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."...
LARGO — Standing just outside the south end zone, where just minutes earlier things went so wrong for Largo, coach Marcus Paschal addressed his team. His Packers lost 5-3 to Class 6A, District 7 opponent Venice on a blocked punt in the corner of that end zone.
"We're so close, but we're so far," Paschal said as his players hung their heads.
A defensive game throughout, the deciding play came on special teams. Largo took over on its own 13-yard line with just over five minutes to play and the score tied 3-all. A run up the middle gained zero yards. Largo quarterback Donavan Hale threw an incomplete pass. Then on third down, Hale was sacked on his own 4-yard line....
Tampa Bay is rich with volleyball talent this season, and now that the regular season is coming to a close, the matches that matter most are up ahead for teams looking to make a playoff run. Before the postseason begins, though, teams will have to make it out of next week's district tournaments, which for some, could be easier said than done. Here's a look at what those tournaments have to offer, who has the potential to stand out and which teams have the best shot of taking home a state championship....
Pinellas Park High School senior Eric Costa was not groomed to play golf at an early age. He did not grow up spending his days at the local country club. He only discovered golf during his freshman year, when he decided to go out for the varsity team. At his first district tournament, Costa shot 103 at Bardmoor Country Club. He was fine with playing golf part time, but during his sophomore year he got cut from the basketball team. Unable to play his favorite sport, he decided to focus on the greens. The results have been remarkable. Costa shot 2-over 73 at the Class 3A-12 district tournament at Seminole Lake Country Club on Monday — tied for second-lowest score at the windy tournament. He qualified for the region tournament Monday at Feather Sound....
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 — It was an all too familiar scene. Clearwater Central Catholic senior quarterback Jeff Smith drops back to pass, but before he can find an open receiver he finds a 10 foot hole created by his offensive line.
Smith darts through the hole and into the secondary, and when Smith is there it's time for the cheerleaders to do push-ups because he's going to score.
On Friday night the victim was Jacksonville University Christian. Smith rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns and added 225 yards passing and two scores to lead the Marauders to a 50-0 rout of the Christians....
Tyler Dierwechter felt bad. After shooting 75 in last year's district tournament to help the East Lake High boys golf team advance to regionals, he was unable to play in the next round due to a family cruise.
"It's something we do every year and last year (regionals) were moved up for some reason,'' Dierwechter said. "I hated that I couldn't be there.''
Without its top player, East Lake didn't advance to the state tournament. This year, Dierwechter isn't going anywhere. The senior plans to help the Eagles make state, and if their play lately is any indication, that's where they should end up. ...
The statistics do not jump off the screen.
Zephyrhills rushes for 185 yards per game, pretty much average for teams across Florida. No one running back has eye-popping stats. Senior Jaylen Pickett leads the team with 404 yards and three touchdowns in five games.
Yet the Bulldogs are 4-1 and have scored at least 45 points in each of those wins. Throw out a 45-10 loss two weeks ago to South Sumter — ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 5A — and Zephyrhills has beaten opponents by an average score of 48-12....
10/08/14 Volleyball Preps
Clearwater Central Catholic senior outside hitter Shea Hamilton has been a major contributor for the Marauders since her freshman year. Hamilton, who was last season's Tampa Bay Times player of the year, was recently named the C-M Cares Tournament's most valuable player after she helped CCC to a 5-0 record and the championship in Miami. Hamilton had 41 kills in the tournament and now has 219 for the season. ...
10/07/14 Volleyball Preps
By Rodney Page
Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — Just two days removed from winning a highly competitive tournament in Miami, Clearwater Central Catholic was back on the court Tuesday for a Class 3A, District 9 match against Northside Christian. After fighting off fatigue, the Marauders rallied to defeat the Mustangs 17-25, 25-16, 25-15, 25-12.
CCC (19-5, 6-0) has won 14 straight matches and secured the top seed for the district tournament in two weeks. Northside Christian (12-4, 4-2) had a nine-game winning streak end and will be the No. 3 district seed....
CLEARWATER — Calvary Christian's 17-0 win over Admiral Farragut was marred with fumbles, interceptions, penalties and some missed blocks and tackles. It was not Football 101, but for Warriors' players and fans it was a thing of beauty.
Barring an upset against winless St. Petersburg Catholic on Oct. 31, Calvary Christian wrapped up at least second place in the four-team Class 3A, District 5. That means a playoff game, which would be the first in school history....
St. Petersburg played its first Class 8A-7 game on Thursday night, and after a slow start the Green Devils (5-0, 1-0) managed to pull away from the host Hurricanes (0-5, 0-1).
Stars of the game: Running backs Darius Miller and Jacquel Waller were the main offensive weapons. Miller gained 150 yards and scored two touchdowns and Waller added 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game: After allowing a first-half touchdown, St. Petersburg's defense shut out PHU in the second half. Allen Jones had an interception to key the defense. ...
ST. PETERSBURG — On the drive to Thursday's Vinoy Classic, Plant's Patrick Mills got a call from his golf coach, Josh McCumber. McCumber told Mills he had a feeling it would be a big day, as long as Mills kept his nerves.
"I've been having trouble lately starting with a low score and then choking,'' Mills said.
That didn't happen.
After a par on the 15th hole (his first of the day) Mills birdied four straight and cruised to a 3-under 68 to win the tournament's individual championship at the Vinoy Golf Club. He beat Newsome's Tyler Bakich by one shot and St. Petersburg's Blake Dyer and Jesuit's Alec Murawski by two. Dyer won a playoff for third. ...
With his 5-foot-10, 140-pound frame, shaggy brown hair and crooked smile, St. Petersburg High School sophomore Austyn Causey looks more like the team's starting kicker than the starting quarterback. Coach Joe Fabrizio calls him "Skinny.'' And sometimes he has to convince classmates that he actually does play on the football team. But do not judge Causey by his appearance. He is off to one of the best starts a St. Petersburg quarterback has had in a long time, throwing seven touchdown passes in four games. That's one more than the school has had in the past two seasons combined. The Green Devils were 4-0 and rolling into Thursday's district game at Palm Harbor University High....
09/30/14 Volleyball Preps
ST. PETERSBURG — Palm Harbor University didn't have a dominant player when the season began. Yet coach Tara Kuk, in her 12th season, was quietly confident that this could be one of her best teams.
That's because the Hurricanes have talented players all over the court.
The depth was on display Tuesday night when PHU swept past Class 8A, District 8 opponent St. Petersburg 25-7, 25-16, 25-11. They improved to 14-1 and it was their ninth sweep....