By the time you read this I will be well on my way to my new job covering the University of Alabama football program for a collection of three newspapers. After six years on the North Suncoast, it's time to pass my computer along to another aspiring journalist ready to pick up where I left off. Starting Monday, St. Petersburg Times staff writer Bryan Burns will provide this area with coverage on high school sports. And I will be in Tuscaloosa, Ala., facing Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban for the first time. Scary, I know. But it's time for a new challenge. I won't lie, it's hard to leave my comfort zone. In these past six years I have gotten married, started a family and sprouted roots in a community where I would love to spend the rest of my life. But new opportunities in journalism are rare. All of the athletes I cover graduate and move on. Now it's time for me to follow suit. There's so much I will miss I simply do not have enough space here to name all the wonderful people, places and moments that have shaped me into the writer I am today. The North Suncoast will always be home, and I thank all of you for making me feel welcome and preparing me for the next step in life. Thanks for the memories....
DADE CITY — Generations of Pasco fans have passed through the gate at W.F. Edwards Stadium.
Other than the faces, little appears to have changed. The band blares the same notes. Cheerleaders chant the same words. The black and red is a blur on a field of ripped-up grass and sand.
But look closer and there are subtle differences. This season it's the sheer number of options on offense, which were in plain view Friday in a 37-14 win over old-time rival South Sumter....
Florida college football scouting reports: Central Florida at Buffalo, Florida International at Texas A&M, Bethune-Cookman vs. Savannah State, Florida A&M at Howard09/17/10College
UCF at Buffalo, 7 p.m., BHSN: The Knights (1-1) hope to rebound from last week's 28-21 loss to North Carolina State. The big news is another quarterback controversy. Coach George O'Leary is deciding between junior Rob Calabrese and freshman Jeff Godfrey. Calabrese was anointed the starter to begin the season, but Godfrey impressed last week, leading a pair of scoring drives off the bench. Godfrey completed 7 for 10 passes for 107 yards and had two rushing scores. Buffalo (1-1) won its opener 31-0 against Rhode Island, then lost last week 34-6 at Baylor. Sophomore QB Jerry Davis has thrown for 465 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions....
Another week is in the books, and some questions are starting to be answered on the North Suncoast. First prediction: Nature Coast and Hernando will meet Nov. 5 with the Class 3A, District 6 title on the line. Both are solid all-around teams, and both have made quick work of their opponents. This will be the biggest game to date in the rivalry. Bank on it. Next prediction: Mitchell's Ricky Trinidad will run away with the North Suncoast rushing title. In two games, Trinidad has 18 carries for 398 yards and five touchdowns. That's more than 20 yards per carry. Final prediction: Gulf will have a winning season. Some of the Buccaneers faithful groaned about a near upset to River Ridge on Friday night. Consider what the team has endured, and a 2-0 start is remarkable. Looking at the schedule ahead, there's no reason the Buccaneers shouldn't be toasting a winning season by year's end. It comes down to the preparation and the determination of the locker room. How bad do they want to win? The talent is there.
North Suncoast Super Seven...
UCF vs. N.C. State, 7:30, CBSCS: The Knights got off to a strong start with a 38-7 victory against I-AA South Dakota last week and hope to continue the positive vibe against the Wolfpack. Any questions about UCF's quarterback situation seem settled for now. Junior Rob Calabrese appeared promising, completing 12 of 15 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. One topic of conversation this week was the Knights' 25-23 upset of N.C. State on the road in 2007. To repeat, UCF must slow down Russell Wilson, who threw for 306 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-7 win against I-AA Western Carolina last week....
The Hurricanes won their opener 45-0 against I-AA Florida A&M. No doubt today's game against the Buckeyes, who beat Marshall 45-7 in their opener, will be more of a challenge. The programs last met in the January 2003 Fiesta Bowl, a game that turned on a disputed pass interference against the Hurricanes on fourth down in the first overtime. The Buckeyes went on to win the national title 31-24 in double overtime. Miami coach Randy Shannon, left, was UM's defensive coordinator then....
When Miramar Parkway Academy's athletic program was levied a state-record $260,800 fine and five-year postseason ban for all sports in June, the sanctions were referred to by many as a death penalty.
They weren't far off.
Parkway will send five people Wednesday to Gainesville to appeal the fine and ban, which stemmed solely from violations within the football program. But even if the Florida High School Athletic Association completely reverses course, significant damage has already occurred....
HUDSON — Hudson High football quarterback Austin Smith was shot Thursday night as he joined two others in an attempted robbery at a home in the Beacon Woods subdivision, deputies said.
A woman in the house shot Smith, 16, once in a leg as he attempted to flee, according to a Sheriff's Office report. He was treated at a local hospital and then booked in the juvenile detention center along with Dontaie Collins, 17, who was a wide receiver and captain of the Hudson football team last season. Deputies also arrested Reginald Antoine Cotman, 19, whom they described as a getaway driver. ...
LAND O'LAKES — The whispers from players gathered a few yards behind Sunlake's offense carried well.
"They're going to be good," one voice said. "Real good," said another.
After three seasons of mediocrity, Sunlake is poised to battle — dare it be said — for a playoff berth in the program's fourth year. That's a bold statement considering the Seahawks have to face tough teams like Pasco, Land O'Lakes and Mitchell in Class 3A, District 7. After back-to-back seasons with a combined record of 1-19, Sunlake went a respectable 4-6 in 2009....
WESLEY CHAPEL — A car load of Ridgewood players drove to the wrong part of east Pasco County.
As they navigated unfamiliar roads to Wesley Chapel High, guided by their GPS, a teammate explained by phone that they were supposed to be at Wiregrass Ranch.
First-year coach Kent Reed could only shake his head, looking around at the seven players with him at the field.
Roster numbers have taken a dip since the opening of Fivay High, so when Reed couldn't find the right campus for seven-on-seven a couple of weeks ago it hurt....
WESLEY CHAPEL — Hudson's new football coach still runs around with a Mitchell key rope hanging from his shorts.
Everywhere Justin Fenton goes, he seems to take part of his past along. Maybe it's because the tangible history the former Mustangs defensive coordinator has is something he has come to cherish.
Many Cobras players are happy with their new coach because he truly seems to care about his new team. It's not so much that former coach Mark Nash (now at Nature Coast) didn't do a good job. Nash fell short, in the minds of many Hudson players, when he seemed unapologetic in expressing interest in several coaching openings around the North Suncoast....
WESLEY CHAPEL — The arms, legs and mouth of Chris Reaves will have a big impact on Zephyrhills' success in the fall.
The starting quarterback was vocal when the school fired coach Jerrell Cogmon last summer in the wake of a recruiting scandal.
And Reaves was barking commands Tuesday, giving high-fives and making key plays at Pasco County's unofficial seven-on-seven league. He was the main guy behind center last season, commandeering an offense that mustered just 74 points during a 2-8 season....
WESLEY CHAPEL — Extended spring football practice has again gripped the North Suncoast.
In what has become a school's-out tradition, many teams are participating in the annual seven-on-seven league Tuesday nights at various sites in Pasco County. Games take place through the end of July.
On the opening night at Wiregrass Ranch, the intensity was relatively lacking.
Instead of planting themselves on opposing sidelines, coaches like Land O'Lakes' Matt Kitchie and Zephyrhills' Reggie Roberts traded smiles and friendly barbs that are nowhere to be found on Friday nights in the fall....
Nature Coast has shuttered its boys basketball program until Nov. 1, suspended head coach Dave Pisarcik six games and will not appeal additional penalties levied by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
The school announced the moves Friday, one day after the FHSAA handed the school a $500 fine and placed the program on administrative probation for the 2010-11 school year. That was in response to Nature Coast's self-reported violations and self-imposed sanctions....
Player of the Year | Ian Townsend, Jr., Hernando
His late-season surge, his role as a clutch hitter and heart of the infield made Townsend the choice to represent the Leopards' region final team. His numbers also back it up. Townsend hit .473 with 44 hits, 35 runs, 26 RBIs, 10 doubles, a triple and a home run. He led the Leopards with 72 assists on defense and turned five double plays....