Thursday, February 22, 2018

HomeTeam 100: Players 81-90

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.

81. Anfernee Alston, Robinson

Position: Running back/cornerback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-9, 180

Scott Purks, Special to the Times

Anfernee Alston

Alston averaged 5.2 yards per carry last season as the Knights' top running back in an offensive scheme that was almost 50/50 rushing and passing.

After tearing the ACL in your right knee in the last game of last season, how has the surgery and the rehabilitation gone for you?

"The night after the surgery was the most pain I've ever had in my life. My knee looked like a horse knee because it was so swollen. But after that things got better. The rehab has been good. I think my right leg is actually stronger than my left after all the strengthening exercises."

How do you feel about getting back on the field after the injury?

"I'm not afraid at all. I'm determined. I have so much to prove. When people saw the injury happen (on a typical running play), a lot of them said I would never play again. Well, I am going to play and I'm ready to play."

What is the goal this season?

"I want to help us make the playoffs for the first time in four years, and I want to rush for 2,000 yards."

Looking back, would you have done anything different?

"I wouldn't change anything. I wouldn't take anything back. In football we all know the risks."

82. Yahsin Wooten, Hillsborough

Position: Running back

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 5-10, 185


Yahsin Wooten

Why we ranked him: Wooten only played in seven games before tearing his ACL and MCL last year at Carrollwood Day, rushing for 740 yards and eight touchdowns on 90 carries. This year, Wooten will be playing for the Terriers, and though he was unable to compete in the spring game because he was still rehabbing, veteran coach Earl Garcia is excited to have Wooten onboard. "From what we saw, it's promising. An ACL just takes time. We're excited about having him," Garcia said. "This is one of the most talented groups I've had as far as skill players are concerned."

83. Sam Thompson, Boca Ciega

Position: Wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 174


Sam Thompson

Some things just happen for a reason. In the case of Thompson, he only became a receiver after he sustained an injury at quarterback. During a game in his sophomore year, Thompson took a helmet-to-helmet hit and sustained a pinched nerve in his neck.

By the start of his junior year, Osby Green was the new quarterback with a new playbook. Thompson needed a place to play.

"They put in a whole bunch of new plays so the coaches asked if I could play wide receiver," Thompson said. "They knew I could catch. I had a big gain on my first catch and I've been doing it ever since."

Thompson and Green grew up playing football together, so there is sure to be chemistry this season. As a junior, Thompson caught 45 passes for 764 yards and five touchdowns. He hopes to surpass that this season and believes the Pirates will be much better than the 2-8 team of last year.

"I'm looking for a big season and our team is, too," Thompson said. "We have a goal of 6-11-1. The six is to win six or more games. The 11 is to play at least one extra game in the playoffs, and the one is to win our district. We're going to meet that goal."

84. Dakota Trice, Brandon

Position: Linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 210


Dakota Trice

Why we ranked him: Trice returns for his senior season following one of the best junior seasons of any player in the area. In 2015, Trice racked up 130 tackles and helped lead the Eagles to a 9-3 record and their first playoff victory since 1985 — 21-13 over Lake Gibson. "Dakota Trice is one of the better-kept secrets," coach Dean Eychner said in the spring. "He's the total package, on and off the field." On the ACT test, Trice scored an impressive 26.

85. Xavier Lyas, Durant

Position: Defensive end

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-5, 208

Scott Purks, Special to the Times

Xavier Lyas

Five things to know about Lyas:

1. Lyas had a tremendous growth spurt from his sophomore to junior season, growing almost half a foot and adding 25 pounds. "People were coming up to me and saying, 'I think you've grown a few inches in the past few days,' " he said. "It was crazy how fast I was growing."

2. The growth spurt was a bit of a surprise because Lyas' dad is 6 feet and his mom is 5-5.

3. From his freshman to senior season, Lyas improved his bench press from a max of 135 pounds to 280.

4. Lyas burst onto the recruiting scene almost overnight. In the span of a week last year, he went from zero offers to accepting one from North Carolina State.

5. Lyas didn't play football for many years before starting the game as a freshman receiver, a position he didn't like. During his growth spurt, coaches said he would make a great defensive end. He tried it, liked it and has been there ever since.

86. Demetrius Jackson, Northside Christian

Position: Wide receiver/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 185


Demetrius Jackson

Here's how valuable Jackson is to the Mustangs:

"I remember in our sophomore year we were playing Cambridge (Christian)," quarterback Griffin Alstott said. "I meant to throw the ball away. I aimed like 5 yards over the first-down marker. Next thing I know, he's making a one-handed catch. I'm like, 'Wow.' Nice to have a guy like that on the team."

Jackson rarely took a play off, and he likely won't have much downtime this season either. He caught 37 passes for 614 yards and led the team with eight touchdowns. He also had seven interceptions and a fumble recovery.

He has received offers from Liberty, South Dakota State, Western Illinois, Eastern Kentucky, Campbell, the Citadel and UNC-Charlotte. Jackson said he will likely wait until the end of the season before committing.

He doesn't care if he's catching a pass or intercepting one, as long as he's making a difference.

"Nothing fires me up more than making plays for my team," Jackson said. "I just do whatever it takes to help win games."

87. Derrick Powell, Cambridge Christian

Position: Defensive back/wide receiver

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 5-10, 155


Derrick Powell

Five things to know about Powell:

1. Powell has been a ball hawk his first two seasons with a combined 12 interceptions, including a team-high seven last year. Powell said he could have had more but dropped about seven would-be picks.

2. Growing up, Powell focused primarily on offense. He was a running back and quarterback in flag football and youth leagues.

3. At Cambridge, Powell does play a limited role at receiver. He said playing the position helps him as a defensive back because he already understands what a receiver is thinking.

4. A two-sport athlete, Powell played basketball until this past season. Sports were a common bond in the family. His uncle, Cedric Powell, was a former standout basketball player at Robinson. One of the family's close friends was former Knights and Kentucky two-sport star Desmond Allison, who was shot and killed in 2011. Powell referred to Allison as an uncle, though the two were not blood related.

5. Powell has no offers but hopes that changes, especially if he is able to help the Lancers reach the Class 2A state title game for the second straight season.

88. Terence Doston, Armwood

Position: Wide receiver

Year: Sophomore

Height/weight: 5-10, 150

Special to the Times

Terence Doston

At Armwood, football is king, so it's not often that coach Sean Callahan's Hawks are seen on a different Seffner field.

But for Doston, when Armwood lost in the Class 6A state championship last season, it was off to another team for a different kind of season.

As a freshman, Doston was the only Armwood football player to also compete on the baseball team, and he helped lead the way, posting a .344 batting average and a team-high 15 stolen bases as the centerfielder.

And when Armwood's baseball season ended in the region quarterfinal April 27, Doston knew he didn't have any time to waste.

"The next day when the season was over, I was in the weightroom (for football)," he said.

This year he should play a much bigger role for the perennial powerhouse Hawks.

Doston was mostly a reserve as a freshman — one of just four on the roster — playing in six games and posting 58 yards on four receptions. He should be more of a central part of the offense with the addition of passing quarterback Devin Black.

Callahan said he has trouble keeping Doston off the field, and his speed will be put to good use. Doston, who said he likes football and baseball equally, has been working on his releases and getting open.

"(I'm looking forward to) taking every game one-by-one, executing plays, getting a W and winning states," he said.

89. Gordon Stetson, Berkeley Prep

Position: Running back/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-10, 180


Gordon Stetson

Why we ranked him: Stetson has been a consistent performer, rushing for more than 400 yards each of the past three years as a starter. He also is a big-play threat in the passing game and is regarded as an all-around back. Last season, he combined for more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving. He can play defensive back, but will be used primarily in the offensive backfield. He has had similar success in baseball. In the Class 4A region semifinals, Stetson walked, stole second and scored from there on a wild pitch for the winning run in a 1-0 victory over Ocala Trinity Catholic.

90. Jake Berg, River Ridge

Position: Defensive back/wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-11, 158


Jake Berg

Why we ranked him: Since becoming a starter, Berg has been a tackling machine, recording more than 100 in each of the past two seasons (107 as a sophomore, 123 as a junior). That's not all. Berg has a knack for getting after the quarterback, with a combined 7.5 sacks those two seasons. Those numbers are a big reason why Berg was selected as the Tampa Bay Times' all-North Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year last season. He will continue to have a pivotal role in the secondary, which is one of the best in the area. He does not have any offers yet due mostly to his size. But coach Ryan Benjamin said he could start to pick up interest from Division III and FCS schools during the season.

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

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