Friday, January 19, 2018

HomeTeam 100: Players 61-70

Our fifth annual countdown of the top 100 football players in Tampa Bay — consisting of athletes who attend a public or private school in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando counties. Past performances — spanning the fall, spring and summer — and promise of big things to come are all taken into consideration.

61. Deandre Fitz-Henley, Clearwater Central Catholic

Position: Linebacker/fullback

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-0, 208

Jay Nolan, Special to the Times

Deandre Fitz-Henley

When it comes to academics, Fitz-Henley has always been on an accelerated timetable.

He moved up a grade at the suggestion of Sandy Lane Elementary administrators, who said he was too advanced for the material and finished his work way too early.

"That left me a lot of free time to cause trouble," said Fitz-Henley, jokingly.

To occupy his time, Fitz-Henley became immersed in football. He has been a quarterback and linebacker since he was 8 years old.

At CCC, he dropped quarterbacking duties and devoted his time to being a linebacker. Now he hates quarterbacks.

"You don't know the half of it," Fitz-Henley said of signal callers.

Fitz-Henley also has been ahead of the curve on the field. Two years ago, he played for the Marauders as a 13 year-old freshman and had nine tackles. Last year was his breakthrough performance with 124 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles

Fitz-Henley already has offers from California, Massachusetts, Northern Arizona and Washington. When he graduates, he will be 16 years old. He said he would graduate early but CCC does not allow it.

"I like to get a head start in everything," Fitz-Henley said. "In college, I definitely plan to graduate early."

62. Shaquan Johnson, Northeast

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-8, 168

David W. Doonan, Special to the Times

Shaquan Johnson

Why we ranked him: Johnson was one of the few bright spots on a 2-8 Northeast team in 2015. He rushed for 1,250 yards and scored eight touchdowns on an offense that struggled to gain yards and score. With a new quarterback, a beefed-up offensive line and a new attitude, Johnson could have a breakout season. "Personally, my goal is to get 2,000 yards," he said. "I've been spending a lot of time in the weight room getting ready for my last season."

63. Keondrae Miller, Admiral Farragut

Position: Quarterback/defensive back

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-0, 160

David W. Doonan, Special to the Times

Keondrae Miller

Normally, when a quarterback who threw for nearly 2,000 yards (Austyn Causey) transfers for his senior year, there is likely to be a dropoff at that key position. But that doesn't appear to be the case at Admiral Farragut.

"Keondrae filled in at quarterback when Austyn was injured and looked very good," coach Ryan Hearn said. "He's an athlete. He can run. He can throw. We'll be okay at quarterback."

Miller played quarterback in parts of all 11 games last season and started three games when Causey was out, all of them wins. He threw for 590 yards and nine touchdowns with only one interception. He also scrambled for 155 yards and a touchdown.

Miller is also valuable as a defensive back. He played 11 games in the secondary and had two interceptions. With the graduation of Craig Watts, Miller's experience will be even more valuable this season.

As a result of his sophomore season, Miller has drawn interest from schools like Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Bowling Green, Southern Miss and Toledo.

"He's going to get a lot more interest," Hearn said.

64. Jonathan King, Tampa Bay Tech

Position: Defensive end

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-3, 230

Special to the Times

Jonathan King

How old were you when you started playing football?

"I've been playing football since I was 6 or 7 or something like that. I think the first team I can remember off the top of my head was the Thonotosassa Wildcats."

What can we expect from the defense this season?

"I want us to be the best defense around, period. But you can't just say it, you've got to put in the time, put in the work. It's on us at the end of the day, because defensive line, we're who gets everybody else going. At first I didn't really realize it, people just said it. But once I started making plays (he led the Titans with six sacks in 2015) … everybody else just kind of fell into place. We're just trying to be the best."

What do you do when you're not playing football?

"I like to play other sports. I like to get into any other sport that I can. I like soccer, baseball, golf. It doesn't really matter. If it's a game where you can compete with other people, I like it play it."

Have you always been competitive?

"Yeah, it got me to where I am now. When you're younger, I was kind of fat, so I would always compare others to myself, and that's what got me to where I was because I was challenging myself."

65. Carlton Potter, Durant

Position: Quarterback

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-0, 180


Carlton Potter

By the numbers

3 Average number of peanut butter sandwiches Potter consumes between classes during a school day.

4 Inches grown in height the past year

12 Touchdowns thrown last season

34 Chicken wings consumed in a recent eating contest, which he lost to a Cougar lineman, who ate 36

45 Pounds gained in body weight the past year

50 Pounds increased in both the bench press and squat the past year (currently benches 215 and squats 325)

87 Completions last season in 157 attempts

93.2 Quarterback rating as a sophomore

1,033 Yards thrown in 2015 season

66. Dorien Gooch, Tampa Catholic

Position: Linebacker

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-1, 208

Scott Purks, Special to the Times

Dorien Gooch

The defense was a bit of a weak point last season (the Crusaders gave up at least 30 points four times). How is it coming along this offseason?

"I think having more linebackers and more people coming in, the defense I think will be straight. I think we'll be on the better side this year, knowing more plays, understanding what to do."

Your dad, Jeff Gooch, was an NFL linebacker. What have you been able to learn from him?

"There's a bunch of things I learned from the first day I started football. He started teaching me where the gaps are on the field, how to do things from a linebacker perspective."

What have you been working on this offseason?

"I'm just getting stronger. I'm a skinnier kid than other linebackers are, so I had to get a little bit bigger, more muscle. And I had to work on my speed, too, my agility. I used to be 185, now I'm 208."

You led Tampa Catholic in tackles (130) as a sophomore. Do you feel like there's a lot of pressure to pick up where you left off?

"It's going to be a challenge this year. My name's out there, and I'm going to have to show people that I can do it again and make even more tackles than last year. Just kind of lead the defense."

67. Nigel Graham, Armwood

Position: Defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-10, 170


Nigel Graham

Why we ranked him: Graham was one of Armwood's biggest ball hawks last season, grabbing three interceptions, including one he returned 50 yards in a 41-0 win against Blake. Graham has nine offers from small Division I-A and FCS schools, including Appalachian State, Troy and Marshall. But before he moves on to college ball, Graham will be a big part of an Armwood defense that lost its five leading tacklers from last season. For that reason, Graham — who had 34 tackles and two passes defended — should be expected to play an even larger role.

68. Braxton Johnson, Anclote

Position: Running back/linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-6, 170


Braxton Johnson

Why we ranked him: Since becoming a starting running back two years ago, Johnson has put up impressive numbers. As a sophomore, he had 733 yards rushing. Last season, he nearly doubled his production, rushing for 1,421 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is a threat to rush for more than 2,000 this season, a common occurrence lately in Pasco County. But Johnson is more than a solid ball carrier. He is a receiving threat (211 yards in 2015) and is dynamic in the kicking game, averaging more than 22 yards per punt return in each of the past two seasons.

69. Colin Errity, Bloomingdale

Position: Linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 230

Special to the Times

Colin Errity

A team captain, Errity led the Bulls in tackles last season with an average of 10.8 a game.

What do you believe was the difference between the 2014 season, when the Bulls went 9-1, and 2015 when you guys went 1-9?

"We lost our chemistry. We weren't all on the same page. I tried to do whatever I could to help (including volunteering to play both ways, at LB and OL), but we couldn't get it going. It was frustrating to say the least."

How are things going with new coach Max Warner, who was hired in April?

"Coach Warner has been fantastic so far. He's a great motivator. He's a coach you want to play hard for. I'm very, very encouraged by what he's done in a short amount of time with us."

What are the goals this season?

"I think we're turning things around very quickly. I seriously believe we can contend for a district title. In the spring game (a 7-0 victory against Brandon) we played very well."

Yale, Brown and Davidson are on your list of possible schools for next year. What do you plan to study and is football part of your plans?

"I'm thinking about accounting or maybe economics. I like math. And I definitely want to play football in college."

70. Antwione Sims, Zephyrhills

Position: Running back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 196

David W. Doonan, Special to the Times

Antwione Sims

The scar on the knee of Antwione Sims represents what could have been, a not-so-subtle reminder of a devastating injury that will cut short his senior season.

Now Sims finds himself in his own personal limbo, a record-setting, 2,000-yard rusher who is trying to gain some semblance of what he was on the field in hopes that interest from colleges continues to come his way.

In late March, Sims tore his ACL while trying to jam a receiver during a camp. He had surgery about two months ago and will not be able to resume running until September. There is no target date to return, though Sims said he is hopeful he can return the last few games of the season.

If the timetable is delayed, Sims said he will see if can play in Pasco County's senior all-star game.

"It's tough, but I'm trying to stay positive and keep working hard," he said.

Fortunately for Sims, the college interest has not waned. Before the injury, he had offers from five schools, including Boston College and Southern Illinois. There have been several more since, the biggest coming from Navy this past week.

Sims is working more as a coach on the field. And he is putting in the work in the classroom. He has a 3.1 GPA and has scored a 23 on the ACT and 1,090 on the SAT (on the 1,600 scale).

Compiled by staff writers Rodney Page, Kelly Parsons and Bob Putnam, and correspondent Scott Purks.

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