With the football season halfway over, let’s take a midseason look at the Pinellas County’s top players, performances, games and coaches so far.
Best all-around player
Brent O’Neal, Canterbury. It would be difficult to find another player who means more to his team. The Crusaders lost tailback James Goodwin to graduation, meaning O’Neal would be the focal point of the offense. Facing defenses stacked to contain him, O’Neal has responded by rushing for a county-best 1,189 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also has led Canterbury to the top of the standings in Class 2A, District 5 and possibly the school’s first ever postseason appearance.
Also considered: Diomi Roberts, Countryside; Jeremi Powell, Pinellas Park; Javaris Little, Lakewood; Sean Culkin, Indian Rocks Christian; Blair Vaughan, CC Catholic.
Top offensive player
Tracy Johnson, Lakewood. In his first year as a full-time starter, Johnson has thrown for a county-best 1,233 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also has led the Spartans to a 5-0 start and made them strong contenders in Class 5A, District 8.
Also considered: Louis Pappas, Tarpon Springs; Jarvis Stewart, Largo; Pete DiNovo, East Lake.
Top defensive player
Gary Simon, Gibbs. The defensive back has recorded five interceptions and has allowed opposing receivers to catch just five passes against him. That’s not all. Simon also has four touchdown receptions and is averaging 18 per punt return, 26 yards per kickoff return and nearly 40 yards as the Gladiators’ punter.
Also considered: Derrick Doss, Largo; Shaquille Griffin, Lakewood; Mike Love, Countryside; Adam Vinson, Countryside.
Jared Davis, Countryside. The Cougars had to replace more than 20 seniors, including the entire offensive line and a good portion of the defense. Davis has done a remarkable job of filling in the holes in the lineup and has guided Countryside to a 6-0 start, including wins against East Lake and Largo. With a favorable second-half schedule, the Cougars are in position to go undefeated in the regular season for the second straight year.
Also considered: John Davis, CC Catholic; Matt Lepain, Palm Harbor University; Chris Miller, Admiral Farragut.
Palm Harbor University. The Hurricanes were in disarray last season, losing their final seven games and their head coach, Mark Haye, at the end of the season. Matt Lepain, a longtime defensive coordinator at Largo, was hired to lift the program out of the doldrums. PHU has enjoyed a remarkable transformation so far, going 4-2, tying East Lake at the top of the Class 8A, District 6 and putting itself in position for its first playoff appearance.
QB Casey Woods, Indian Rocks Christian: Taking over as a fulltime starter, Woods has thrown 18 touchdowns.
RB Todd Macon, Admiral Farragut: Replaced the injured Cortavious Givens and has rushed for 763 yards and 11 touchdowns.
WR Dondre Daley, Tarpon Springs: The transfer from Anclote has 11 touchdowns, seven on receptions.
WR Rodney Adams, Lakewood: Transfer from St. Petersburg Catholic has 418 yards receiving and four touchdowns.
TE/DL Chris Skukalek, Largo: Paved the way for Jarvis Stewart to break loose as a blocker and leads team in sacks with six.
RB Brent O’Neal, Canterbury: His 4-yard carry in overtime and two-point conversion run sealed Canterbury’s 43-42 win over Cambridge. O’Neal also had 148 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, returned a kickoff 98 yards and had a 95-yard interception return.
DB Mike Johnson, Countryside: He intercepted passes on consecutive fourth-quarter drives to fend off East Lake in a 27-21 victory. One was for a touchdown to put the Cougars ahead by 13.
Daley, Tarpon Springs: He had three touchdown catches, threw a touchdown pass and returned a blocked punt 10 yards for another score in a 56-8 rout over Clearwater.
K Teddy Aloizakis, Dunedin: Kicked three field goals and nailed two punts inside the 10-yard line in 9-6 upset over Gibbs.
A passing fancy
The talk at the beginning of the season was the passing numbers that could be on display thanks to a number of prolific quarterbacks who were returning. The discussion initially revolved around a trio of quarterbacks, East Lake’s Pete DiNovo, Countryside’s Gray Crow and Tarpon Springs’ Louis Pappas.
But two others have stolen the spotlight. Lakewood’s Tracy Johnson (15 touchdown passes) and Indian Rocks Christian’s Casey Woods (18 TDs) each are on pace to throw for 30 touchdowns this season. Only one other county quarterback in the county — former Gibbs standout Shaun King — has reached that plateau in the regular season.
Tarpon Springs’ receiver Kenyatta Merriex (624 yards) also is on pace to become the first county player in more than a decade to reach the 1,000 yard plateau.
Three biggest remaining matchups
IRC at Canterbury, Friday: Winner has inside track to a playoff berth in 2A-5.
Jesuit at Lakewood, Oct. 21: This one between two powerhouses could be for the district title in Class 5A-8.
Pinellas Park at Countryside, Oct. 28: Upstart Patriots will try to knock off Cougars for Class 7A-9 title.
East Lake at Palm Harbor U., Nov. 4: Huge rivalry game now has real meaning with top two spots in 8A-6 on the line.