Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tarpon Springs High seniors will leave Spongers football with strong work ethic

Senior wide receiver Luther Shaw says he’s glad he didn’t give up after missing an important early pass last season.


Senior wide receiver Luther Shaw says he’s glad he didn’t give up after missing an important early pass last season.


Nearly all the seniors on Tarpon Springs High football team have been enduring this ritual since they were in grade school.

The sweat of conditioning during hot summer practices.

The start of classes and after-school practice.

The weekly game routine complete with tackles, blocks, touchdowns, injuries, wins and losses.

And the Saturday morning aches and pains after a hard-fought game.

But when they walk along the 50-yard line Friday night for their last regular season game as Spongers, the seniors say they will leave high school football with friends and lessons they can count on beyond the gridiron.

"I really do consider these guys my friends," said Luther Shaw, a senior wide receiver. "Half of them, we've been on the same team since little league football. And it's been up and down for me, but I never quit."

Shaw, 18, is referring to the first game of the 2008 season when he missed a pass while wide open. For the remainder of the season, he played only on special teams.

"I was done for the rest of the season," said Shaw, who bounced back to catch four touchdown passes this season. "But I told myself that I wasn't going to quit and that my time will come."

Special teams member Cameron Menendez, 17, says that he doesn't play that often on game day, but he enjoys coming out to practice. He said it keeps him strong.

"I come every day and try to make myself a better player, and it keeps me in shape," he said. "But I help where I can and contribute when I can. I'm a very determined person and I will stick to it. I can't quit on anything. It's like a self-determination type of thing for me."

George Kotis has been with the program for 24 years, the last four as head coach. He says Tarpon Springs is a high school football town.

But because of the foundation laid by former head coach Nick Hatzie, who led the Spongers in the 1970s, winning has become secondary to building character, Kotis said.

"I just know the quicker that the kids mature and realize how important work ethic is and committing to something you believe in, the farther you will go in life," Kotis said. "Pride, self determination, never giving up, responsibility, all those cliches, we try to reinforce because when a teenager embraces them, they become winners in everything that they do, on and off the field."

In the end, Kotis said, there's more to it than winning.

"We try to get the players to handle adversity in a positive way, not by throwing the helmet," he said. "The main purpose is to develop the man first and the player second. I know it all sounds corny, but that's what we try to do."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at or (727) 445-4174.

About this series

This is the 10th story in the "Beyond the gridiron" series, in which Tarpon Springs reporter Demorris A. Lee takes a look at the Spongers

football program from

different perspectives.

This week, we put the focus on the seniors.

To hear what the seniors say they've learned, visit

To see previous installments, visit

Tarpon Springs High seniors will leave Spongers football with strong work ethic 11/11/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 8:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Mariners lose lefty Drew Smyly to Tommy John surgery


    SEATTLE — Drew Smyly was the centerpiece to one of Seattle's many offseason moves by general manager Jerry Dipoto. He was a priority acquisition as a proven lefty for the rotation the Mariners believed would thrive pitching at Safeco Field.

    Drew Smyly will undergo Tommy John surgery after being diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Seattle announced the diagnosis on Wednesday, ending Smyly's hopes of returning during the 2017 season. [AP photo]
  2. Jones: Steve Yzerman's plan for getting the Lightning back into the playoffs

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — Seems like forever since the Lightning played a hockey game.

    If the Lightning season started right now, would Steve Yzerman be happy with what he has? "We're still a couple of players short,'' Yzerman said.. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  3. Mikhail Sergachev said he felt comfortable and welcomed in his first day in a Lightning uniform.
  4. Trump welcomes Joe Maddon and World Series champion Cubs to White House

    The Heater

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has welcomed the manager and several players from the World Series champion Chicago Cubs to the White House.

    President Donald Trump, with Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon, right, and team members, gives a thumb-up as he meets with the 2016 World Series Champions Chicago Cubs, Wednesday,  in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. [AP photo]
  5. Lightning re-signs Cory Conacher to two-year deal


    Cory Conacher said he wanted another shot in the NHL, and hoped it would be with the Lightning.

    Cory Conacher on Wednesday signed a two-year deal with Tampa Bay.