10/29/14 Swimming Preps
CLEARWATER — Wiregrass Ranch's girls swim program had done impressive things in the regular season, winning every dual meet and finishing second in the Sunshine Athletic Conference.
That success has continued into the postseason.
After winning their first district title last week, the Bulls won their first region title Wednesday, scoring 265 points in the Class 3A-2 meet at the Long Center....
With the girls high school soccer season starting this week, one question overrides others:
Where did everyone go?
Palm Harbor University and Shorecrest, the two Pinellas County teams that advanced to the state semifinals last season, are rebuilding after losing the bulk of their lineups to graduation. With many teams rebuilding, there could be more parity than ever. Here's a preview:...
Team of the week
River Ridge: Royal Knights coach Ryan Benjamin did not hide the fact that a win over Hudson would mean the school's first playoff berth since 1998. His team responded with a decisive 46-14 win over Hudson. The win secures a district championship for a team that was 3-7 last season. "Our record didn't really show it, but we were much better than 3-7 last year," Benjamin said. "It's just experience this year. Losing some close games last year actually helped us this year. Now we are winning those close games. We know how to win now."...
PINELLAS PARK — East Lake receiver George Campbell stood by a fence when a media horde swarmed around him moments after his team clinched its fourth straight Class 7A, District 9 title with a 45-14 demolishing of Pinellas Park.
Campbell, a five-star recruit who has committed to FSU, resumed his rightful place in the spotlight, patiently answering each question after he came up with his biggest performance of the season with eight catches for 177 yards and three touchdowns....
10/23/14 Swimming Preps
ST. PETERSBURG — Osceola coach Karen Smalley knew she had enough returning talent for her girls to win their fourth straight Class 3A, District 8 swimming title. What she did not expect was how dominant the Warriors would be in doing so.
Osceola won the meet convincingly Thursday, scoring 466 points to beat Lakewood Ranch by 131.
"The girls were just awesome and did all the little things right," Smalley said. "The turns and the starts were extraordinary. That's an encouraging sign going through the rest of the postseason....
TARPON SPRINGS — For his seventh birthday, Daniel Davis was allowed to get whatever he wanted.
Davis chose a tattoo.
The request prompted a few double takes from his mother, Tiffaney Lake.
"I thought it was going to be simple," Lake said. "I figured Daniel would want to go to Busch Gardens, Chuck E. Cheese, something that most 7-year-olds would want. But once he told me he wanted this, I said, 'Oh Lord.' "...
SEMINOLE — A week ago, Osceola's Haydyn Gibson cruised to an individual district title because of the competition, or lack thereof.
That was not the case in Wednesday's Class 2A, Region 6 tournament. Gibson squared off against Sebring's Kendall Griffin, a familiar foe from years of playing together in tournaments. After 18 holes, both were tied atop the leadership with 73.
That forced a playoff. ...
TRINITY — Mitchell's girls team repeated as the Class 2A, Region 5 champion with an overall score of 330, four strokes better than last year's region title team.
Once again, Shyanne Dove led the Mustangs with a tournament-low 77 Tuesday at Heritage Springs, tying her score from last year's tournament.
"I played well, but I left a few shots out there," Dove said. "I'm way more proud of my team for winning again."...
Team of the week
Leto. The Falcons won their first game (on the field) since 2009. Leto was credited with a forfeit win over Armwood in 2011, but the 18-15 win over Middleton on Friday was much sweeter. The win snaps a 32-game losing streak, and of course it wasn't easy. Leto led 18-7 with five minutes to play, but a fumble in Middleton territory turned into a touchdown and a two-point conversion made it an 18-15 lead. When asked if he had any fingernails left, Leto coach Matt Kitchie said, "No."...
River Ridge's first six games of the season were all been played on slippery, muddy fields. So the Royal Knights needed a workhorse back who could take over, a guy with strength, speed and indefatigability to lower his head and charge forward while gorging on yards.
Chris Schwarz has thrived in that role.
In his first full season as a starting running back, Schwarz has already set the school's single-season rushing record with 1,183 yards heading into Friday's game vs. Wesley Chapel. The junior also has a knack for finding the end zone with 11 touchdowns. Those impressive stats are a big reason River Ridge is in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1998....
The high school football season has been shaped to an extraordinary extent by Tampa Bay quarterbacks who consistently put up eye-popping numbers. • Five quarterbacks have already thrown for 400-plus yards in a game. Twelve are ranked among the top 50 (for passing yards) in the state, according to MaxPreps. Several other schools have set yardage records in a game. Even St. Petersburg has shucked its rushing roots with quarterback Austyn Causey throwing 10 touchdowns, four more than the previous two seasons combined. • The trend toward this air raid was inevitable. In the past decade, the bay area has slowly shifted toward the pass with no-huddle offenses, spread formations and shotgun snaps inching closer to the norm. Better still, most of these performances have come during rainy weather that was all too common the first half of the season. • So what is the reason behind such a sharp spike in production? • There are several answers, according to John Kaleo, a former Maryland and Tampa Bay Storm quarterback who now runs an academy that trains local high school signal-callers, as well as some college and professional players. He has almost 30 prominent quarterbacks — including Clearwater Central Catholic's Jeff Smith, Alonso's Chris Oladokun and Berkeley Prep's Brad Mayes — from the next three recruiting classes currently under his tutelage....
LARGO — When it comes to district football games, Largo High School has been dominant but not domineering, and oddly under the radar for a repeat champion on the verge of an impressive milestone.
The Packers (4-2, 1-0), owners of a Pinellas County-record nine straight district titles, can all but clinch their 10th tonight with a win at home against Class 6A, District 7 foe Venice (7-0, 1-0)....
Taylor Zahralban's football career could be over in four games. The Countryside High School senior plans to join the Marines once he graduates, with the goal of eventually working for the Secret Service. He is following the similar path of his brother, Russell, a Countryside graduate who works for the FBI. Zahralban started playing football in youth leagues as an offensive lineman. He switched to linebacker once he got to high school and is a two-year starter on varsity. To extend his football career beyond the regular season, Zahralban will try to lead the Cougars (6-0) to the playoffs. Countryside's biggest challenge in advancing to the postseason comes tonight with a game at East Lake (6-0). Both teams are at the top of the Class 7A, District 9 standings. Zahralban has never beaten the Eagles in high school. He lost twice to East Lake on junior varsity and once last year on varsity....
SMQ team of the week
Zephyrhills: The first half of the Bulldogs' season has been characterized by blowout wins in which they piled on the points. That was not the case Friday night against Nature Coast. In the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs trailed 14-7 in a key Class 5A, District 6 game. Zephyrhills rallied, scoring 10 points down the stretch, including a 33-yard field goal by Zach Gleaton with 33 seconds remaining, for a 17-14 victory. The Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1) have the edge for at least a runnerup spot in the playoffs. More important they found a way to win a close game, something they had trouble with last season. Zephyrhills dropped its final two games in 2013, including a 24-16 loss to rival Pasco that knocked the Bulldogs out of playoff contention....
CLEARWATER — Countryside's offense strives for balance and is known these days for its blur of a tempo. There are shotgun formations and rollouts and screens.
But when it mattered most, the Cougars issued a reminder Friday night of the value of smash-mouth football between the tackles.
Clinging to a two-point lead in the fourth quarter, Countryside went back to the basics, offering a primer on the value of an old-school run game on a drive that ended with Dante Satcher scoring his third touchdown of the night in a 29-20 win over Tarpon Springs....