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. ...
Four of Tampa Bay's seven remaining playoff football teams will hit the road Friday night. Lakewood and Indian Rocks Christian have the farthest to travel by far, and the competition is stout in every matchup.
7A: Tampa Bay Tech (7-5) at Kissimmee Osceola (11-1), 7:30
Drive time: One hour, eight minutes
Home town hero: The Kowboys' only loss was a 29-28 decision against an equally impressive Lake Mary team, so Osceola has had its fair share of success this season. Junior running back Laderrien Wilson is the reason why. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Division I recruit has led Osceola's offense with 1,495 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns, and he's had 100 or more yards in all but one of the Kowboys' games. Add a physical offensive line to the equation, and Wilson shouldn't have any trouble continuing that streak. ...
Team of the week
Indian Rocks Christian. The Golden Eagles have the type of statistics befitting a team ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 2A. Their 48-12 win over Naples First Baptist marked the 10th win this season by 35 points or more. The offensive balance was on display with Theo Anderson, Jacquan Fuller and Damian King each scoring two touchdowns. On defense, Fisher Jones had four sacks to give him 18.5 on the season. IRC, in the state semifinals a second straight season, has the best record in school history and has outscored opponents 491-87....
ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood prepared all week to stop River Ridge running back Chris Schwarz, and for good reason. Schwarz has gained 2,536 yards this season and is the main reason the Knights advanced to the second round of the Class 5A playoffs.
But the Spartans also planned to put the ball in their best player's hands, quarterback Ryan Davis. In the end, it was Davis who had the better night....
When Clearwater Central Catholic starting center Nick Gunn went down with a knee injury during Tuesday's practice, coach John Davis had a dilemma. Gunn was playing center only because starter Taylor Romera got injured during the Jesuit game Sept. 12.
In desperate need of a replacement, Davis had only one player in mind: Brandon Junk.
"Coach Davis called me in and said, 'All right, I need you to play center,' " Junk said. "I was like, 'Okay, I'll do it. I don't have a problem with it. As long as I can help the team, I'll do it.' ''...
Linemen are the heart of an offense. They are sometimes called the "big uglies" by coaches and fans. They have the thankless job of trying to create holes against other oversized defensive linemen so their running backs can gain yards and get the credit.
And at Clearwater Central Catholic, the offensive linemen are …
"We're a bunch of strange people," 6-foot-5, 290-pound senior lineman Billy Atterbury said....
INDIAN ROCKS — Indian Rocks Christian's Fisher Jones has the body of a linebacker. Except for one problem.
"I can't read a play to save my life," said the 6-foot, 215-pounder.
But coaches could tell his desire was unmatched. So before his sophomore year, Jones was moved to the defensive line. He mostly played nose tackle, which is where he has settled for his senior year.
Though undersized, Jones has used strength and intelligence to wreak havoc. He has 14½ sacks in 10 games — five in the district title clincher against Cambridge Christian....
Every year when the high school football playoffs roll around, one thing is a given: Armwood's defense will be nasty.
And, yes, the unbeaten Hawks are good once again, setting a school record for fewest points allowed in the regular season (23). They're currently on a streak of five straight shutouts (eight total in 11 games).
"Armwood's defense is special this year," said first-year Largo coach Marcus Paschal, whose team lost 38-0 to the Hawks in last week's Class 6A region quarterfinals. "In my years in the NFL and coaching defensive backs here at Largo, it's one of the best I've seen at the high school level. They all fly to the ball and they just seem to feed off each other."...
Who: Clearwater Central Catholic at Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, 7 p.m. Friday
Winner plays: Delray Beach American Heritage-Miami Westminster Christian champion
Know the foe: Cardinal Mooney is in the second round for the first time since 2006 after beating Calvary Christian 17-14 in last week's region semifinals. The Cougars are 2-1 all time against CCC in the playoffs, including a 19-10 win in 2006. Senior Reese Vita has thrown for 1,205 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. His favorite target is Sean Morris Jr. (472 yards, five touchdowns). Linebacker Samuel Leonard leads the team in tackles (110) and sacks (six)....
Ricky Hill will not return as coach of the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2015, the team said Tuesday.
Hill recently completed his fourth season with the club and won the 2012 North American Soccer League championship. In 2014, the Rowdies were 7-8-12.
"I don't really have a comment right now,'' Hill said. "I'm still working through things. I was only informed of the decision (Monday) night.''...
ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood coach Cory Moore had a decision to make. Trailing by three points in double overtime of the Class 5A region quarterfinal and facing a fourth and goal from the 2, he could either kick a field goal or go for the touchdown.
The decision took a couple of seconds.
Moore decided to put the ball in the hands of his best player, quarterback Ryan Davis. Davis scrambled 2 yards and barely made the right corner of the end zone to give the Spartans a 30-27 win over Gulf in double overtime. ...
Twenty-seven Tampa Bay football teams kick off the first round of the postseason Friday night. We wrap up our playoff primer series with the teams to watch if you like playoff firsts.
Mitchell (6-4) at Gainesville (5-5): This isn't actually the first time Andy Schmitz has made the playoffs as a Mitchell coach. He took the Mustangs' basketball team to the playoffs two times (2004, '05) and won a district championship. But this will be his first trip as a football coach, and he's doing it in his first season. Schmitz took over after his father, Scott, retired last November. He briefly left in 2010 to become Hudson's athletic director, but returned to Mitchell in 2011. The Mustangs became playoff eligible by beating Springstead in the first quarter of a three-way tiebreaker in Class 6A, District 6. It's the first time since 2004 that Mitchell has made the playoffs. "We're just happy to still be practicing," Schmitz said. "It's been 10 years since we've been able to do that. We want to make this a yearly thing. Our goal every year is to try to win a district championship or go to the playoffs. If things go right, we'll have another week of practice." If the Mustangs do win Friday, it would be the school's first playoff win....
Class 8A region quarterfinals
St. Petersburg (8-2) at Vero Beach (10-0)
Winner plays: Manatee-Fort Pierce Central winner
Scouting report: A contrast in styles. The Green Devils run the wing-T offense, which utilizes three backs. But this season they also have a quarterback. Sophomore Austyn Causey has thrown for more than 1,000 yards, so this is not a predictable St. Petersburg offense. Vero Beach is more of a spread team that can score in bunches. The Indians average 43 points per game and put up 62 in their season finale against Santaluces. Vero Beach, which is undefeated for the first time since 2002, has thrown for more than 2,500 yards in 10 games. St. Petersburg does have an experienced secondary, but it will be tested Friday....
ST. PETERSBURG — The license plate on St. Petersburg High coach Joe Fabrizio's truck reads "Wing T," in reference to the offense that utilizes three backs on misdirection and counter/slash-type running plays.
The wing-T has been Fabrizio's philosophy since he became the Green Devils' coach seven years ago. Some years have been better than others. This year has been a very good one....
11/12/14 Volleyball Preps
KISSIMMEE — After a 29-year dry spell, there will finally be another volleyball state championship banner hanging in Clearwater Central Catholic's gym. The Marauders made sure of that with an impressive 25-21, 25-10, 25-19 win over Carrollwood Day to secure the Class 3A state championship on Wednesday at Silver Spurs Arena.
"We've wanted that banner since freshman year," senior middle hitter Katie Moore said. "That's all we've talked about. This is such a big deal."...