Bag time! Read this, and tell me how the GB wasn’t nominated last year for a Pulitzer, or an Emmy, or something. I dare you. This isn’t a plastic sandwich bag, folks. Put on a bib, grab a salad fork and sit your butt down so we can get started.

Week 2's Dandy Dozen
1. Land O’Lakes at Pasco: Pirates' season opener, and while they may be a bit down from last year and the Gators looked good last week, I’ll take the Dudes of Dade City 27-19.

2. East Lake at Countryside: East Lake ran all over CCC last week, but the Eagles won’t do that against the Cougars. So, can they pass? With Artavis Scott hobbled, and Countryside boasting a highly underappreciated secondary, it won’t be easy. Countryside has won nine of past 10 in this series. Let’s make it 10 of 11: 28-21.

3. Plant at John Curtis Christian: John Curtis Christian has the same initials as everyone’s favorite preps columnist, so I have no choice. JCC 19-15.

4. American Heritage at Armwood: The Hawks' defense won’t be pushed around. This could be a season-defining game for Armwood. I like the Hawks 20-14.

5. Hillsborough at Cocoa: Hillsborough deserves these kinds of games, so I’m hoping the Terriers show well. I’m not sure they will show well enough to beat a darned good Tiger team. Cocoa 29-14.

6. Alonso at Durant: These are two of my preseason darlings, so I’m torn. But I really like the Cougars rushing attack, and they can pass now too, so give me Plant City’s finest, 27-25.

7. Jefferson at Newsome: Easily the biggest question of the week: is Jefferson that bad? Answer: No. Jefferson 26-21.

8. Fivay at Springstead: I was impressed by the Falcons' running backs in the preseason game, and Tyler Degen proved he’s no slouch at QB with a career-high 221 yards last week, so Fivay it is 20-14.

9. Palm Harbor University at St. Petersburg: Two standard, non-flashy smashmouth football teams you’ll be able to hear from blocks away banging into each other. Reminds me of old school Big Ten. I’ll take the Green Devils 14-13.

10. Tampa Catholic at Zephyrhills: The more I see and hear of the Crusaders, the more I like. Didn’t everyone hold this team’s memorial service back in April? I’ll take the TC Zombies 29-23.

11. Steinbrenner at East Bay: One of the more interesting matchups. Two teams, lots of wondering. Can you stop East Bay, or only hope to contain? I say stop, I’ll take Steinbrenner 28-14, but I’m kinda hoping East Bay becomes the story of the year.

12. Wharton at Sickles: You can’t run on Sickles, that we know. Can you pass on them? I don’t think so. Sickles 28-14.

Upset special: Freedom over Plant City
Yes, the Patriots have been awful. Really awful. But I saw a little glimmer of something Friday while watching one quarter against Durant. Or maybe that was the sun reflecting off a helmet. Either way, it burned my eyes and made them tear up. Then when I blinked, I saw dots. Almost tripped over a water bottle....sorry, where was I? Oh yeah, Freedom 20-14.

Grab Bag offensive player of the week
Tarpon Springs’ Kenyatta Merriex is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons receiving, and his attempt to make it three straight this year began with...100 yards rushing? Yep Merriex (5-6, 145) ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns for the Spongers, who knocked off Dunedin 24-7 Friday. Think the Falcons might be sick of Merriex? The 112 yards rushing was a career high; in last year’s season opener, Merriex caught nine passes for 229 yards -- a career-high. Oh, and by the way: Merriex also had six tackles and an interception, Friday too.

Grab Bag defensive player of the week
Can we just pick the whole Sickles team? The Gryphons held Steinbrenner to minus-34 yards rushing, impressive considering running the ball was supposed to be a team strength for the Warriors. Safety Adekunle Olusanya had 11 tackles, defensive end Deven Santana had eight tackles, Anthony Janezik had seven tackles, two sacks and three passes defended and Jared O’Donoghue had two sacks to lead a suffocating effort.

Stat of the week
Plant hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in a season opener since 2006. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

Despite its reputation for developing quarterbacks -- Aaron Murray (Georgia), Phillip Ely (Alabama) and Robert Marve (Purdue), all played Saturday for big-time college programs -- the Panther passers are slow but steady starters.

Saturday night, Aaron Banks completed 9-of-17 passes for 182 yards in his first start.

James Few started the 2009 and 2011 season openers, completing a combined 12 of 20 passes for 131 yards.

In 2010, Phillip Ely was 8-for-13 for 129 yards, and in 2007 and 2008, Aaron Murray was 31-for-65 for 408 yards.

That’s 115 passing attempts, and no touchdowns. But, it should be noted, only one interception was thrown in that time as well, and Few, Ely and Murray all won state titles.

The explanation for the lack of touchdown passes? Simple: The Panthers played Jesuit in 2011-12, Tampa Bay Tech 2009-10 and Armwood in 2007-08. All pretty good, and some great, defenses.

In 2006, Marve threw for 282 yards and the last season-opening touchdown pass for Plant.

His opponent? Bloomingdale.

Shocker of the week
It wasn’t a surprise that Jefferson lost to Robinson Saturday night, but the fact that the Dragons gave up 58 points was a mouth dropper.

The Dragons have given up 52 (to St. Edward last year), 54 (to Plant in 2007 and Armwood in 2004) and 55 to Sarasota in 1988. But more than 58?

You have to go all the way back 1966, when Jefferson lost 61-6 to Winter Haven and 66-6 to King in a three-week span.

Name of the week
Remember Marcus Allen, NFL running back?

Meet Marcus Allen, a 5-9, 155-pound Weeki Wachee sophomore.

The littler Allen had four catches for 98 yards and two TDs, and added an interception while causing and recovering a fumble as well as Weeki Wachee won its varsity debut 33-14.

Three-headed monster
East Bay not only had three players gain more than 100 yards Saturday night, but they each averaged more than 10 yards a carry. Brandon Byrd (nine carries, 114 yards, four TDs), Chris Carpentier (10 carries, 109 yards, TD) and Chris Greene (seven carries, 133 yards, TD) helped lead the Indian charge through the Lennard defense.

Happy 100th
Tampa Bay Tech’s Deon Thompson rushed for 100 yards in the Titans win over Newsome, the first time in his career he hit the century mark. Last year, Thompson’s season-best was 82 yards (also against Newsome).

By the numbers
2:  Wins in its last 31 games for Seminole, which lost its 14th straight Friday.

3: Punts blocked last week by Strawberry Crest (Rashaun Roofe, Cody McDaniel, Cody Nulph)

4: Straight wins by Tarpon Springs over Dunedin.

5: Passes caught by River Ridge’s George Cordova, three from his quarterback and two from the other team’s quarterback.

5.5: Sacks by St. Petersburg Catholic’s Elevisi Halapio.

6: Straight 100-yard games for Chamberlain’s Xavier Johnson after racking up another Saturday.

10: Touches by Gaither’s Shug Oyegunle and Vu Le, who each had six carries and four catches for a combined 186 yards.

20: Tackles by Mitchell’s Sammy Miller

28: Points scored by both teams combined in their two previous meetings, before East Bay scored 43 in the win over Lennard.

83: Percent of the time St. Petersburg Catholic’s Ryan Green touched the ball Friday, he scored. Or 5 of 6.

207: Yards rushed for by Sunlake’s Eddie Burgos, tops in Tampa Bay for the week.

76-0: Combined score of Shorecrest’s wins the past two years over Northside Christian.

On target
Armwood quarterback Darryl Richardson was off-target for much of last season, but is looking more and more like 2012 will be his season to shine. He was 7-for-11 Saturday, his first time completing more than 60 percent of his passes, and he added 55 yards on the ground.

Speedy
Laroy “Speedy” Williams rushed nine times for 99 yards, which should have been no surprise if you were paying attention last season, when the St. Petersburg running back went 8-for-83 and 7-for-81 in the last two games of the season. That’s three straight games averaging more than 10 yards a carry.

Run, Pete, run
Pete Dinovo, who only threw for 106 yards Friday, ran for 50 and two touchdowns in leading East Lake over CCC. That was the most yards rushing for DiNovo since his high school debut in 2010, when he ran for 52 against St. Petersburg.

New kids on the block
There were 14 coaches making their debuts with new teams Friday and Saturday nights, and they ended up going 6-8. Bravo to Mark Lee (Weeki Wachee), Darryl Gordon (Blake), John Kelly (Strawberry Crest), Mike Thornton (Riverview), DJ Mayo (Chamberlain) and Dave Moore (Shorecrest).

Standing ovation
The best debut? Flip a coin.

Kelly, a former Cambridge Christian head coach and Armwood assistant, took over a Strawberry Crest team that allowed more than 30 points a game eight times last season, and turned it into a group that allowed just seven Saturday against Plant City.

The last and only time Strawberry Crest allowed seven points or fewer? Sept. 16, 2010 when the Chargers beat Keswick Christian 48-0.

And consider this: The Chargers lost this game 69-6 last year, making Saturday’s 21-7 win a 77-point turnaround.

Wowza.

And what about Thornton and Riverview?

The Sharks' only win the past two seasons was against Leto, and the scores of those other 18 losses were a combined 844-96, or an average score of 47-5.

In 14 of those 18 games, the Sharks scored 0 or 6 points.

That’s how unlikely Saturday’s 24-17 over Spoto was.

Well done to both coaches.

The Grab Bag is compiled by me, John C. Cotey, digging my nose into stats provided by coaches to MaxPreps and HomeTeam. So if you want to get in here, your stats will need to be in one of these places. You can always reach me at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam if you have any worthy tidbits.

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