By the time you read this I will be well on my way to my new job covering the University of Alabama football program for a collection of three newspapers. After six years on the North Suncoast, it's time to pass my computer along to another aspiring journalist ready to pick up where I left off. Starting Monday, St. Petersburg Times staff writer Bryan Burns will provide this area with coverage on high school sports. And I will be in Tuscaloosa, Ala., facing Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban for the first time. Scary, I know. But it's time for a new challenge. I won't lie, it's hard to leave my comfort zone. In these past six years I have gotten married, started a family and sprouted roots in a community where I would love to spend the rest of my life. But new opportunities in journalism are rare. All of the athletes I cover graduate and move on. Now it's time for me to follow suit. There's so much I will miss I simply do not have enough space here to name all the wonderful people, places and moments that have shaped me into the writer I am today. The North Suncoast will always be home, and I thank all of you for making me feel welcome and preparing me for the next step in life. Thanks for the memories.
What we learned
1. Despite its 0-3 record, Springstead still looks primed for a run at the postseason in Class 4A, District 5. Not one program in the district currently has a winning record, and the Eagles have arguably played the toughest schedule, with games against North Suncoast mammoths Hernando, Nature Coast and Land O'Lakes in the first three weeks. Bill Vonada and his coaching staff made solid adjustments against the area's top passer, Gators quarterback Stevie Weatherford, and the Eagles picked him off three times Friday in a 31-15 loss. If Springstead can play that kind of defense against Gainesville and Lake Weir, there's no reason why the Eagles can't compete for one of the two playoff positions.
2. Mitchell is not as good defensively as we first thought. After not allowing a touchdown in its first two games, the Mustangs yielded four touchdowns in the first half in a 42-28 loss to Clearwater Central Catholic. Mitchell allowed 387 yards of offense, including 267 on the ground. The 42 points allowed was the most since Mitchell fell 42-13 at Ridgewood on Oct. 12, 2007.
3. Pasco has a quarterback. Pirates junior Jacob Guy probably could have thrown for a couple of more touchdowns if not for dropped passes. As it stands, he had a strong outing in a 37-14 win against South Sumter, completing 11 of 17 passes for 205 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Guy completed his first six passes and hit five receivers in the game. Guy also showed an ability to sneak out of the pocket when needed.
Looking ahead of ourselves?
During both Gulf's and Sunlake's wins Friday night, there was plenty of chatter going on about this week's impending district matchup at Sunlake. The winner should have an inside track toward a playoff spot in Class 3A, District 8. Last year the Seahawks upended the Buccaneers 35-13 behind former Gulf quarterback Jacob Jackson, who is now the starter under center at Sunlake.
"We know (Jacob Jackson) because we used to have him. The key will be putting pressure on him and stopping him from doing what he wants. If we can ball control, and the offense puts up some points, then we might beat them."
Ken Holler, Gulf coach, on the new Sunlake quarterback
QB Stevie Weatherford, Land O'Lakes: After throwing three touchdowns in the first half to amass a 28-7 lead, Weatherford put Springstead away with one final scoring strike with two minutes left to finish 15-for-25 for 218 yards.
RB Ricky Trinidad, Mitchell: Finished with 14 carries for 210 yards, two touchdowns — a 77-yarder and a 29-yarder — in a 42-28 loss to Clearwater Central Catholic.
WR Taylor Minter, Springstead: The gritty receiver did everything he could against Land O'Lakes, catching a 74-yard touchdown. He had a career night with six catches for 139 yards.
TE Jason Tello, Land O'Lakes: Weatherford's top target was all over the field, catching three touchdown passes. Tello, a senior, had eight catches for 102 yards overall.
RB Janarion Grant, Pasco: Ran five times for 92 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown in a 37-14 win over South Sumter.
WR Trey Dudley-Giles, Pasco: Had two catches, including a 4-yard touchdown, and a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown against South Sumter.
CB Wesley Moore, Land O'Lakes: Every time Springstead threatened offensively, a turnover changed the momentum. Moore intercepted Brian Beeker twice, including once with 13 seconds left in the game.
Gulf offensive line: The interior offensive line of C.J. Hart, Chris Palasky and Jeff Kruse helped pave the way for 253 yards on the ground. Running backs Austin Jackson and T.J. Blount both rushed for more than 100 yards in Gulf's 25-13 win over Ridgewood.
TE Max Livingstone, Ridgewood: The 6-foot-5 sophomore caught four passes for 80 yards and also scored two touchdowns against Gulf.
Times correspondents Andy Villamarzo and Derek J. LaRiviere contributed to this report.