AJ Andrews and Bianka Bell started off as rivals on the softball field, each playing for different travel teams as youths.
In high school they both became standouts — Andrews at Countryside, Bell at Chamberlain — and as seniors were named high school players of the year, in their respective counties, by the Tampa Bay Times.
When it was time to choose a college, Andrews and Bell joined forces, each signing with LSU. Now they play key roles at the top of the lineup and have helped the Tigers reach the Women's College World Series for the fourth time in school history and the first since 2012....
For the past four seasons, East Lake's road to the playoffs has been paved by a mammoth group of guys up front. • East Lake's offensive line, the bedrock of the program, has helped clear lanes, as well as construct a path for the Eagles to make the region final for four straight seasons and the state semifinals the past two. • This season they'll have just as valuable a role, especially with East Lake breaking in new starters at nearly every skill position....
At Clearwater Central Catholic
Clearwater 28, Clearwater Central Catholic 23
Spring game-breakers: Clearwater running back Adarius Lemons said his idol is James Wilder Jr. On Friday night, Lemons mimicked the power and speed of the former Plant and Florida State standout, rushing for a game-high 210 yards on 17 carries and three touchdowns. Lemons battled through a bruised ankle sustained in the second quarter and scored two of his three touchdowns in the second half, both on runs of 50 yards or more. His final score on a 54-yarder turned out to be the winner. …Tornadoes quarterback Garrison Bryant threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Zachary Lehman and finished with 102 yards passing. …Clearwater running back Tupac Blanch added 42 yards rushing on seven carries. …CCC quarterback Jakob Parks, who took over as the starter for the graduating Jeff Smith, was 10-of-18 for 116 yards and a touchdown. …Jervon Newton was on the receiving end of Park's scoring pass. The running back also scored on a 40-yard run. …CCC's other running back, Rashaad Stewart, finished with 124 yards rushing on 12 carries. …Tyler McDonald hit three short field goals for the Marauders....
At Pinellas Park
Pinellas Park 13, Largo 0
Spring game-breakers: Thursday's game was a defensive slug fest that saw both teams combine to register nine sacks, force four turnovers and stop each other five times on downs. In the fourth quarter, the Patriots finally broke through thanks to Largo's generosity. The Packers decided to call a pass off a fake punt from their own end zone that was incomplete. Pinellas Park took advantage as Dale Foster scored on a 2-yard run. On the ensuing kickoff, the Patriots recovered a fumble. Zamari Maxwell scored on a 24-yard run to round out the scoring. …Pinellas Park's Jordon Scott showed why he's one of the best interior defensive linemen in the area with six tackles, three sacks and four for loss. …Teammate Nate Demint also played well, registering two sacks and recovering two fumbles. …With Isaiah Thomas academically ineligible, Largo went with Isaiah Bellamy and Taj Taylor at quarterback. …Packers defensive lineman Bobby Roundtree, who has gained interest from plenty of colleges, recorded two sacks....
CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic's depth was stripped after losing 23 players to graduation. That left a roster of 40 that included some junior varsity players.
Because of those numbers, or lack thereof, the Marauders could not afford any injuries this spring.
That did not happen.
CCC has 15 players out for Friday's game against Clearwater. The list includes receiver/defensive back CJ Cotman, who suffered a concussion during an officials' scrimmage against Anclote two weeks ago. Running back/defensive back Dilan Scargle (back), lineman Logan Miller (knee) and lineman Nathan Rubin (back) are among the others banged up....
LARGO — Dakarai Allen's journey from football unknown to college prospect can be traced to his childhood.
The Largo High School receiver/defensive back is the youngest of seven siblings (four brothers, three sisters), nearly all of whom had some background in sports. Allen, though, proved that his road to stardom was not just paved in genes but also in sweat and tears.
"Being the youngest, I was always picked on or getting beat up by my brothers," said Allen, who is heading into his senior year. "And we were all competitive. We'd play all kinds of sports where it would be the last man standing. It made me work that much harder."...
Last season, Tarpon Springs had three players from its basketball team — receiver Daniel Davis, tight end Mitch Wilcox and lineman Donald Davis — all play significant roles in helping the Spongers go 6-5 and advance to the playoffs as a district runnerup. • This spring, the Spongers are hoping another hoopster, Israel Atkins, can morph from a raw talent into a dependable receiver. • Atkins, a rising senior, has been a solid contributor on the court, averaging 5.4 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season. He said he always wanted to play football, but his mother would not let him until he had a 3.0 grade-point average. ...
IMG Academy coach Kevin Wright has been around impressive high school football programs in the past. His previous stops include Warren Central and Carmel, which annually compete for state titles in Indiana. • But even Wright, hired March 30 to replace Chris Weinke, marveled at the sheer size of IMG during a recent tour of the Bradenton campus with a college coach. • "We were driving around and just shaking our head at how big this place is," Wright said. "From that standpoint, just going around and seeing all the buildings in place, it's hard not to be in awe." • IMG sits on 584 acres — more than double the size of the University of Miami's campus in Coral Gables. It is not just in size that IMG mimics major colleges, it is in stature, especially with the cornerstone of its high school athletic colossus: football....
CLEARWATER — Jakob Parks is the frontrunner to start at quarterback for Clearwater Central Catholic and lead a program that has made the state semifinals the past three seasons.
The junior has a plan to earn a scholarship and play the position in college.
But Parks also moonlights as a beach volleyball player. Though he only plays on the weekends, Parks has shown so much promise that he could be on the fast track to the Olympics. Trouble is, there are no scholarship opportunities for male beach volleyball players — at least not in the foreseeable future....
Plant is always stocked with strong-armed quarterbacks. • So when Rex Culpepper became the starter last season, it was only natural that some of that depth would dwindle as backups looked for an opportunity to start elsewhere. • The exodus of signal callers has had a direct benefit for Calvary Christian and Clearwater Central Catholic, which have been able to fill holes at the position thanks to a pair of Panther transfers. ...
The euphoria over Newsome High School's softball team winning the Class 8A state title continued this week.
On Monday, the players were greeted by a raucous celebration as they took a victory lap around campus while the band played and students clapped with approval from classrooms.
"It's been a memorable few days," Wolves senior Liv Chandler said. "I think it's all starting to show us how big an accomplishment it was to win. It really hit once we came back to school on Monday."...
VERO BEACH — By the time Chamberlain took the field for its Class 6A state championship game with Ocala Forest on Saturday night, the Chiefs had already redefined the role of plucky underdog in the postseason.
Chamberlain, despite losing several players who either graduated or left the team, made it back to the state tournament for the third time in the past four seasons, and reached the title game for the first time since 2012 when the Chiefs won it all....
VERO BEACH — Newsome's Cassidy Davis did not exactly run from the field after a flyball settled in her glove for the final out. She skipped, leaped, then came back to earth again, rushing toward a place she and her teammates imagined they would be all season.
Finally she was swarmed by teammates as they celebrated a 5-1 victory over Miami Coral Reef in the Class 8A state championship at Historic Dodgertown. It was the Wolves' first state softball title — and the school's first team title in any sport....
VERO BEACH — The offense was efficient, but that has been the case a lot lately.
Chamberlain scored just enough runs and got contributions from nearly everyone in the lineup. Add pitching that has been effective, if not spectacular, and you have an eight-game win streak from a team that no longer resembles the bunch that lost four straight toward the end of the regular season.
The Chiefs cruised to a 3-0 victory over Stuart South Fork in Friday's Class 6A state semifinal at Historic Dodgertown to advance to the championship for the first time since 2012. That's the year they won their second title in school history....
VERO BEACH — Hagerty has done some impressive things, vaulting to the top of the rankings in Class 8A each of the past two seasons.
But the one thing the Huskies cannot do is beat Hillsborough County teams at the state tournament.
Last season, Bloomingdale knocked off Hagerty to win the 8A state title.
This time, it was Newsome's turn.
The Wolves outlasted the Huskies to win 1-0 in eight innings in the state semifinals and advance to the title game for the first time....