MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
After a one-month hiatus because of weather and holidays, the Hernando and Pasco County 7-on-7 League resumed Tuesday at Springstead.
The programs that attended included the Eagles, Hernando, Hudson, Nature Coast, Fivay, and Central.
Players to watch
Connor Ross, LB, Springstead: A state wrestling finalist, Ross made an big impact for the Eagles defense as a freshman last season. Playing hard on every down, Ross found himself in the middle of the action on most plays, leading the team with 49 tackles despite missing two games due to injury. He recorded three pass defenses in the first half of play against Central on Tuesday night.
Quadavis Battle, WR, Central: On a slippery field after a light rain earlier in the day, the Bears senior showed why he’s the best athlete on the field for Central going into this season. Running barefoot, Battle never broke stride or had trouble cutting. Central coach Mike Einspahr raves about taking Battle to a combine at the University of Florida earlier this year where he ran a 4.6-second 40 without the proper gear.
Tyler Degen, QB, Fivay: A surprise star last season for the Falcons, Degen helped Fivay open up its passing game. As a junior he passed for 16 touchdowns and 1,388 yards with a 59 percent completion rate. Although the team loses leading receiver James Bullock, Fivay coach Chris Taylor is counting on Degen to maintain the team’s offensive balance. Tuesday night he led the Falcons to a 12-0 halftime lead over Nature Coast before being pulled with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
Chris Ayers, WR, Wesley Chapel: One of the Wildcats’ top athletes was impressive Wednesday and nearly helped Wesley Chapel knock off a Spoto team loaded with skill players. The 6-foot senior, who also plays defensive back, emerged in the spring with a touchdown catch against Sunlake in the jamboree. “He always wants the ball in his hands,” coach Ben Alford said. “He’s a competitor.”
Hernando senior ATH Tyrail Hawkins has been receiving a lot of attention on the recruiting front, and the interested colleges just keep pouring in. Hawkins went on an official visit to Appalachian State (N.C.) at the end of June. UCF is already on the radar as far major Division I schools, and Miami has also been sending letters to Hawkins and teammate Jeremiah Jackson.
Hawkins and Jackson have been speaking with Hurricanes linebackers and special teams coach Michael Barrow, a former NFL linebacker and two-time national champion. Both players are planning a trip to Coral Gables in the coming months.
Jackson and Wiregrass Ranch quarterback Shane Bucenell — a 2015 prospect — are scheduled to attend a camp this week at Florida State.
New players on the radar
Matt Slaten, LB, Springstead: After sacking Weeki Wachee QB David Tinch twice in the spring game, it was obvious that Slaten was going to make an immediate impact in his first season on the varsity level. Reminding coaches of former Eagle pass-rusher Lou Wendelstedt, he has better ball skills, picking off Central QB Cody Brooks Tuesday night.
Billy Gregoire and Jameson Carney, QB, Nature Coast: These freshmen are among five currently being considered by the Sharks staff for the opening night gig this fall. After a disappointing first half from Ryan Quigley and Trevor Castro, this duo combined to go 10-of-12 for 80 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as the Sharks tied Fivay 18-18. Only a last minute interception thrown by Gregoire gave Fivay the 21-18 win.
Jordan Viches, WR, Wiregrass Ranch: The Bulls could go young at quarterback with sophomore Bucenell, but he’ll have a great target in Viches. The 6-foot-3 senior has the size and hands of a basketball player and used his leaping ability to sky for several key catches Wednesday. “He’s had a heck of a day,” Bulls coach Jeremy Shobe said.
“These games are good for the evaluation process. If a kid can’t catch out here, he’ll have a lot more trouble with pads on. It also helps the players keep familiar with our terminology.” - Springstead coach Bill Vonada
Staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.