Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cotey: Largo coach make bold move by benching standout Gwyn

LARGO — There are ways to bench your best player.

Like, right before a meaningless game you can afford to lose.

Before a game with a patsy you don't need your star for anyway.

For a quarter, or maybe a half, just to send a message.

Or, you can do it the way Largo coach Rick Rodriguez did it Friday night — on the eve of a highly anticipated region semifinal before your biggest crowd of the year against arguably the best team in Tampa Bay.

It was the toughest call I've seen a coach make all year.

My initial reaction: by benching Myrick Gwyn, his best playmaker, Rodriguez ceded what little chance his team had to win Friday's Class 4A region semifinal to Armwood.

It made little difference in the outcome.

So let the debate begin — was it the right decision?

Should he have bought the excuses — a missed ride, a dead cell phone — and is he crazy to suggest a kid walks 5 miles to practice if he has no other way to get there? Heck, this isn't 1975 anymore. Or 1985. Heck, it's not even 1995 anymore.

Rodriguez, however, is certainly consistent, having already dismissed his starting quarterback this season for a second violation of the same rule.

He made another hard decision — even harder, since Gwyn was not replaceable — when the easy one would have been to bend his rule, which says that if you miss an hour of practice, you sit an hour on Friday.

Two hours? Sit two hours.

A three-hour practice, like Gwyn missed?

A whole game.

Some fans weren't thrilled, calling for Gwyn to be inserted once Armwood raced to 21-0 lead on the way to a 49-3 win, as if to ridiculously suggest that somehow would make a difference.

Rodriguez had to dismiss his starting quarterback for skipping a second practice a few weeks ago, so what choice did he have? What message would he have sent letting Gwyn play?

A bad one.

"I have freshmen on this team, young kids," he said. "They need to know that this is how we do it here. Everyone knows the rule."

This is how you build a program. This is how you build commitment to that program.

The list of coaches who would have done the same this week is a short one.

So what Rodriguez did matters.

What didn't matter, in retrospect, was whether Gwyn played. You're wasting your breath if you think Rodriguez killed his team's season, because he didn't.

Armwood did.

The Hawks were in their finest form. This was a team that has struggled at times this season, struggling to get past Sickles last week, and put it together against the Packers.

Unlike Largo, everyone showed up for practice this week.

"We had the best week," coach Sean Callahan said. "And this is what we got."

The offense was balanced and efficient.

The defensive line was dominant. Largo freshman quarterback Juwan Brown will be a good one, but he is only 14, and he was not ready for Theodore Jackson, Alton Bailey and David Tinsley.

On a few occasions when Largo managed to slow the wave of blue gobbling up its quarterback and running backs, guys like senior linebacker Coty Creech stepped up.

Making just his second start, he was the first one to sack Brown, and every time you looked at a pile of players, No. 52 was climbing out from the bottom of it.

That may be the biggest difference on the field between one of the best of Hillsborough County and one of the best of Pinellas County.

There's not a person Rodriguez could have suited up who would have changed any of that Friday night.

Cotey: Largo coach make bold move by benching standout Gwyn 11/28/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 28, 2009 12:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Yellow cards stall Rowdies offense in tie with St. Louis

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — It's not the result they wanted, but it certainly could have been worse. Neill Collins' 87th-minute header off a corner kick was the reward the Rowdies settled for Saturday night during a 1-1 draw with St. Louis before an announced 6,068 at Al Lang Stadium.

  2. Calvary Christian routs Pensacola Catholic to win state baseball title

    Baseballpreps

    FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian left no doubt as to which baseball team in Class 4A was the best in Florida this season. The Warriors defeated Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium to claim the school's first state championship in any team sport. It also solidified a 30-0 season. …

    Matheu Nelson celebrates after scoring on a wild pitch during the first inning, when Calvary Christian took a 6-0 lead.
  3. Numerous lapses add up to frustrating Rays loss to Twins

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — While the Rays made some good defensive plays, threw a couple of big pitches when they needed to and got a few, and just a few, key hits, there were some obvious things they did wrong that led to them losing Saturday's game to the Twins 5-3:

    Rays reliever Tommy Hunter says the Twins’ tiebreaking homer came on a pitch that was “close to where I wanted it.”
  4. Rays journal: Steven Souza Jr. laughing right along after comical dive

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — Souza being Souza.

    That seemed to be the best way to describe the entertaining — and comically bad — dive Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. attempted in Friday's game, and the good humor he showed in handling the fallout, including a standing ovation his next at-bat from the …

    Twitter
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Twins game

    The Heater

    RHP Jake Odorizzi had to battle without his best stuff again, which is becoming a more common occurrence, leading to long at-bats — including 13 pitches to Kennys Vargas in the fifth — and running up his pitch count to 118 without finishing the sixth.