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River Ridge hopes big offensive playmakers can make a difference

Doing his best to get away: Tarpon Springs’ Dondre Daley, left, tries to avoid the tag of Wesley Chapel’s Chris Mattear during 7-on-7 practices Tuesday at Wesley Chapel.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Doing his best to get away: Tarpon Springs’ Dondre Daley, left, tries to avoid the tag of Wesley Chapel’s Chris Mattear during 7-on-7 practices Tuesday at Wesley Chapel.

If River Ridge can improve on last year's 2-8 campaign, much of the credit could come from the team's big offensive playmakers.

The Knights' height was on display in Tuesday's 7-on-7 games at Springstead, as 6-foot-4 TE Dylan Rutledge, 6-foot-2 WR Derek Glynn and others soared for catches against Nature Coast and the Eagles.

"We do have a lot of skill out here," first-year coach Ryan Benjamin said. "We've got some guys who are big and physical and can run a little bit."

Senior WR Brandon Nazzario is one of the smaller options at 5 feet 10 but has shown great speed.

Rutledge is backing up his 225-pound frame with improved receiving skills.

"He's a big, physical tight end," Benjamin said. "He's a big target. He's got good hands, good feet. We're expecting a lot out of him."

Carney learning fast: QB Thomas Carney entered the spring as one of Nature Coast's biggest uncertainties.

But with the 7-on-7 season nearly complete, first-year Sharks coach Charles Liggett said Carney looks like the team's starter.

"He had a good spring — head and shoulders over what we were expecting," Liggett said. "I'd say he's the top one."

Carney started on junior varsity last year and completed 5-of-7 passes in the spring game. He looked comfortable sprinting out of the pocket and throwing on the run Tuesday.

And that's a good sign for the run-heavy Sharks.

The 7-on-7 rules force Nature Coast to work on its passing attack.

But with a strong offensive line that should have an average height of more than 6 feet 2, the Sharks will rely much more on their ground game and junior RB Matt Breida in the fall.

"When the season rolls around, what you'll see out of us is who we really are," Liggett said.

Catch of the day: The honor goes to Spoto senior Geronimo Allison, who leaped almost effortlessly over a Gulf defender and almost hit his head on the goalpost.

"I just kept my eyes on the ball and kept my body in position to make the catch," Allison said.

Spartans QB Jaylon Davis looked toward several other players before finding Allison in the back of the end zone.

The lanky receiver leaped and made the catch and landed on his back.

Fivay's secret star: The Falcons have shown improvement during the summer after their first season last fall.

And Fivay still has one fairly secret weapon — TE Kevin Faulkner.

The junior also plays baseball, so he has been absent for many 7-on-7 practices.

But this autumn, coach Chris Taylor said, Faulkner is expected to be a focal point of the offense — and earn looks from college recruiters.

"He's a stud," Taylor said.

Gulf lands transfer from Armwood

With Gulf in somewhat of a rebuilding mode with first-year coach Tom Carter at the helm, the Buccaneers received help in the defensive secondary with CB Tre Rhodes transferring from Armwood, Carter said Tuesday. Rhodes also plays wide receiver.

Rhodes, who played junior varsity for the Hawks last year, looks to help out a Bucs secondary that already features college prospect Ty'Shon Peters, who was recently ranked No. 98 on Flavarsity.com's top 160 players in Florida.

"He's still got some work to do," Carter said, "but he should be able to help us out on both sides of the ball."

Times correspondent Andy Villamarzo contributed to this report.

River Ridge hopes big offensive playmakers can make a difference 07/20/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 20, 2011 12:19am]

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