When Zachary Eriksen moved from Erie, Pa., to St. Petersburg four years ago to teach world history at Boca Ciega High School, he also thought he'd get involved with soccer. He played the sport through high school and figured he could lend a helping hand.
He became an assistant coach and quickly found out that the bar was not set very high for girls soccer at Boca Ciega. The Pirates won one game in 2011, and many of those players had never played soccer before. ...
PALM HARBOR — Jimmy Brandt has known since late June that he earned a spot in next year's Valspar Championship PGA Tour event at Innisbrook. On Tuesday night, after the final episode of the Golf Channel's Big Break Myrtle Beach aired, he could finally accept congratulations.
Brandt, 31, defeated Toph Peterson 3 and 1 in the championship match, held at Barefoot Resort & Golf in North Myrtle Beach throughout June. As part of a deal with the PGA Tour and Valspar, the winner of Big Break gets a sponsor's exemption into the Valspar Championship, which is March 12-15....
The Florida High School Athletic Association released its tentative district assignments for football Monday, and things are (possibly) changing quite a bit for 2015-18. In addition to assignments now being set for four years instead of two, here are some of the biggest shake-ups for Tampa Bay teams:
Tougher road for Jesuit: For the past two seasons, the Tigers have benefitted from playing in a three-team district and only having to win one game to make the playoffs. Now, Jesuit has to get through six other teams -— Jefferson, Lake Wales Middleton, Spoto, Robinson and Lakeland Tenoroc — in the newly formed Class 5A, District 10, one of the largest districts in the state. ...
PALM HARBOR — Lauren Dodge couldn't have scripted it any better. In the final minutes of her final regular-season game against district rival Palm Harbor University, the East Lake senior sent a free kick from 30 yards soaring toward the goal.
The ball hung in the air, floated just under the crossbar and just over the hands of PHU goalkeeper Melanie Diaz. It was Dodge's first high school goal and was the winner in East Lake's 2-1 victory. It also put the Eagles (11-1-1, 4-0) in first place in Class 5A, District 7 with one district game remaining....
Pinellas Boys Golfer of the Year: Blake Dyer, Sr., St. Petersburg
Best round: Shot 7-under 29 at the Vinoy Golf Club in a dual match against Jesuit. "That was big for me. I'd never done that before."
Best finishes: Tied for third at Vinoy Classic (70); first at districts (70); tied for first at regionals (74); tied for 15th at the Class 3A state tournament (75-73—148). ...
ST. PETERSBURG — Having now played every team in Class 7A, District 9 once, Northeast has clearly established itself as the team to beat. Thursday night against Seminole, the Vikings started slowly but pulled away for a 74-45 district win.
Zoi Thompson led Northeast with 18 points. Laura Fizell and Madison Schmidt added 14, and Emina Podzic scored 12. Seminole was led by Savannah Walker's 16 points. Paige Lawson scored 10....
In nine previous trips to state high school football finals, Pinellas County teams emerged with runnerup medals.
Is this the year the futility ends?
Most signs point to yes as Indian Rocks Christian is one win from the Class 2A title. Not that the Golden Eagles are obsessed about becoming Pinellas' first football state champion.
"Honestly, I didn't even know that," junior running back Theo Anderson said....
Poor Mark Buchanan.
The Indian Rocks Christian football coach had a dilemma. When Jacquan Fuller transferred from St. Petersburg Catholic in the summer, Buchanan suddenly had four quality running backs. There is only one football, so how in the world was Buchanan going to find enough plays to satisfy everyone?
"I went back to the drawing board," Buchanan said. "What could I do to spread the ball out to four backs? Admittedly, a good problem for a coach to have."...
CLEARWATER — It's still early in the girls basketball season, but Calvary Christian looks to be in midseason form. The Warriors jumped on Countryside early Tuesday night and never looked back in a 58-43 win.
Calvary Christian (5-0) led 21-4 at the end of the first quarter. Countryside (6-3) never cut the lead to less than double digits the rest of the way. The Warriors' Carley Plentovich led all scorers with 18 points. Boca Ciega transfer Niaya White chipped in with 15 points, 13 in the second half....
Indian Rocks Christian, Armwood and East Lake are the last Tampa Bay football teams left standing, and all three hit the road Friday. Discover a little about each of the teams they'll face.
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas (12-1)
Opponent: East Lake (13-0)
What: Class 7A state semifinal
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Head coach: Rocco Casullo...
Team of the Week
Indian Rocks Christian: The Golden Eagles improved to 12-0 with their 40-19 win over Belle Glade Glades Day. That sets up Friday's Class 2A state final against Lakeland Victory Christian at Orlando's Citrus Bowl. It is the first time IRC has reached a state final. Like it has all season, IRC relied on its running game and defense to beat Glades Day. Jacquan Fuller (above) gained 137 yards on 15 carries and scored three touchdowns. He also returned an interception for a touchdown. Theo Anderson gained 94 yards on six carries and Zeke McGaughey had a 19-yard touchdown run. Defensively, Jon Devries had three second-half sacks and Chris Licea was all over the place with 15 tackles and two interceptions. The Golden Eagles are likely favored to beat Victory Christian (12-1). They put up 40 points against a Glades Day team that entered with three straight shutouts....
BELLE GLADE — Early in the third quarter of Indian Rocks Christian's Class 2A state semifinal against Glades Day, the Eagles were in unfamiliar territory. They trailed by five points, which hasn't happened all season, and needed to find a way to slow the Gators' momentum.
The answer turned out to be changing nothing.
IRC continued its steady diet of runs on offense and controlled the line of scrimmage on defense. The Eagles scored the final 26 points of the game to defeat Glades Day 40-19. The win puts IRC in the state title game for the first time in school history. The Golden Eagles face Lakeland Victory Christian next week at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando....
Rabid shoppers will converge on area malls today for the latest high-tech gizmos and gadgets — all at slashed prices, of course. But on high school football fields around Tampa Bay and beyond, players won't be entertaining dreams of steals and stocking stuffers. Instead, they're focused on attaining a little hardware — namely towering trophies and gold medals. In their quest for state championship glory, the remaining seven area playoff teams would love to nab a few specialized Black Friday deals. ...
ST. PETERSBURG — Barring something unforeseen, Lakewood High School's Ryan Davis should be Pinellas County's all-time leading passer by the end of Friday night's Class 5A region final at Live Oak Suwannee. He needs only 68 yards to break former East Lake standout Pete DiNovo's record of 6,733 career passing yards.
Not bad for a wide receiver.
"I've never broken a record before," Davis said. "It's exciting for the school. It's great to break a record like that. It's a milestone (I'd) always have."...
Indian Rocks Christian quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson does not have overwhelming statistics. He is not the fleetest of foot. He does not have a cannon for an arm or the size to run over defenders.
But, boy, is Golden Eagles coach Mark Buchanan glad he is on the team.
Ross-Johnson, a junior, almost didn't play football this season. After starting 13 games last season and throwing for 1,378 yards and 13 touchdowns, Ross-Johnson thought about playing baseball full time. ...