By Kelly Parsons and Bob Putnam | Times Staff Writers
Defensive player of the year DB Devin Abraham, Sr., East Lake
Devin Abraham saw the ball coming at him, ever larger, until in a blink he was cradling it — and East Lake's season — in his arms.
One second later, it was gone.
Abraham dropped the interception and would-be touchdown. It was a momentum-changing play that proved costly in a loss to Orlando Dr. Phillips in last year's region final. Abraham still put up solid numbers that year, recording four interceptions, but the one that got away gnawed at him.
"I actually had two dropped in that game," Abraham said. "I felt like I played okay, but it was a down year for me. For some reason, I was taking the game too seriously. This year, I made it a point to just go out there and have fun."
Abraham, a USF commit, had a blast. He led an Eagles defense that posted a school-record five shutouts and allowed just 114 points in 14 games this past season. But East Lake defenders did more than just stop opponents. They scored, too. Abraham led the way. When the ball was headed in his direction, he made sure he secured it, recording a team-best and career-high six interceptions.
But what made Abraham's season special was what he was able to do with the ball once he got his mitts on it. He scored five defensive touchdowns — four more than in his previous three seasons combined. And the touchdowns were not just off interceptions. Abraham also had a knack for producing big plays on special teams with four blocked punts and three blocked field goals.
Abraham's ability to be in the right place at the right time came from being meticulous in practice, in film study and in technique.
"I put everything I had into making this the best season possible," said Abraham, whose team finished 13-1 and advanced to the Class 7A state semifinals. "I don't think I could have asked for much more."
Offensive player of the year QB Deiondre Porter, Sr., Jefferson
Jefferson was trailing Largo in the first round of the playoffs on Nov. 15, the Dragons' first postseason appearance since winning a state championship in 2010.
Coach Jeremy Earle wasn't ready to see his team's playoff run end, so he called out to his star quarterback, Deiondre Porter. "We're going to have to ride you," Earle told him.
Porter didn't think twice about the command.
"He looked right at my eyes with that good look that he's got, and he said, 'Coach, give me the ball,' " Earle said.
Porter rushed for 203 yards that night and scored all four of Jefferson's touchdowns to lead the Dragons to a 25-17 win.
It's Porter's offensive output — a state-high 4,698 total yards and 53 touchdowns — that makes him the Tampa Bay Times' All-Suncoast offensive player of the year, selected from among the top players in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco counties. But it's the kind of leadership he displayed in that playoff game against the Packers that impressed Earle most.
Porter was a big part of a Jefferson team that averaged more than 500 yards of offense. Like Earle's reminder to Porter against Largo, the Dragons often rode his talents.
Having that kind of responsibility on his shoulders was not only something the USF commit cherished, he said, but a role he was born to fill.
"I've been a leader since I was 5 years old. I was a leader on my baseball team, captain when I played T-ball, all the way up to now," Porter said. "I live for adversity. When it comes, I'm ready."
Coach of the year Mike Garofano, Springstead
The first-year coach led the Eagles to a record-breaking season, with more postseason play than any team in Hernando County has seen. Garofano inherited the team from mentor and local legend Bill Vonada, who said he was comfortable leaving Springstead because he knew the team would prosper under Garofano's direction. Garofano's coaching style was best summed up by his words after Springstead's first-round playoff win against Citrus, in which a Hurricanes player was ejected: "They came in here running their mouths, cursing and hooting and hollering. That's not our style. We let our pads do the talking."
Offense | First team
QB Ryan Davis, Jr., Lakewood: Had nearly 2,000 yards passing and 856 yards rushing and helped lead the Spartans to the Class 5A state semifinal.
RB Ray Ray McCloud III, Jr., Sickles: One of the state's leaders with 2,300 yards and 26 TDs to help the Gryphons to their first playoff victories.
RB Ra'Quanne Dickens, Sr., Seminole: Opponents knew Dickens was getting the ball, but he still set a school record with 1,580 yards rushing and 15 TDs.
RB Nathan Johnson, Jr., Sunlake: With 1,500 yards and 16 TDs, Johnson secured his place as Sunshine Athletic Conference player of the year.
RB Pierre Johnson, Sr., Pinellas Park: Johnson was all over the field for the Patriots but was most valuable at running back. Had 1,264 yards rushing and 326 yards receiving.
OL Mason Cole, Sr., East Lake: One of the most coveted linemen in the area, the 6-foot-5, 275-pound Michigan recruit blew open huge holes all season.
OL Jake Fruhmorgen, Jr., Plant: The four-star recruit headlined a stacked offensive line that allowed quarterback Colby Brown to throw for nearly 3,000 yards.
OL Reilly Gibbons, Sr., St. Petersburg Catholic: At 6-foot-6, 290 pounds, Gibbons was a handful for opponents. The Miami recruit is the main reason the Barons rushed for more than 3,000 yards.
OL Isaiah Wynn, Sr., Lakewood: Georgia recruit anchored an offensive line that protected Ryan Davis and allowed Donterio Fowler to run wild most of the season.
OL Montel McBride, Sr., Plant City: Alabama commit protected a first-year quarterback while helping the Raiders average more than 300 yards of offense.
WR Shug Rhynes, Sr., Middleton: Ranked in the state's top 10 with more than 1,200 receiving yards and 10 TDs.
WR Malik Johns, Sr., Pasco: One of the North Suncoast's most versatile athletes had 345 receiving yards and caught six touchdown passes.
WR Artavis Scott, Sr., East Lake: The Pinellas County player of the year and Clemson commit rushed for 729 yards, caught 37 passes for 542 yards and had four kickoff returns for touchdowns.
K Sterling Hofrichter, Jr., Armwood: Versatile kicker had 67 touchbacks and hit nine field goals for the state runnerup.
ATH Alex Jackson, Sr., Plant: Jackson, a starter on Plant's 2011 state championship team, finished with 711 rushing yards, 488 receiving yards and 12 total touchdowns.
KR Jocqui Ellison, Sr., Lakewood: Ellison was used all over the field and was dangerous whenever the ball was in his hands. If Lakewood needed a big special teams play, Ellison was usually called upon.
Second team Offense
QB Colby Brown, Sr., Plant
RB Noah Siegrist, Sr., Hudson
RB Glass Wilson, So., Ridgewood
RB Jamil Morris, Sr., Osceola
RB Willie Barrett, Sr., Anclote
OL Marcus Applefield, Sr., Weeki Wachee
OL Ray Raulerson, Sr., Plant
OL Gary Brown, Sr., Alonso
OL Corey Martinez, Sr., Tampa Catholic
OL Brandon Kubisak, Sr., Pinellas Park
WR George Campbell, Jr., East Lake
WR Ventell Bryant, Sr., Jefferson
WR Jacquez Hill, Sr., Dixie Hollins
K Bryce Wilson, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
ATH Dwayne Lawson, Jr., Hillsborough
KR Maurice Hall, Sr., Gibbs
Defense | First team
DL Josh Black, Sr., Sickles: Hillsborough County defensive player of the year had 20 sacks for the 7A region finalists.
DL Byron Cowart, Jr., Armwood: Five-star prospect led the Hawks with 13 sacks on one of the state's top defenses.
DL Justus Reed, Sr., Clearwater C. Catholic: The Florida recruit was a menace all season; had 106 tackles, 13 sacks and five forced fumbles.
DL Jordan Edwards, Jr., Lakewood: A quiet player who spent most of the game in the opponents' backfield. Had 24 sacks in the regular season.
LB Jeremiah Jackson, Sr., Hernando: Hard hitter averaged 13 tackles for the rebuilding Leopards.
LB Ben Wood, Sr., Sunlake: Led a swarming Seahawks corps with 111 tackles and 10 sacks.
LB Carson Lydon, Jr., East Lake: Led a very good defense in tackles (133) and sacks (eight) and had two interceptions.
LB Jordan Griffin, Jr., Armwood: Was the Hawks' leading tackler (159) while adding four sacks and two interceptions.
DB Damian King, Jr., Indian Rocks Christian: Had six interceptions to lead the Golden Eagles' defense.
DB Kyle Gibson, Sr., Armwood: Vanderbilt commit led the team with six interceptions, including two in the state championship game.
DB Chavez Pownell, Sr., Jefferson: Picked off five passes on defense and led the high-scoring Dragons with 809 receiving yards.
DB TJ Harrell, Sr., Tampa Catholic: Also played linebacker and running back for the Crusaders, accruing 593 rushing yards.
P Tyler Mahla, Sr., Springstead: North Suncoast's player of the year averaged 43 yards per punt — and rushed for 1,200 yards and 18 TDs at quarterback.
UTIL Andrew Beck, Sr., Plant: Linebacker finished with a team-high 110 tackles, 33 for loss, and four sacks.
Second team Defense
DL Shaheed Salmon, Sr., Land O'Lakes
DL Jesse Cowan, Sr., Springstead
DL Shavar Manuel, So., Blake
DL Johnathan Crawford, Jr., Largo
LB Juwuan Brown, Sr., Jefferson
LB Conor Ross, Jr., Springstead
LB Deondre Romeo, Sr., East Bay
LB Conner Dorris, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic
DB Devin Duckett, Sr., Wiregrass Ranch
DB Jaylen Pickett, Jr., Zephyrhills
DB Maurice Turner, Sr., Tarpon Springs
DB Amani Oruwariye, Sr., Gaither
P Justin Motlow, Sr., Tampa Catholic
UTIL Jaaron Barrett, Sr., Sickles
Armwood: Hyriam Frederick, Noah Johnson, Aaron Covington
Clearwater Central Catholic: Caanan Brown
Central: Robbie Bradley
East Bay: Chris Greene
East Lake: Jared Gleason, Daniel Lacamera
Gibbs: Maurice Hall
Jefferson: Derrick Ingram
Jesuit: Vincent Jackson
Lakewood: Brujoun Bonner, Donterio Fowler
Land O'Lakes: James Pensyl, Liam Heaney, Colin Irwin, Deionte Strozier
Largo: Cordell Hudson, Raheem Harvey
Nature Coast: Rohan Blackwood, Christian Pellage, DeShawn Smith
Pasco: RJ Scaife, Nate Craig, Jacob Morphew, Bowman Archibald
Pinellas Park: Antonio Harris
Plant City: John Broome
Ridgewood: Andreas Spirou
Sickles: Deven Santana
Strawberry Crest: Alex Carswell
Sunlake: Tommy Speer, Austin Yeloushan, Joe Jean-Baptiste, Chris Wilkinson
Tampa Bay Tech: Deon Thompson, Deon Cain, Tajee Fullwood
Tarpon Springs: Damarkus Jones, Louis Zervos, Michael Ford
Wharton: Jeff Keil, Auden Tate, Chase Litton
Zephyrhills: Devon Brockington
Times staff writers Matt Baker, Mary Kenney and Rodney Page contributed to this report.