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Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam has covered high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times as a staff writer since 1996. He is a fourth-generation Floridian who graduated from Dixie Hollins High School and wrote for the student newspapers at St. Petersburg College and USF. He has covered the high school careers of football stars Riley Cooper (CCC/Florida/Philadelphia Eagles), Dante Fowler (Lakewood/Florida/Jacksonville Jaguars), Leonard Johnson (Largo/Iowa State/Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Dexter McCluster (Largo, Mississippi/Tennessee Titans), among others.

Phone: (727) 580-4395


  1. Sunday morning quarterback: Rivalry games live up to hype


    Player of the week: De'Vonta Smith, Central

    Before the season Smith said he wanted to do better than his record-setting cousin, Nature Coast alum DeShawn Smith. He took one record away from his cousin Friday night in a 63-28 win over Weeki Wachee. Smith gained 488 yards on 23 carries and scored eight touchdowns. He broke DeShawn's Hernando County single-game rushing record of 444 yards, set last season. His eight touchdowns tied a county record....

    Plant head coach Robert Weiner greets the opposing team after they defeated Sickles on Friday October 10th, 2014. The final score was 54 to 6. 

  2. Football: Tampa Catholic 25, Clearwater Central Catholic 21


    TAMPA — The situation appeared bleak for Tampa Catholic. Clinging to a four-point lead, the Crusaders watched bitter rival Clearwater Central Catholic drive down the field in the final two minutes of regulation.

    The Marauders had first and goal at the 2-yard line. Tampa Catholic's defense was spent and depleted. Several players were cramping and out of the lineup. But the Crusaders dug in, bunching up to stop three straight runs. On fourth down, on the final surge, Tampa Catholic's defense came through — again....

    Clearwater Central quarterback Jakob Parks (12) receives the snap in the second quarter during the game between Tampa Catholic and Clearwater Central Catholic at Tampa Catholic on Friday, Sept. 23, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. Tampa Catholic led 18-14 at the half.
  3. East Lake's Mike Lube has seen Tarpon rivalry from both sides


    For Mike Lube, the Tarpon Springs-East Lake game will have a strange vibe.

    Last year, he experienced the intensity of the rivalry for the first time as the Spongers' coach.

    Friday night, Lube will get a taste of competing against his former team when he coaches from the opposing sideline as an assistant with the Eagles.

    "It's real emotional this week," Lube said. "I grew real close to a lot of the players and families at Tarpon Springs. Now, I'm starting to do the same thing at East Lake. There's an attachment to both sides, which makes it really tough."...

    Former Tarpon Springs coach Mike Lube, who is now an assistant at East Lake (photo courtesy of Lube)
  4. Newton brothers a fierce four-some for Clearwater Central Catholic


    CLEARWATER — It is hard for announcers and statisticians to determine which Clearwater Central Catholic player comes up with a tackle on most plays.

    There are four Newtons. They all have first names starting with the letter J.

    Their first names, fully pronounced, are similar. There is Jerquan, Jervon, Jerjuan and Jerzahn. About the only way to distinguish them is by their jersey numbers....

    Johnny Newton (48) during football practice at Clearwater Central Catholic Wednesday afternoon 9/21/2016. He is one of four brothers on the team.
  5. Football picks, Week 5



    Clearwater Central Catholic at Tampa Catholic, 7

    Rodney Page: CCC 31-21

    Bob Putnam: CCC 17-14

    Cambridge Christian at Holy Trinity Episcopal, 7

    Page: Cambridge Christian 45-21

    Putnam: Cambridge Christian 56-14

    Triumph Christian at Keswick Christian, 7

    Page: Triumph Christian 14-10...

    It's rivalry week for a lot of teams this Friday, so bring on the grudge matches.
  6. Brother vs. brother in East Lake-Tarpon Springs game


    At some point Friday night, Tupac Blanch will take a handoff and turn upfield. Amani Saunders will be waiting for him.

    There likely will be a collision, one that is forceful and powerful and instant.

    Those kind of impact plays are expected in rivalry games.

    But the intensity is not just because it is East Lake vs. Tarpon Springs.

    It is also brother against brother.

    Friday has become a prominent date in their lives. It will be the first time the two face off against each other in varsity game....

    East Lake’s Tupac Blanch has a lot of family from Tarpon Springs, so he’s ready for Friday’s game.
  7. Four rivalry games always worth watching


    Late September is not strictly about district standings or playoff berths, especially in the Tampa Bay area.

    It is about grudge matches that give high school football here a unique flavor. Many of the rivalries that fall this week are fairly new ones, going back to no later than the early 1990s.

    But they are significant.

    Armwood and Plant are annual state title contenders. Friday's meeting is between the top two teams in the Tampa Bay Times' HomeTeam 25 rankings. A loss will likely be the only one either suffers in the regular season. ...

    Armwood’s Darrian McNeal (1) of runs the ball during the first quarter of the game against Plant High School on Friday September 25th, 2015, at Armwood High School in Seffner.
  8. HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Shaquan Johnson and Jessica Stroemich


    Shaquan Johnson, Northeast

    There was nothing anyone could say to make Northeast's Shaquan Johnson feel better about last year's loss to Osceola. It was no use noting that Johnson had rushed for 100-plus yards and scored a touchdown.

    Johnson fumbled on the Warriors' 5-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. Osceola ran out the clock to preserve a win.

    The painful memories of a game — and a football — that got away from Johnson served as a powerful motivator in the rematch last week. ...

    Northeast running back Shaquan Johnson (Rodney Page, Times)
  9. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings, Week 5


    1. Armwood (3-0)

    This week: at Plant, 7:30 Friday

    Skinny: The Hawks have shut out their past two opponents to stretch their regular-season win streak to 34 games. The last regular-season loss came in a 20-19 overtime loss to rival Plant in 2012. The two powerhouses meet this week in perhaps the most anticipated game of the season. The biggest matchup will be Armwood's revamped defense going up against Plant's high-powered attack. On offense, the Hawks will be without receiver Warren Thompson, who was ejected in last week's win over Chamberlain. ...

    Durant has been on a roll since the season-opening loss to Hillsborough. (Times file)
  10. Former Countryside softball star A.J. Andrews first female Gold Glove winner


    For A.J. Andrews, bloops and flares over the infield are easy outs. When the ball is hit over her head, she races to the wall at breakneck speed to routinely pull in softballs with graceful over-the-shoulder catches.

    The former Countryside High standout's prowess has earned her acclaim as she consistently comes up with acrobatic catches in the National Pro Fastpitch softball league, so much so that she appears on ESPN SportsCenter's top plays almost as often as major-league baseball counterparts....

    A.J. Andrews plays for Akron of the National Pro Fastpitch softball league.
  11. Sunday Morning QB: Big wins and baseball scores


    Wild night

    There was no shortage of exciting games Friday night. Here is a sampling of some of the craziness:

    • Hudson beat Anclote 40-39 in a game that had an ending Hollywood producers would love. Down by six with 40 seconds left to play, the Cobras got the ball back. The drive started with a delay-of-game penalty, so Hudson would have to go 64 yards to win. Sure enough, as the scoreboard horn sounded, Cyler Doran hit Justin Griffin for a 30-yard touchdown pass. Fans hugged, players cried on the sideline, fade to black … (Okay, maybe not that dramatic.) ...

    Hudson’s Cyler Doran helped orchestrate a last-second TD in Friday’s 40-39 victory over Anclote.
  12. Football: East Lake 17, St. Petersburg 7


    EAST LAKE — At this point last season, East Lake was 1-3, suffering more losses than in its previous three seasons combined. The defense was inexperienced and there were injuries on offense.

    Things have changed dramatically.

    The Eagles are 3-0, exacting revenge on the three teams they lost to early last season. The latest was a 17-7 win over St. Petersburg in Friday's Class 7A, District 10 opener. ...

    East Lake High School's Xavier Jackson (4) rushes against St. Petersburg High School's D'Quante Lumpkin (22) during the first quarter of Friday's (9/16/16) game at East Lake.
  13. Too cool for Crocs? Not Hillsborough DB Ken Montgomery


    Hillsborough defensive back Ken Montgomery is a four-star recruit who is listed as one of the nation's top 300 players in the 2018 class.

    But the junior is known more around campus for his fashion accessories off the field than his lofty status on it.

    Montgomery wears sunglasses and Crocs. Red Crocs to be exact, matching the predominant color of the school.

    He does not just wear them. He lives in them. ...

    Hillsborough High DB Ken Montgomery isn't too cool for Crocs. He's made them a fashion statement at school. (Courtesy of Ken Montgomery)
  14. Football picks, Week 4



    Central at Nature Coast

    Rodney Page: Nature Coast 35-14

    Bob Putnam: Nature Coast 42-28


    Mitchell at Springstead

    Page: Mitchell 24-21

    Putnam: Mitchell 27-17

    Ridgewood at Wesley Chapel

    Page: Wesley Chapel 28-14...

    Jesuit takes on Jefferson in a big district tilt on Friday.
  15. College choice prominent in Mackenzie Stumpf's whirlwind swimming life

    Swimming Preps

    For Mackenzie Stumpf, two wheels are too many.

    A few years ago, the Tarpon Springs High senior got a unicycle for Christmas. She quickly developed a passion for life on one wheel, becoming so proficient on the bike that she can dribble a basketball and play Frisbee while riding it.

    But that balancing act is nothing compared to the one Stumpf currently performs in the sport she really excels at: Swimming....

    Mackenzie Stumpf was 58th in the Olympic trials in the 100 breaststroke. “I think being able to produce good times against that kind of competition will only help me gain confidence,” she said.