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Spring fling: Football players, teams that caught our attention

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Fri. June 7, 2013 | Times Staff

Spring fling: Football players, teams that caught our attention

It’s foresight from here, baby. For the remainder of the summer, we’ll peek at the 2013 season, project on it and pontificate about it — at length. But before that, let’s reflect once more on what we saw this past spring. (Our lists are not ranked in order of importance or impressiveness.)

Five best offensive performances
1. Artavis Scott, East Lake: He just scored again! No …but really, almost every time he touched the ball in the spring game win over Osceola, he scored, whether by a punt return, a kickoff return or two long touchdown passes. That’s pretty impr… Wait, yep, he just scored again.
2. Ra’Quanne Dickens, Seminole: Who? After toiling in relative obscurity for the Warhawks, who were notorious for not reporting results, rosters or stats, Dickens made sure to get his name out there with a 242-yard performance against Dunedin. He was unstoppable, leaving new coach Chris Miller to say, “He’s the real deal.”
3. Nate Craig, Pasco: Not surprisingly, the rising sophomore — yeah, sophomore — showed his full arsenal, catching passes and intercepting them as well. Strap yourselves in, people, the next three years in Dade City will be fun.
4. Avery Welch, Gulf: Looks like new coach Jason Messamore might have a little something-something up in New Port Richey. The QB/ATH had 174 yards rushing by halftime and 239 overall, threw for 54 yards and even caught a pass. Looks like the Bucs could be fun to watch again. On offense, that is.
5. Kezio Snelling, Steinbrenner: Great hands as a wide receiver and explosive in everything he does. He returned two kickoffs in the spring game for touchdowns (75 and 80 yards, including the winner in the final minute) and even had a 13-yard touchdown run. The rising junior looks like an impact player.

Five best defensive performances
1. Sawyer Dawson, Plant City: The rising junior cornerback scored on a 73-yard pick-six and blocked a punt against Durant. Honorable mention: Raiders DE John Broome (two sacks in five plays).
2. Jordan Griffin/Aaron Covington, Armwood: Griffin, an inside linebacker and rising talent, had two interceptions and returned one for a touchdown. And hey, look at that — Covington, a cornerback — did the exact same thing in a one-half, 34-0 rout of Strawberry Crest.
3. Mike Johnson, Countryside: Not only did Johnson have an interception, but his coverage was so good we saw normally sure-handed receivers dropping balls they should have caught because the rising senior was bearing down on them.
4. Micah Tucker, Tampa Bay Tech: For at least one half, Wharton’s quarterback had his name changed to Chased Litton as a result of Tucker’s harassment.
5. Undrea Bullard, Gibbs: New Gladiators coach Rick Kravitz knows his defense, so we suspect what we saw of Bullard — two sacks, applied for permanent residence in the Northeast backfield — is only the beginning.

Best replacements
1. Mark DeRuzzo, Seminole: The interim coach was babysitting Seminole this spring while the school looked for a replacement for Sam Roper, and whatever he did worked as the Warhawks ran roughshod over Dunedin to win their spring game.
2. DeShawn Smith, Nature Coast: Yeah, we think the Sharks’ running game will be just fine. Stepping in for Matt Breida (3,000-plus yards, 37 TDs), Smith rushed for 221 yards, with 173 of those and two scores by halftime.
3. Antonio Joseph, Wharton: Since the Wildcats have no one to replace All-American defensive back Vernon Hargreaves, it might be best not to let the opposing quarterback throw the ball. Enter Joseph, who harassed, deflected and sacked the opposing passer in a rousing spring performance.
4. Patrick Brooks, Plant: First time the big Panther running back jumped out at us? In New Orleans replacing injured Wesley Bullock against John C. Curtis. Second time? When he scored two TDs in the spring game replacing the graduating Bullock.
5. Parker Bryant, St. Petersburg: The rising junior kicker only has to replace a legendary-legged UCLA signee and Under Armour All-American, but he impressed his coach in the spring by reaching the end zone on all of his kickoffs and making all of his PATs. Not a bad start.

Five good surprises
1. Gulf: Had we told you the Bucs would give up 50 points, you would not have been surprised. But scoring 49? Spring or not, the 49 points the Bucs scored in their one-point overtime loss to Weeki Wachee were 20 more than they scored in all of 2012.
2. Dixie Hollins: Missing seven injured starters, the Rebels still converted two huge special-teams plays and collected more than 200 yards in a 34-21 loss at Jesuit.
3. Middleton: After an 0-10 inaugural season in 2011, Middleton’s Alonzo Ashwood clearly has the Tigers on an upward trajectory. Middleton, 2-8 last fall, owned rival Blake in the jamboree and looked good doing it.
4. TBT defense: We know the Titans are fleet and physical, but we didn’t expect them to blank Wharton. We just didn’t. Then again, the Titans always seem to make us like them in the preseason.
5. Carrollwood Day: The Patriots put 41 on Bishop McLaughlin without a handful of projected starting offensive players, including new transfer QB Taylor King, and Max Frankel wreaked havoc at strong safety.

Five unpleasant surprises
1. Lakewood:
We didn’t expect the Spartans, hailed around these parts as a possible state title contender, to beat Miami Booker T. Washington. But neither did we expect them to lose 62-14. But it’s only spring!
2. Northeast: We knew the offensive line was a work in progress, but we did not know how much progress it still needed. But it’s only spring!
3. Admiral Farragut: The Blue Jackets spent the winter changing coaches and the “culture,” when neither was necessary. Now the program’s in shambles. But it’s only spring!
4. Durant: The Cougars were penalty-prone (55 yards), fumble-prone (three) and injury-prone (Chris Atkins’ rolled ankle) in a one-half, 23-0 loss to Plant City. But it’s only spring!
5. Spoto: The Spartans’ one-half, 20-0 loss to East Bay may have been worse had two Indian TDs not been negated by penalties. But it’s only spring!

Underrated dudes we really liked
1. Tony Jones, St. Petersburg Catholic:
He ran for 100 yards against Indian Rocks, almost all of those coming between the tackles. He twice busted off long runs that fell a yard short of the end zone, leaving a teammate to finish them off or his stats would be even more impressive.
2. Arthur Wiggins, Middleton: The 2015 athlete, who has a Western Kentucky offer to his credit, had a touchdown catch, an interception, a sack and a couple of tackles for losses in a spring win over Blake. He won’t be underrated much longer, trust us, and neither will a few of his teammates.
3. Donte Maxson, Pinellas Park: Just remember this name, okay? Last year’s junior varsity starter has a bright future, which he kicked off with 152 yards on eight carries and two touchdowns.
4. Christian Trinidad, Mitchell: We always thought his brother, Ricky, was a bit underrated and unlucky, and we feel the same about Christian, especially after his 10-carry, 163-yard spring.
5. Jacquez President, Gibbs: He mentioned at state track that he could play a little football, and gotta say, he’s truthful. President caught five passes for 128 yards and a score, and returned an interception 40 yards for another score.

Surprise impressions
1. St. Petersburg Catholic:
Hey, if the Barons can avoid offseason defections — and we’re pretty sure they can’t at this point — we would be penciling them in as the runnerup in their district behind Clearwater Central Catholic. Honest.
2. Northside Christian: A winless team with no depth actually wins its spring game against Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy. The Mustangs aren’t bad, with a trio of running backs (Jhon Williams, Aidan Anderson and Fiante Bell), a sophomore quarterback (Ben Knox) and a senior tight end/linebacker (Max Massengill) who are all legit players. Give coach Mike Alstott some depth, and the Mustangs will have a nice turnaround season.
3. King: The Lions took care of Freedom pretty handily in a one-half, 12-6 victory. They also conceivably could enter their season opener with at least 40 players, which would be a plus.

Compiled by staff writers John C. Cotey and Joey Knight.

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