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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. Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay football


    Tampa Bay Offensive Player of the Year: Jeff Smith, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

    Last season, Jeff Smith had his worst performance on the biggest stage. He committed five turnovers, including four interceptions, in a 34-7 loss to Jacksonville Trinity Christian in the Class 3A state championship game. • That game served as a powerful motivator for Smith, who dedicated himself in the offseason to becoming an elite signalcaller. • In his first full season as a starter, Smith deftly guided a high-powered offense that racked up a school-record 507 points and led the Marauders to the state semifinals for a third straight season. • "We had a sloppy performance in the state championship game, and we wanted to redeem ourselves," Smith said. "We learned a lot after coming up short. We all worked that much harder to try to get back to the title game again." • It was a tremendous challenge defending Smith, whose combination of skills — speed of a sprinter, power arm of a pitcher and accuracy of the best quarterbacks — made him perhaps the best multidimensional quarterback in the bay area....

    Meet our overall high school football players of the year: Armwood linebacker Jordan Griffin, left, and Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jeff Smith.
  2. Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay boys swimming

    Swimming Preps

    Pinellas County Swimmer of the Year: Cooper Hoffman, Sr., Countryside

    Most memorable race: Hoffman swam anchor leg on the 200 free relay team and helped the Cougars rally from last place to fourth in 1:26.69 at the Class 4A state meet.

    Best finish: Hoffman was on the state champion 400 free relay team (3:06.59) and took second in the 100 back (50.09) at the 4A meet. ...

    Our swimmers of the year, from left, Countryside’s Cooper Hoffman, Ridgewood’s Emir Muratovic and Jesuit’s Austin Sellers.
  3. Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay girls swimming teams

    Swimming Preps

    Pinellas County Swimmer of the Year: Sydney Pickrem, Sr., East Lake

    Most memorable race: At the Class 4A state meet, Pickrem won two individual titles in the 200 IM (1:59.17) and 100 back (54.72). She said the 200 IM was the most memorable because it was the first time she went under two minutes this season.

    Best finish: Pickrem singled out the 200 medley relay that won state in 1:47.34 because the lineup used was new and came together at the right time. ...

    Our swimmers of the year, from left: East Lake’s Sydney Pickrem, Newsome’s Maddie Hess and Mitchell’s Taylor Anderson.
  4. Countryside's Truong a skilled striker



    Countryside High School's Lily Truong bursts through seams no one else can see, zipping through and around defenders like a sports car in a cluster of 18-wheelers. But the diminutive whirlwind's biggest attribute is an uncanny ability to put the ball through the net.

    The sophomore has scored 16 goals in eight games, with three hat tricks this season for the Cougars (4-4-1). She was shut out only once — against Steinbrenner High on a field with nearly 2 inches of mud....

    ABOVE THE CROWD: Countryside’s Lily Truong, center, heads the winning goal past two Plant High defenders during the final moments of the match on Dec. 12.
  5. Tampa Bay Times' all-Tampa Bay cross country teams


    Pinellas County boys Runner of the Year: Patrick McNamara, Sr., Admiral Farragut

    Best race: At the Celtic Invitational, McNamara set school and course records with a time of 15 minutes, 38 seconds to win and beat the No. 2-ranked runner in Class 2A, Joel Lacy of Fort Lauderdale Calvary Christian.

    Best finishes: Won St. Petersburg City meet (16:22), second at districts (16:12), fourth at regionals (16:00), seventh at the Class A state meet (16:19)....

    Our all-area runners of the year, from left: Sickles’ James Zentmeyer, Nature Coast’s Amelia Schmit, Pasco’s Zach Weaver, Calvary Christian’s Hannah Brookover and Farragut’s Patrick McNamara.
  6. Tentative district assignments offer interesting matchups for Tampa Bay football teams


    The Florida High School Athletic Association released its tentative district assignments for football Monday, and things are (possibly) changing quite a bit for 2015-18. In addition to assignments now being set for four years instead of two, here are some of the biggest shake-ups for Tampa Bay teams:

    Tougher road for Jesuit: For the past two seasons, the Tigers have benefitted from playing in a three-team district and only having to win one game to make the playoffs. Now, Jesuit has to get through six other teams -— Jefferson, Lake Wales Middleton, Spoto, Robinson and Lakeland Tenoroc — in the newly formed Class 5A, District 10, one of the largest districts in the state. ...

  7. UAB leaves football recruits scrambling


    With national signing day less than two months away, Countryside offensive lineman Riley Metheney is in his own personal limbo.

    Metheney is scrambling to get a big-time scholarship after Alabama-Birmingham, the lone Division I school to offer the senior, pulled the plug on its football program.

    Citing a lack of financial support, UAB announced Dec. 2 that it was terminating its football program, the first Division I school to drop the sport since Pacific in 1995. Many recruits such as Metheney were left to frantically search for another suitor....

    Countryside’s Riley Metheney (75) thought he was set with an offer from UAB, which then surprised him by dropping football.
  8. Tarpon Springs football coach Ron Hawn resigns


    Ron Hawn resigned Wednesday after three full seasons as Tarpon Springs' football coach.

    Hawn leaves with a 20-19 record. His departure comes eight days after the Florida High School Athletic Association suspended him for six weeks for his involvement in a fight that broke out after the Spongers' 29-28 loss to River Ridge in the Class 5A region quarterfinals. No other details were provided in the incident, and Hawn has appealed the decision....

    Ron Hawn appealed a suspension for his involvement in a fight after a loss to River Ridge.
  9. 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall leads Orlando Liberty Christian over Lakewood 77-70 (w/video)


    ST. PETERSBURG — From the moment Orlando Liberty Christian Prep's Tacko Fall ducked his head to emerge from the locker room, he was the main attraction.

    Cameras flashed and jaws dropped Tuesday as fans followed the big man's every elongated step.

    Fall, a 7-foot-6 forward who is the nation's tallest high school player, surveyed the frenzy that surrounded him. As soon as the game started, he made his presence known, grabbing rebounds and depositing the ball in the basket as if he were placing a book on shelf....

    Liberty Christian's Tacko Fall (24), a 7-foot-6 UCF commit,  grabs the ball under Lakewood's basket at Lakewood High School on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014. [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]

  10. Football: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas 45, East Lake 7


    FORT LAUDERDALE — East Lake quarterback Jake Hudson sobbed. Eagles linebacker Carson Lydon trudged off the field, his head low. Tears fell as coach Bob Hudson guided his team into the locker room for the last time.

    East Lake's second straight state semifinal appearance ended Friday night in a 45-7 loss to Class 7A powerhouse Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.

    Players were enveloped in silent misery, each wondering why the team had come up short again, one game from their ultimate destination, the state championship game....

    Dylan Renaker of East Lake recovers his own fumble as Christopher Hart of St. Thomas Aquinas closes in.
  11. Boys basketball: Tampa Prep 75, Brooks DeBartolo 49


    TAMPA — Last season, Tampa Prep beat Brooks DeBartolo four times, including in the Class 3A, District 7 championship game and in the region semifinals.

    That dominance continued Thursday as the Terrapins took control early and cruised to a 75-49 victory over their toughest district challenger.

    Tampa Prep (3-0) remained undefeated and has beaten each of its first three opponents by at least 22 points. ...

  12. East Lake takes a road trip few playoff teams survive


    East Lake has put together an impressive postseason resume the past four seasons with two trips to the region finals (2011-12), followed by two straight appearances in the state semifinals.

    During their recent success, the Eagles had the benefit of playing nearly every game within the confines of Tampa Bay, the longest playoff trip coming in 2012 when they traveled to Orlando and lost to Dr. Phillips in the Class 8A region finals....

    Running back Sean Holte and Largo faced St. Thomas Aquinas in 2008, falling 35-14 on the road. Aquinas is one of the toughest places to play in the state during the post-season.
  13. FHSAA suspends Tarpon Springs football coach Ron Hawn six weeks


    Tarpon Springs football coach Ron Hawn was suspended six weeks by the Florida High School Athletic Association for his involvement in a fight after the Spongers' 29-28 loss to River Ridge in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.

    In the FHSAA letter obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, Hawn was given a Level 2 unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. His six-week suspension started Nov. 14, but because that was the final football game of the season for Tarpon Springs, the suspension will carry over to the next sport Hawn coaches. He is also the Spongers' track and field coach....

    Ron Hawn’s suspension will carry over to track and field, which he also coaches.
  14. Boys basketball: Gibbs 58, Lakewood 50


    ST. PETERSBURG — After excruciating losses to neighboring rival Lakewood in the district final and region semifinals last season, Gibbs waited nine months to exact revenge.

    Relying on a suffocating defense and timely outside shooting, the Gladiators got it in Tuesday's 58-50 win, grabbing an early edge in the Class 5A, District 8 standings.

    Besides beating a familiar and heated foe, Gibbs (3-2) also needed the victory to get back on track after losing two straight in tournaments this past week....

  15. Personal glory not on East Lake QB Jake Hudson's agenda


    EAST LAKE — Jake Hudson is doing things that no other quarterback at East Lake High School has done.

    Since becoming the starter last season, Hudson has won more games — regular season and postseason combined — than any starting quarterback at the school, and that includes a former colleague named Pete DiNovo, the one-time Pinellas County career passing leader who is now at UCF....

    Jake Hudson has just one loss as a varsity starter. “If I threw for a bunch of (TDs) and we fell short in the playoffs, I wouldn’t be happy.”