Monday, December 18, 2017
Sports

Plant City wins district in flag football

When Plant City began this flag football season, an undefeated year didn't seem very realistic.

The Raiders possessed plenty of talent, but having a new quarterback, sophomore Avery Brown, meant the team had to thrive while she went through a learning process at the most important position on the team.

So while Brown learned on the go, Plant City had a second quarterback to help with the transition — a quarterback on defense.

Spectacular senior linebacker Shay Wright produced her best season sparking the defense. She showcased her talent again Tuesday at Armwood as Plant City beat rival Durant 14-0 for the district title.

Plant City became the first Hillsborough County team to claim five district crowns and will host either Bloomingdale or East Bay in a first-round game Saturday at 4 p.m. The Raiders are now 11-0 and eyeing a possible third trip to the state finals next weekend.

Wright led the Raiders to three defensive stands as Durant got inside the 10-yard line only to come away empty. She recorded six sacks.

"Every time Durant had third-and-short... sack," said Raider assistant Larry Langston.

It seems to be that way with Wright.

She's been the stalwart on defense for Plant City since her freshman season. Her pursuit of the opposing quarterback is relentless and ridiculously fast. Essentially, she takes away the opponents' ability to run the ball because no one gets past her.

"I just see the quarterback's eyes and attack," said Wright, who Langston describes as "squirrely" on the field.

Wright started off as a cheerleader at Plant City but friends encouraged her to try out for the flag football team simply because of her speed.

Not everyone takes to defense, but extenuating circumstances led Wright to that side of the ball.

"I really can't catch the ball very well. But, I can chase the other girls down," she said.

On the other side, Brown was a terrific receiver as a freshman but was pegged by the Raiders coaches to be Katie Evans' successor at quarterback.

But she struggled in her first game at the position, throwing three interceptions against state power Seminole Ridge in a summer tournament.

"I really didn't do that good. At all," she said. "I was all nervous."

What she didn't realize is how far into the fire she was being thrown. Seminole Ridge ended up outscoring its opponents 430-7 this regular season.

The early Raiders schedule didn't include any monster opponents, giving Brown time to adjust while Wright and company shut down the opposition.

Around the third game, estimates Raider speedster receiver Kristen Wyckoff, Brown got comfortable.

Brown's cause is helped by the softball teams' willingness to share its players during the spring. Wyckoff is the shortstop and Kacie Booth, who caught a touchdown against Durant, shares second base duties with Sam Black.

"We finally got soccer players this year too," said a very happy Raider head coach Michael Paul.

• • •

Though she has college soccer talent, Durant quarterback Jessica McClernan's taking to flag football has been a major boon to the Cougars. Durant will lose key seniors Sidney Millard, defensive fireplug Caira Strickland, tight ends Mackenzie Morrison and Magan Lee as well as center Nikki Burg. But McClernan has one more year.

And the Raiders-Cougars rivalry will continue to be intense, particularly so in this sport. Crowd support is tremendous for both teams and was very present even at a neutral site like Armwood.

"The kids enjoy it," said Durant head coach Brad Brunson. "The banter is definitely there. Our kids just wanna beat Plant City."

Especially McClernan, who can't wait to play the Raiders again.

"I take losses to heart."

Darek Sharp can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead, but so did the Bucs

The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead, but so did the Bucs

The Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in last season's Super Bowl, and no one will let them forget it.Including the Bucs.During a playful exchange on Twitter in May, Tampa Bay trolled its division rivals by posting a photo of Vernon Hargreaves, No. 28, and Ja...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs Ring of Honor: Which current player will make it?

Bucs Ring of Honor: Which current player will make it?

With Jon Gruden becoming the 11th member of the Bucs’ Ring of Honor tonight, what about current members of the Bucs?Bucs roundtable question: What current Bucs player not named Gerald McCoy is most likely to wind up in the Ring of Honor. Member...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs defense vs. Matt Ryan: What to expect tonight

Bucs defense vs. Matt Ryan: What to expect tonight

Atlanta and Matt Ryan are in town to face the Bucs on Monday Night Football, so it's a chance to revisit a quarterback Tampa Bay knows well, with 19 meetings over the past 10 seasons. A couple of talking points for tonight's game and the challenge ah...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Know the foe: Texas Tech

Know the foe: Texas Tech

A look at Texas Tech, which faces USF in the Birmingham Bowl on SaturdayNickame: Red RaidersRecord: 6-6 (3-6 Big 12)Wins: vs. Eastern Washington, 56-10; vs. Arizona State, 52-45; at Houston, 27-24; at Kansas, 65-19; vs. Baylor, 38-24; at Texas, 27-23...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Rick and Tom podcast: Will Jon Gruden be the Bucs’ coach next year?

Jon Gruden will be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor tonight, but could it be more than just that as the Glazers may be looking for a new head coach come January? In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones discuss whether Gruden would coac...
Updated: 3 hours ago
LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

LeBron wears one black shoe and one white shoe, speaks about Trump

WASHINGTON — LeBron James made a statement during an NBA game with his shoes — one black, one white, with the word "equality" in capital gold letters on the back of each.Then, after the game, James made a statement about President Donald Trump, sayin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Jets turn tables on Blues at home

Jets turn tables on Blues at home

WINNIPEG, Manitoba — Connor Hellebuyck was happy to have a hand in helping the Jets get some payback. Less that 24 hours after Winnipeg was shut out in St. Louis, Hellebuyck made 24 saves as the Jets returned the favor with a 4-0 victory over the Blu...
Updated: 12 hours ago

Monday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYCollege basketballHouston Baptist at Michigan State6 p.m.Big TenNorthern Arizona at USF7 p.m.820-AMNebraska-Omaha at Kansas7 p.m.ESPN2Charleston Southern at FSU7 p.m.ESPNU; 1010-AMNorthern Illinois at Marquette7 p.m.FS1Purdue-Fort Wayne at India...
Updated: 12 hours ago

PITTSBURGH — The Patriots have built a dynasty on second chances. Miss an opportunity to bury the Super Bowl champions and they will find a way to find a way, usually behind a mix of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski and defensive playmaking at just the r...
Published: 12/17/17
Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

Bucs-Falcons: Things to watch in Monday’s 8:30 p.m. game

TAMPA — The Bucs and Falcons have each won three straight games on Monday nights as they face each other on a national platform tonight at Raymond James Stadium.How can Tampa Bay continue its streak and stop Atlanta’s? It won’t be easy, but given the...
Published: 12/17/17