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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. Boys basketball: St. Petersburg 59, East Lake 45


    ST. PETERSBURG — All season, St. Petersburg had one of the best guard combinations in the bay area with Serrel Smith and Darius Banks providing a 1-2 scoring punch.

    Now, the Green Devils have added a third option with the return of Travis Bianco.

    The senior guard, who already has committed to Eckerd, played sparingly during the regular season because of a groin injury. He sat out the past two weeks to be ready for the Class 7A, District 10 tournament....

  2. Boys basketball: Bradenton Southeast 78, Gibbs 77


    Gibbs made a habit this season of pulling out close games with eight wins that were decided by five points or fewer.

    On Friday, the Gladiators had another tight one in the Class 5A, District 11 final. This time, Gibbs was unable to come though, falling 78-77 to Bradenton Southeast.

    It was the first time the Gladiators had lost to a district opponent this season. Now Gibbs will have to go through the playoffs on the road as a runnerup....

  3. Riverview honors coach in morning softball game


    On the surface, Riverview's 16-1 softball win over Spoto was not that significant. It was a blowout victory that was called Friday morning after five innings because of the mercy rule. Everyone on the Sharks' roster played at least one inning.

    But the game meant so much more to the players and coaches. It had everything to do with caring and loss and letting go.

    Riverview completed the emotionally exhausting task of playing a day after the program's longtime and beloved coach, Angela Slater, 53, died from a year-long battle with cancer....

    Riverview writes the initials “AS” on the softball field in honor of coach Angela Slater.
  4. Nature Coast RB DeShawn Smith's a Parade All-American


    Nature Coast running back DeShawn Smith, the nation's leading rusher this past season, is a first-team selection on Parade magazine's annual All-American high school football team. Smith and the team will be featured in the magazine Sunday.

    Smith was the only bay area player to make the list and just one of two from the state. Last year, Armwood's Byron Cowart, now at Auburn, was also a first-team selection....

    Nature Coast senior running back DeShawn Smith’s 3,715 yards led the nation this past season.
  5. Girls basketball: Palm Harbor University 74, Tampa Bay Tech 52


    PALM HARBOR — It was hard for Palm Harbor University not to look ahead to an anticipated rematch against Strawberry Crest in the Class 7A semifinals.

    After all, the Hurricanes gave the undefeated Chargers all they could handle in an eight-point loss in December. It was the only time Strawberry Crest did not beat an opponent by double digits this season.

    Before PHU could get that coveted matchup, it had to get past Tampa Bay Tech in Thursday's region quarterfinals. After a slow start, the Hurricanes turned it on in a 74-52 win....

  6. Riverview's Angela Slater 'a coach with a real passion for the game'


    Angela Slater, who led Riverview High to two state softball titles, died Thursday after a year-long battle with cancer, her husband Ron said.

    Funeral arrangements have not been finalized.

    Mrs. Slater coached softball for 31 seasons and had more than 500 victories. After a successful college career at USF, Mrs. Slater took over as coach at Brandon. Plant coach Melissa Sigmon and Newsome coach Autumn Dunn both played for Mrs. Slater with the Eagles....

    Riverview’s Angela Slater continued to coach after being diagnosed with large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma.
  7. Supervision concerns at heart of Zephyrhills' move to on-campus football coach


    Zephyrhills High principal Angie Stone said last month that she was looking for a full-time, on-campus football coach, a decision that ultimately ended Reggie Roberts' six-year tenure.

    "It just works out so much better when you have a coach who is available to the students the entire day, not just at practice," Stone told the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 5.

    Stone, in a district-generated document that was dated two weeks ago, said her desire for a full-time coach stemmed from the fact that practices started at 4:30 p.m. or later under Roberts, who is a detective sergeant with the Zephyrhills Police Department. ...

  8. Boys basketball: Northeast upsets Clearwater; Largo survives


    GULFPORT — Last week, Northeast had a ceremony at the school to honor boys basketball coach Dave Redding, who is retiring after 36 seasons. Many of Redding's former and current administrators announced the gym would be named after the longtime coach during the final home game of the regular season.

    Turns out, Redding might get another home game in his farewell season. This time in the playoffs....

  9. Long-awaited day finally comes for CCC's Logan Miller


    For the past three years, Clearwater Central Catholic’s Logan Miller sat in the school’s auditorium on national signing day, watching teammates turn their oral commitments into binding ones with colleges.

    On Wednesday, it was Miller’s turn.

    The defensive lineman had a hard time containing his excitement.

    “I didn’t sleep much,” Miller said. “I was up at 4:30 a.m. I faxed my letter of intent by 7:30 a.m.”...

    Logan Miller, left, and Kevin Harris get ready to sign at CCC's ceremony.
  10. Largo pipeline to Indiana continues with 2016 class


    Largo defensive back Brandon Drayton had 21 offers from several big-time schools, including Louisville, Miami and Nebraska.

    But he ended up signing with Indiana, a school that has become a destination for former Packer standouts.

    Adarius Rayner, who played for the Packers from 2008-09, made 20 starts during his career as a defensive lineman with the Hoosiers. Defensive back Jonathan Crawford and quarterback Donavan Hale, both 2015 Largo graduates, were freshmen at Indiana this past season....

    Javaris Sanders (Fort Hays State Univ.) holds his admiring little brother Nevelle Sanders during the family photo session.
  11. Countryside's Kee Whetzel makes it official with Oregon State


    Countryside’s Kee Whetzel put pen to paper, signing his national letter of intent to play football at Oregon State during a ceremony in the school’s gymnasium.

    Whetzel, a three-star recruit, had options closer to home, including Central Florida. But he was intent on heading to Corvallis, Ore., a decision he made within the past week. Now, Whetzel’s football journey will take him 2,400 miles from home....

    Countryside football players (left to right) Chris Barrett, Wyatt Panaccione, Trent Chmelik, Kee Whetzel and Felix Dixon pose next to a cougar on stage after announcing their intent to play college football during National Signing Day at the school.
  12. Boys soccer: Palm Harbor U. 2, Wiregrass Ranch 0


    By Bob Putnam

    Times Staff Writer

    PALM HARBOR — This was supposed to be a rebuilding season for Palm Harbor University's boys soccer team. After all, the Hurricanes graduated seven players from last year's team that made the region final and lost two others who opted to play for the Clearwater Chargers' Development Academy program.

    Given that turnover, it was understandable PHU struggled in the regular season with a 7-6-2 record and entered the district tournament two weeks ago as the No. 5 seed. But the Hurricanes have put everything together at the right time, winning one tough match after another....

  13. HomeTeam 25: Softball players to watch


    Twenty-five players to watch as softball season gets cranked up:

    Aliyah Andrews, Sr., East Lake: The centerfielder has already signed with LSU, the same school where her older sister, Ayanna, was a standout. As the Eagles’ leadoff batter last season, Andrews hit .456 with 30 stolen bases.

    Taylor Bump, Jr., Canterbury: The Michigan recruit is a four-year starter at shortstop who is solid in the field and at the plate.  She hit .467 and did not commit an error for the defending 2A state semifinalists a year ago....

    Taylor Bump adds plenty of pop to Canterbury's hitting lineup.
  14. HomeTeam 25: Softball rankings for Tampa Bay


    1. Newsome

    This week: Tuesday vs. Tampa Bay Tech; Thursday vs. Robinson

    Scoop: The defending state champion from Class 8A move up to 9A and is favored to win another title with the return of five players who have signed with Division I-A programs – Cassidy Davis (Florida State), Claire Feldman (Utah), Brooke Leistl (USF), Hannah Pridemore (Duke) and Annie Tarte (Yale). Feldman was the Tampa Bay Times’ Hillsborough County pitcher of year last season after going 10-3 with a 0.80 ERA and 155 strikeouts. Pridemore hit safely in her final 13 games last season and finished with a .526 average. Davis led the team in RBIs (24) and home runs (four) and is a solid pitcher. MaxPreps has the Wolves ranked second overall in the state regardless of classification....

    Newsome returns a lot of firepower from the team that won Class 8A a year ago.
  15. HomeTeam Hot Shot winners, Olivia Downing and Liam Dougherty-Howard


    Olivia Downing, Bishop McLaughlin

    The Bishop McLaughlin girls basketball team had never earned a state playoff berth, so heading into last week's Class 3A, District 7 semifinal against Tampa Prep, the Hurricanes needed no extra motivation to defeat the Terrapins.

    Sophomore forward Olivia Downing had even more than most.

    Brielle Downing is a senior on the squad, and Olivia wasn't about to let her teammate and sister leave high school basketball behind without a trip to the state playoffs, coach Anita Davis said....

    St. Petersburg Catholic soccer player Liam Dougherty-Howard. (Courtesy of Liam Dougherty-Howard)