Saturday, January 20, 2018

HomeTeam 100: Players 91-100

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. First up: players 91 through 100.

91. Jermaine Ivery, Gibbs

Position: Safety

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-9, 170

Special to the Times

Jermaine Ivery

Jermaine Ivery figured he would be a receiver and quarterback in his time at Gibbs. But before his junior year, after safety Craig Watts left for Admiral Farragut, Ivery was convinced to move to defensive back. It turned out to be a good move.

Not only did Ivery get more playing time, he thrived. He led the team with 164 tackles and had five interceptions.

"I'm a ball hawk," he said.

This time last year there was no indication that Ivery would play as well as he did. In fact, he wasn't even sure he wanted to play defense.

"I didn't think I was going to do all that," Ivery said. "I didn't want to play defense at first. I was going to stick to receiver and quarterback. But the coaches and some of the other players said they saw something in me for defense. It took me a while to get settled on defense, but once I got it, it was stuck in my mind.

"(Coaches) put me in the right spot. I was the backup to Craig and they told me it was my time to shine. I had big shoes to fill, but I told them, 'I got you, bro.' "

And even though Ivery isn't the biggest player on the field, he has no problem when it comes to tackling a bigger back.

"It takes heart to hit a big guy," Ivery said. "I'm not scared. I'm going to throw my body at you. It's football. We both have the same pads."

92. Alex Kostogiannes, River Ridge

Position: Defensive back/wide receiver

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-2, 180


Alex Kostogiannes

Five things to know about Kostogiannes:

1. Last season, he showed his playmaking potential on both sides of the ball. On defense, he recorded a team-high seven interceptions and three fumble recoveries. On offense, he had five catches, three of which went for touchdowns.

2. Kostogiannes only started playing football in the seventh grade. He had to wait until then because his parents feared he would get hurt. Kostogiannes' first forays into sports were soccer and basketball. Now he only concentrates on football.

3. The family has a strong Greek heritage, as well as a love for sports. Kostogiannes' older sister, Vashoula, played basketball and volleyball at River Ridge. His older brother, Christos, played soccer at the school. Kostogiannes' full first name is actually Alexandros.

4. To bond as a team last year, River Ridge players all grew mustaches. They did not shave until they lost a regular-season game, which came in the finale against Sunlake. This season, the Royal Knights are starting another bonding effort by growing out their hair. They already have a three-month head start and plan to keep growing it through the season, win or lose. Kostogiannes' locks are down to his shoulders.

5. Kostogiannes' does not have goals in mind as far as interceptions or touchdowns. He also is unsure whether he wants to continue playing in college.

93. Matthew Robinson, Nature Coast

Position: Linebacker

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-1, 170

Special to the Times

Matthew Robinson

Robinson was a freshman wide receiver on Nature Coast's scout team when a coach suggested he give linebacker a try. After a few plays, he never saw the offense again.

"I laid a lick on somebody and they just kept me there," Robinson said.

Robinson, who said he tries to model his game after former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, has been on Nature Coast's varsity since that freshman year. On a team that was known for its offense last year — thanks to record-setting running back DeShawn Smith — Robinson stood out on defense. He led the Sharks with 142 tackles, almost 12 per game, and recovered four fumbles.

While he liked being on the field, he really liked giving the ball back to Smith and the offense.

"Oh, yeah," Robinson said. "We wanted to get off the field so the offense could do it's thing. We may have lost (Smith) this season, but I still think we're going to do pretty well."

Robinson said he attended a Florida A&M camp this summer and may attend a few more. Otherwise, he's been all about getting ready for his final season.

"Sometimes it's hard to get up early and get in the weight room, but it's going to be worth it," he said. "We've got the goal to be the best and do even better than last year. You have to put in the work."

94. Cris Galdos, Sunlake

Position: Slot back/defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-7, 170


Chris Galdos

Why we ranked him: It's tough to keep track of all the ways Galdos has contributed to the Seahawks. Last season the two-way player played linebacker and running back, recording 41 yards on seven carries, and 224 yards and two touchdowns on 24 receptions, including a long of 47 yards. Galdos also returns kickoffs and had a team-high 81 tackles, 14 for loss. And he wasn't done there, notching four sacks, four interceptions and four forced fumbles. Listed as a slot back and strong safety this season, Galdos' ball-hawking skills should be on display even more as Sunlake searches for its fifth straight playoff berth.

95. Anthony Johnson, St. Petersburg

Position: Defensive back

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 6-0, 155


Anthony Johnson

Johnson has played only one season of high school football, but it was a good one. As a sophomore, he had five interceptions and 31 total tackles. "He's just a puppy," coach Joe Fabrizio said. He's also a personality. Think mini Deion Sanders:

On where he ranks as a defensive back: "I am the best corner in Pinellas County. I'm looking to be the best corner in the Tampa Bay area this year."

On why he likes playing defensive back: "I'm on an island. I like that attention. I like going against an opponent and winning every time. Doing the dirty work of locking a player down so he doesn't catch any passes."

On the mental part of playing the position: "I get in a lot of people's heads. I get in coaches' heads. They've gotten mad at me. I don't want to give away too much, but I get under their skin. I'm that way at practice, too. It's how I roll."

On the physical part of defensive back: "I like getting down and dirty, too. I like to put them in the dirt and then stand over them. I'm that dude."

On his role this year: "This year, I'm going to cover the top receiver. Whoever the No. 1 dude is, I'm on him. That's my job."

96. Tammarrion Faison, Plant City

Position: Free safety/cornerback

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-9, 170

Special to the Times

Tammarrion Faison

Why we ranked him: Coaches describe Faison as a ball hawk and a playmaker. Case in point was last year's region final game against Braden River when Faison ran down a tight end and punched the ball free for a lost fumble to stop a would-be touchdown. Overall, Faison believes the Raiders will be even better this year, which could translate to an even deeper run in the playoffs or even a serious run at a state title. "We return a lot of players who have only gotten stronger and faster," Faison said. "I love being a part of it."

97. Jaquez Byrd, Clearwater

Position: Defensive back

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 5-10, 166

Special to the Times

Jacquez Byrd

Byrd grew up as a running back in youth leagues, but did not start playing defensive back until high school. Last season was his breakout performance with 21 tackles and a team-high five interceptions.

You transitioned from running back to defensive back. Which position suits you best?

"Defensive back. I love it. I know how to read offenses and quarterbacks. I like making big plays and being the one making the hit or big tackle."

Which receiver is the toughest to go up against during the season?

"This season coming up I do not think there is anybody I cannot guard. Last year, Kee Whetzel from Countryside was probably the toughest."

What song do you play to get pumped up before games?

"I don't really have a song. I listen to motivational speeches, mostly by Ray Lewis. I like what he has to say and the leadership he displays."

If you could be president for one day, what would you change about the country?

"I would have jobs for people who could not finish school or allow them to get a diploma because some people could not finish for a reason."

98. TroyVon Johnson, Lakewood

Position: Athlete

Year: Junior

Height/weight: 5-8, 155


TroyVon Johnson

By the numbers

4 Positions played by Johnson as a sophomore (quarterback, running back, receiver and kick returner)

5 Offers so far, including Troy, Iowa State, Western Kentucky, Samford and Eastern Kentucky

11 Total touchdowns in 2016, including five passing TDs

121 Average yards gained per game, second on the team

423 Rushing yards as a sophomore, third best on the team

1,464 Total yards gained, including passing, rushing, receiving and kick returns

99. Kane Taylor, Clearwater

Position: Fullback/tight end/defensive tackle

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-4, 250


Kane Taylor

Why we ranked him: The two-way player is known mostly for occupying blockers as a defensive tackle. Last season, he had 39 tackles and two sacks to help the Tornadoes win a district title. He also contributed on offense with 120 yards rushing and 43 yards receiving on three catches. A standout at camps, Taylor has 14 offers from colleges, the biggest coming from perennial power Alabama recently. He was academically ineligible in the spring but has worked on boosting his GPA this offseason. He is on track to qualify for college, according to Clearwater coach Don Mesick.

100. Steven Witchoskey, Durant

Position: Tight end

Year: Senior

Height/weight: 6-3, 230

Special to the Times

Steven Witchoskey

Why we ranked him: Can block as well as he catches passes, which is exceptionally well. Strong, physical and versatile, Witchoskey played left tackle his sophomore season because the Cougars needed him to fill a void. Though it wasn't his natural position, Witchoskey fulfilled his left tackle duties like a good soldier. After moving to tight end his junior season, Witchoskey blossomed into an offensive force, and by the end of his junior year had received offers from USF, Marshall, Eastern Kentucky and Cincinnati, among others.

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

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