HomeTeam Hot Shots
Cornelius McKenzie, Gibbs
In the second game of the season, the Gladiators lost 51-35 to Charlotte. On the long bus ride back to St. Petersburg, football coach Antonio Knox wasn't entirely disappointed. They may have lost, but Knox had found his quarterback.
McKenzie, a 5-foot-10, 165-pound freshman, threw for more than 400 yards and five touchdowns in the loss. It not only gave Knox confidence, but McKenzie as well.
"It really did," McKenzie said. "I took a lot of hits and learned that everything happens really fast up here. But I also knew that I could do it."
Since the Charlotte game, two games have been cancelled and there were two more losses. But McKenzie took over in the second quarter against Boca Ciega last week and helped lead the Gladiators to their first win of the season. He threw two touchdowns and ran for 74 yards in a 28-14 win.
"It felt great to get that first win," he said. "But I also felt like I could do better."
Gibbs has used three other quarterbacks, but McKenzie has thrown a bulk of the passes, completing 58 percent. It is likely McKenzie will remain the starter, aside from a few Wildcat formations, the rest of the season.
Playing against seniors took some getting used to, but it's not that big of an adjustment.
"I've always played up," McKenzie said. "I'm used to playing against older players. They're big and fast, but you just have to stay away from them."
Cameron Fitzpatrick, Clearwater Central Catholic
Fitzpatrick has been playing volleyball for as long as she can remember. She is winding down a four-year career on varsity as one of only two seniors on the team. As expected, she is the leader in kills with 185. When the Marauders need a point, it's a sure bet the 5-foot-9 Fitzpatrick is going to get the ball.
Last season, she had 328 kills and was the Times' Pinellas Player of the Year. With her talent, Fitzpatrick always figured she would play volleyball in college. She had no idea her journey would end in Minot, N.D. After going through the recruiting process and thinking she wanted to stay close to home, Fitzpatrick decided to visit Minot State University.
She liked head coach Dana Cordova, and once she visited the campus, she was sold.
"The coach was very energetic and she said she really wanted me to come up there," Fitzpatrick said. "Honestly, I had no idea where it was. But once I got there I absolutely loved it.
With her college decision behind her, Fitzpatrick is focused on finishing her final season on a high note. The Marauders have struggled a bit this season and are 8-5 with one week of the regular season remaining. They play in a very competitive district that has five teams with winning records.
Fitzpatrick said this team may be young, but they have improved.
"It's been a very fun season," she said. "We didn't really know each other that well to start the season but we've all worked very hard and they have become like little sisters to me. They are my best friends."