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....
After logging more than 40 miles this summer, Northeast High School's Hayley Brahm is starting to see the time invested in becoming a faster runner paying off with wins at major meets. The senior won the individual title at last week's cross country Viking Invitational in 20 minutes, 48 seconds. She also won individual honors at the Little Pirate Invitational last month. Brahm's progression in cross country has been rapid. Last season, she recorded personal records in every meet and lowered her time from 22:50 at the start of the season to 20:23 by the region tournament. She also runs the 800 meters in track, in which she finished fourth at districts and eighth at regionals last season. All that work is geared toward her ultimate goal: a college scholarship in both track and cross country; she is getting heavy interest from Florida Southern....
CLEARWATER — Countryside spent most of the offseason recounting its faults. By all accounts, a 6-4 record a year ago was unacceptable. The inconsistency had to stop.
To get back to becoming a traditional power, the Cougars settled on an area that had to get better if they were to smooth over the bumps and divots that dotted the 2013 season.
The offensive line, a staple of the program's successful teams from the past, needed to become a strength again....
10/07/14 Swimming Preps
PALM HARBOR — East Lake's boys and girls swept the team titles in a swimming dual meet with traditional power Palm Harbor University on Tuesday.
"It was definitely a milestone for this program," Eagles coach Tim O'Keefe said. "In my seven years of coaching we haven't beat PHU's boys or girls, let alone both in a dual meet."
The Eagles' girls won 95-91. East Lake's Alexandra Aitchison (200 freestyle, 100 backstroke), Natalie Clausen (200 individual medley, 500 free), Sydney Pickrem (50 free, 100 breaststroke) and Michelle Turek (100 free) won six of the seven individual events and helped the Eagles sweep all three relays....
TRINITY — Sunlake and Mitchell both had defenses capable of turning a game around, and their steady and reliable running backs were supposed to be front and center throughout a tense showdown between Class 6A, District 6 rivals.
But the game Friday night was ultimately decided by big plays through the air.
The Seahawks had both of them.
Quarterback Dayton Feiden had two completions that set up touchdowns for Sunlake, which won 14-0....
ST. PETERSBURG — It was the play of the game. In the fourth quarter Thursday, Pinellas Park's Marcelus Ware burst through the middle of tired line, spun once and raced 79 yards past a helpless secondary for a touchdown to close out the scoring.
Ware, a 5-foot-10, 168-pound running back, was the Patriots' undersized superhero. He rushed for 160 yards on 12 carries in a 34-6 victory over Northeast in a Class 7A, District 9 game....
Given the personnel in the backfield, it seemed only natural Hudson would air it out this season.
After all, the Cobras lost running back Noah Siegrist, a 1,400-yard rusher who is now a walk-on at UTEP. What Hudson had returning was quarterback Joey Caruso, who threw for more than 1,000 yards and led the team to the playoffs last year.
So just when it looked as if the Cobras would take their high-octane passing game to a new level, they decided to dig in their heels....
Three questions Calvary Christian coach Todd Yoder
Calvary Christian football coach Todd Yoder played nine seasons (2000-09) as a tight end in the NFL with Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Washington. He was on four teams that made the playoffs, including the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers in 2002. So Yoder knows something about playing in meaningful games.
Now, he's coaching in one....
TARPON SPRINGS — After graduating so many megastars the past few seasons, East Lake coach Bob Hudson has preached that the team needs players to step up in a variety of ways to keep its current win streak intact. On Friday, it was George Campbell's turn.
The FSU recruit had been bottled up through the first four games of the season with just 123 yards receiving and no touchdowns. Against rival Tarpon Springs, Campbell had nine catches for 121 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 24-14 victory and extend their regular win streak to 20 games....