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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. Flip no fluke for SportsCenter highlight star Malik Johnson


    Highlight-reel flip is no fluke

    Malik Johnson spends a lot of time on acrobatic moves. He practices back flips, front flips, at home or at football practice.

    "I usually try to do them a few times every day," Johnson said.

    That practice paid off on Friday night when the Alonso High running back was able to land on his feet — and on ESPN's SportsCenter — after flying through the air on a highlight-worthy play (see for video)....

  2. Meet Friday night football's instant celebrity: Alonso's Malik Johnson


    Courtesy of Alonso football

    Sophomore RB Malik Johnson's game-night acrobatics have gone viral....

  3. Football: East Lake 38, Palm Harbor University 35


    EAST LAKE — The game was tied in the fourth quarter when Ian Woodward came on to the field. The East Lake junior, in his first year as a starting placekicker, had the moment he dreamed about: a game-deciding field goal.

    One swift kick, one 31-yard boot by Woodward helped the Eagles regain momentum — and the lead with four minutes remaining. It also proved to be the winner in a wild 38-35 win over rival Palm Harbor University....

    Palm Harbor University High School's Jamaine Derogene (16) runs the ball during the first quarter of Friday's (8/26/16) game with East Lake High School at East Lake.
  4. Football: Clearwater Central Catholic 44, Berkeley Prep 27


    CLEARWATER — Chris Harvey's head coaching debut at Clearwater Central Catholic could not have started any better.

    The Marauders recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff. Two plays later, Jervon Newton ran 28 yards for a touchdown. After a forced punt, CCC quarterback Jakob Parks hit CJ Cotman on a 67-yard touchdown pass on the first play.

    Three plays on offense, two scores and a 14-0 lead. ...

    Clearwater Central Catholic running back Jervon Newton breaks free for a touchdown run.
  5. INTs leader Mekhi LaPointe down, but not out for this season


    Can't keep a good Hawk down for long

    Armwood's usually stingy defense went through some turnover this offseason.

    Graduation took its toll with the Hawks having to replace their top three leading tacklers.

    One of the holdovers they counted on was senior Mekhi LaPointe, a ball-hawking safety who led the state last season with 10 interceptions.

    But LaPointe has been reduced to a spectator, sidelined the first half of the season after tearing his meniscus this summer. ...

    Armwood senior Mekhi LaPointe led the state a season ago with 10 interceptions.
  6. East Lake vs. Palm Harbor U.: Two kickers, one friendship, one huge rivalry


    Hayden Schuster and Ian Woodward have known each other for about six months. Their friendship formed at kicking camps scattered across the country.

    "We've always had a friendly competition," Woodward said. "Just two kickers making each other better."

    On Friday night, they will stand on opposing sidelines in one of Pinellas County's fiercest high school football rivalries. Schuster kicks for Palm Harbor University, Woodward for East Lake....

    East Lake High’s Ian Woodward, who started kicking four years ago, prepares to punt during practice Monday at the school.
  7. River Ridge's Alex Kostogiannes makes picks look easy


    He makes INTs look easy

    On passing plays, Alex Kostogiannes races downfield in a stride-for-stride sprint as the ball spirals toward the receiver. More often than not, he catches the ball instead of the receiver.

    At least that was the case last season. The River Ridge senior made swiping passes from opposing quarterbacks his business. He had seven of them, tying him for the fourth-best total in the state....

    Though River Ridge DB Alex Kostogiannes had seven picks a year ago, "getting an interception is a pretty tough thing to do." (Octavio Jones, Times)

  8. Tampa Bay quickly becoming defensive back central


    Zamari Maxwell lines up in his stance, crouched, his fingers twitching. The Pinellas Park High senior spends nearly an entire game backpedaling. If he plays well, he is invisible. If he makes one mistake, one slip, it will show up on YouTube or his opponent's Hudl account for everyone to see.

    "I don't really feel any kind of pressure," Maxwell said. "That's what I'm used to. It's part of the position I play."...

    Pinellas Park High School DB Zamari Maxwell is notorious for pulling down interceptions when the ball is thrown his way. Maxwell, a senior, is hoping for another great season with Pinellas Park. (Dirk Shadd, Times)
  9. Anniversary not worth celebrating for Jefferson's Cade Weldon


    Cade Weldon's junior season was finished after five attempted passes. The Jefferson quarterback tore his ACL against Tampa Bay Tech in the season opener.

    Weldon spent the rest of the year rehabilitating his knee and watching from the sideline as the Dragons struggled to go 5-7 and make the playoffs as a district runnerup.

    Now Weldon is back in his first significant action. This opener is meaningful because it is a rematch against the Titans....

    Jefferson quarterback Cade Weldon on seeing his first extended game action since tearing his ACL in the 2015:  I'm just happy to be back on the field."
  10. The mane event's at River Ridge


    When River Ridge comes up with team-bonding activities, it usually involves hair.

    Last year, the Royal Knights all decided to grow mustaches, including the coaching staff. Fear the fuzz became their rallying cry as they went 9-1 in the regular season and made their second straight region semifinal appearance.

    This year, River Ridge is going with long locks.

    The players are growing out their hair, something that started in summer workouts....

    River Ridge football players are growing out their hair ... refusing to trim until the season's over. Front row, from left: Dylan Spaeth, Mikey Roussos, Trevor Hawks, Austin Vellucci, Back row, from left: Alex Kostogiannes, Dio Defalco, Dalton O'Toole. (Mike Carlson | Special to the Times)
  11. Rivalry watch: Twitter trash talking at its finest


    The opening week of high school football season kicks off with two of the biggest rivalry games in the bay area: River Ridge at Mitchell and Palm Harbor University at East Lake.

    Those games are standing room-only events due in large part to rabid fan bases. The student sections of those four schools are among the most popular in Tampa Bay. Last year, the Florida High School Athletic Association recognized River Ridge’s student section, dubbed the Purple Posse, as the best in the state....

    Students Paige Batson, left, Peyton Anderson, center, and Shelby Ruah show their school spirit in last year's River Ridge-Mitchell game.
  12. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings, Week 1


    Note: Records are final ones from 2015.

    1. Armwood (14-1)

    This week: at Plant City, 7:30 Friday

    Skinny: Pay no attention to the preseason loss to Bradenton Manatee. The Hawks are loaded at the skill positions and are favored to make their fourth straight appearance in the Class 6A state championship game. The addition of quarterback Devin Black, who transferred from Lennard, gives the offense balance. Armwood has three Division I-A recruits — Brian Snead (Ohio State), Darrian McNeal (Arizona) and Erin Collins (NC State) — who are capable of rushing for 1,000 yards this season. The defense, which allowed just 72 points in the regular season last year, lost some key players but will still be formidable. The biggest obstacle to turning in another undefeated regular season will be longtime rival Plant. They face off Sept. 23....

    Clearwater Central Catholic High School varsity football players gather at the scoreboard moments after defeating John Carroll Catholic High School 46-14 during Friday's (11/20/15) regional final at CCC in Clearwater.
  13. Preseason football: Cocoa 34, Clearwater 7


    With the bulk of the starting lineup returning from last year's district championship team, Clearwater coach Don Mesick wanted a tough matchup in the preseason to get his team ready for another postseason run.

    Cocoa, a three-time state champion, was formidable. Last year, the Tigers reached the Class 4A state semifinals, losing to eventual champion Miami Booker T. Washington.

    After a slow start Friday, Cocoa turned it on and cruised to a 34-7 win. ...

  14. Preseason football: East Lake 33, Sunlake 8


    EAST LAKE — One of the primary goals for East Lake was to settle on a starting quarterback, a battle that started in the spring between Tyler Rupe and Jackson Rowland.

    Rupe, a senior, made his case with a strong performance, completing 11-of-15 for 159 and two touchdowns in roughly three quarters of work in Friday's preseason game. That was more than enough for the Eagles to cruise past Sunlake 33-8....

  15. Preseason football: Palm Harbor University 51, Mitchell 11


    TRINITY — Palm Harbor University made significant strides last season, winning six games and just missing out on a playoff berth.

    The momentum continued in the spring with an impressive performance against Nature Coast and rolled into Thursday night with a resounding 51-11 victory over Mitchell.

    The Hurricanes' strength is their passing, led by quarterback Cameron Mouton. The senior started off the game by completing 10 of his first 11 passes and finished 14-of-19 for 272 yards and four touchdowns, each to a different receiver....

     Palm Harbor University quarterback Cameron Mouton (No. 3) looked pretty sharp during Thursday night's preseason classic against Mitchell. Mouton helped the Hurricanes to a 23-3 by halftime. Taken 8-18-16 by Scott Purks