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Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam is a fourth-generation Floridian who was born in St. Petersburg and graduated from Dixie Hollins High School (Class of '91). He went to St. Petersburg College (1991-93) and USF (1993-95) before working at the Times as a staff writer in 1996.

Phone: (727) 445-4169

Email: putnam@tampabay.com

  1. Sunday morning quarterback


    Team of the week

    Indian Rocks Christian. The Golden Eagles have the type of statistics befitting a team ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A. Their 48-12 win over Naples First Baptist marked the 10th win this season by 35 points or more. The offensive balance was on display with Theo Anderson, Jacquan Fuller and Damian King each scoring two touchdowns. On defense, Fisher Jones had four sacks to give him 18.5 on the season. IRC, in the state semifinals a second straight season, has the best record in school history and has outscored opponents 491-87....

    Clearwater Central Catholic head coach John Davis makes his way to midfield at the end of the Class 3A State Football Final between Jacksonville Trinity Christian and Clearwater Central Catholic in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Jacksonville Trinity Christian defeated Clearwater Central Catholic 34-7.
  2. Football: East Lake 37, Braden River 21


    BRADENTON — For the past three weeks, East Lake was accustomed to getting big plays from its special teams and having receiver George Campbell streak down the field on long receptions.

    With the exception of a blocked extra point and a holding penalty that wiped out a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from Campbell, the Eagles' special teams did not have any impact plays in Friday's Class 7A region semifinal game against Braden River....

    East Lake’s Kyle Fearrington gives a stiff arm to Braden River’s Anthony Marino on a run.
  3. Learn from the best, be the best


    EAST LAKE — Julian Santos has always been big. Too big, in fact, to play football until he arrived at East Lake High as a freshman three years ago.

    "I didn't play any other sports," Santos said. "All I wanted to do was play football. But I couldn't because I was too heavy."

    In sixth grade, Santos weighed more than 200 pounds, well past the 175-pound limitation allowed in the youth leagues....

    East Lake junior Julian Santos lined up last year beside Mason Cole, who is now a starting offensive lineman for Michigan.
  4. Playoff profile: Sunlake QB Dayton Feiden


    Sunlake has become one of the most successful teams in Pasco County by relying on a brutal, yet simple, approach on offense with a solid wall of linemen pounding defenders into submission as a bruising back runs behind them.

    The quarterback, meanwhile, throws enough to remind opponents that he's on the field.

    That philosophy changed this season.

    The Seahawks opened it up — at least by their standards — thanks to the play of Dayton Feiden, a second-year starter who has thrown for 1,387 yards and eight touchdowns to help his team reach the Class 6A region semifinals....

    Quarterback Dayton Feiden has remained healthy and gives Sunlake a viable passing game.
  5. Region semifinal capsules: Class 8A and 7A


    Region semifinals

    Class 8A

    Who: Plant (10-1) at Orlando Dr. Phillips (11-0)

    Winner plays: Bradenton Manatee-Vero Beach champion

    Know the foe: Dr. Phillips may be ranked No. 1 in Class 8A, but the Panthers proved in last week's narrow win against Bloomingdale that they're not unbeatable. The Bulls were able to move the ball with their passing game, taking an 11-point lead into halftime. For Dr. Phillips offensively, it was the opposite. The Panthers lean heavily on their run game, and they rushed for 304 yards as a team, Daquon Isom leading the way with 170. Meanwhile, quarterback Rudy Norwood completed just eight passes for 58 yards. Dr. Phillips' 24-21 win against Bloomingdale was its closest game by far in its undefeated season. This will be the fourth straight year Plant and Dr. Phillips have met in the playoffs, and last year Plant won 24-23 when it stopped Dr. Phillips on a two-point conversion attempt in overtime. Dr. Phillips, though, is riding a 36-game win streak in its own stadium. ...

  6. For the Lawrences and the Browns, basketball and friendship run deep


    ST. PETERSBURG — They became friends at Lakewood High School more than 25 years ago, a bond born through basketball.

    Barry Brown and Anthony Lawrence remained close, even as they continued playing miles away in college (Brown at Jacksonville, Lawrence at Miami) and continents apart as professionals (Brown in Israel, Lawrence in Japan).

    During that time, they started thinking about the future, about starting families. Brown and Lawrence also had a plan. If they ever had boys, they would develop them into basketball players who would be good enough to play in college....

    Anthony Lawrence Jr., from left, adds a little extra to his layup as Stephon Williams, Cody Carden and Barry Brown Jr. watch during practice at Admiral Farragut Academy in 2006. That year, as members of the Courtside Cavaliers, they won the U9 AAU state title.
  7. Football always the end goal for Sunlake LB Austin Yeloushan


    LAND O'LAKES — Austin Yeloushan is a blitzer of uncommon speed on passing downs, a tackler of staggering strength against the run and a moving part so itinerant that opposing offenses find themselves playing "where's Austin?" before they snap the ball.

    Yeloushan, a senior linebacker at Sunlake High School, is a whirling dervish in cleats who has helped his team reach the Class 6A region semifinals for just the second time in school history. Better still, Yeloushan shows no effects from the surgical detours of a childhood in which he broke his tibia and fibula twice and had six screws put in one of his legs to help it grow even with the other....

    Austin Yeloushan tried other activities, but he kept gravitating back to football.
  8. Three questions with Indian Rocks Christian ATH Damian King


    Indian Rocks Christian athlete Damian King is one of the most dynamic — and versatile — players in Pinellas County. Last year, he had 2,138 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns to help the Golden Eagles reach the Class 2A state football semifinals. King was hoping to put up even bigger statistics this year, but he broke his thumb in the third week of the regular season. It was the first major injury King has ever sustained playing football. Last week, King returned for IRC (10-0) and made an immediate impact, scoring on a 38-yard reception and 90-yard kickoff return in a 62-14 win over Fort Myers Evangelical in the Class 2A region semifinals. King played mostly on defense and will be eased back in to a more prominent role on offense....

    Indian Rocks Christian’s Damian King, shown here in a 2013 practice, returned from a thumb injury last week.
  9. Offenses beware: Grittier Ds abound this postseason


    Every year when the high school football playoffs roll around, one thing is a given: Armwood's defense will be nasty.

    And, yes, the unbeaten Hawks are good once again, setting a school record for fewest points allowed in the regular season (23). They're currently on a streak of five straight shutouts (eight total in 11 games).

    "Armwood's defense is special this year," said first-year Largo coach Marcus Paschal, whose team lost 38-0 to the Hawks in last week's Class 6A region quarterfinals. "In my years in the NFL and coaching defensive backs here at Largo, it's one of the best I've seen at the high school level. They all fly to the ball and they just seem to feed off each other."...

    Sickles linebacker Jake Hampton leads the bay area with 133 tackles.
  10. Playoff profile: East Lake LB Jake Hansen


    East Lake's Jake Hansen fractured his hand at the start of the season. But that did not deter the junior linebacker from playing.

    Hansen wore a cast for four weeks and still leads the team in tackles this season with 111. His knack for bringing down ball carriers runs in the family. His father, Shad, is the all-time career leader in tackles at BYU with 408 (1989-92).

    "I try to take after my dad," Jake Hansen said....

    East Lake junior Jake Hansen, here running in a defensive touchdown, leads East Lake with 111 tackles and is a force on special teams.
  11. Region final capsules: Class 3A and 2A


    Region finals

    Class 3A

    Who: Clearwater Central Catholic at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 7 p.m. Friday

    Winner plays: Delray Beach American Heritage-Miami Westminster Christian champion

    Know the foe: Cardinal Mooney is in the second round for the first time since 2006 after beating Calvary Christian 17-14 in last week's region semifinals. The Cougars are 2-1 all time against CCC in the playoffs, including a 19-10 win in 2006. Senior Reese Vita has thrown for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. His favorite target is Sean Morris Jr. (472 yards, five touchdowns). Linebacker Samuel Leonard leads the team in tackles (110) and sacks (six)....

  12. Playoff profile: River Ridge FB/NG Dillon O'Toole


    For much of the season, River Ridge (10-1) has flown under the radar.

    So has Dillon O'Toole.

    He plays two violent, unheralded positions — fullback and nose guard.

    O'Toole is the caddy of the offense with his timely blocks serving as a retaining wall between star running back Chris Schwarz and opponents.

    Schwarz has benefitted, rushing for a Pasco County-record 2,536 yards this season, including 398 in last week's 29-28 win over Tarpon Springs in the Class 5A region quarterfinals....

    Dillon O’Toole, who plays fullback and nose guard, leads River Ridge in sacks (nine) and has caused 18 fumbles this season.
  13. Football: River Ridge 29, Tarpon Springs 28


    PORT RICHEY — Tarpon Springs knew exactly what River Ridge's game plan was going to be heading into Friday's Class 5A region quarterfinal game.

    Still, stopping Royal Knights' running back Chris Schawrz is tough to do.

    Schwarz, who entered the game as the state's third-leading rusher with 2,138 yards, got the ball on nearly every play. He kept churning out yards, finishing with 398 yards on 55 carries and four touchdowns in a 29-28 victory....

    River Ridge’s Chris Wezesa, left, sacks Tarpon Springs quarterback Brandon Casler.
  14. Pinellas Park's Kal-El Williams on go all the time


    PINELLAS PARK — The summer is usually a time when high school students sleep in or relax on a beach.

    Not for Kal-El Williams.

    The Pinellas Park senior was out of bed by 7 a.m., and an hour later, he was grunting through grueling two-hour weight-lifting sessions with fellow football players.

    That is enough of a workout for most people. Williams did not stop there. He would then head off to work with TASCO (Teen Arts, Sports and Cultural Opportunities), helping set up events for students throughout St. Petersburg. He often logged 40 to 60 hours a week....

    Pinellas Park’s Kal-El Williams, a Florida Atlantic commit, doesn’t know the meaning of rest and relaxation.
  15. Playoff football primer: If you like postseason firsts …


    Twenty-seven Tampa Bay football teams kick off the first round of the postseason Friday night. We wrap up our playoff primer series with the teams to watch if you like playoff firsts.

    Mitchell (6-4) at Gainesville (5-5): This isn't actually the first time Andy Schmitz has made the playoffs as a Mitchell coach. He took the Mustangs' basketball team to the playoffs two times (2004, '05) and won a district championship. But this will be his first trip as a football coach, and he's doing it in his first season. Schmitz took over after his father, Scott, retired last November. He briefly left in 2010 to become Hudson's athletic director, but returned to Mitchell in 2011. The Mustangs became playoff eligible by beating Springstead in the first quarter of a three-way tiebreaker in Class 6A, District 6. It's the first time since 2004 that Mitchell has made the playoffs. "We're just happy to still be practicing," Schmitz said. "It's been 10 years since we've been able to do that. We want to make this a yearly thing. Our goal every year is to try to win a district championship or go to the playoffs. If things go right, we'll have another week of practice." If the Mustangs do win Friday, it would be the school's first playoff win....

    Gulf High School head coach Jason Messamore works with his team at practice Wednesday.