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Rodney Page, Times Staff Writer

Rodney Page

Rodney Page covers golf and community sports. He has worked at the Times since 1996.

Phone: (727) 893-8810


  1. Indian Rocks quarterback make golden choice: football over baseball



    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. ...

    Indian Rocks quarterback Garrett Ross-Johnson will lead the Golden Eagles against Glades Day in the Class 2A state semifinals Friday in Belle Glade.
  2. Playoff football: Tampa Bay's road warriors


    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.

    Region finals

    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. ...

  3. Sunday morning quarterback


    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....

     Jesuit players sing and celebrate with fans after winning the Class 5A region semifinal game against Spoto at Jesuit High School in Tampa, Friday, November 21, 2014.
  4. Football: Lakewood 26, River Ridge 3


    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....

    Christian Goggins, center, and his teammates celebrate as the Spartans reach the region final, where they travel to meet Live Oak Suwanee.
  5. Playoff profile: Clearwater Central Catholic TE/FB Brandon Junk


    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.' ''...

    Clearwater Central Catholic’s  Brandon Junk will start at center for the first time tonight.
  6. CCC O-line takes size, experience into region finals


    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....

    Clearwater Central Catholic offensive lineman Billy Atterbury, center, talks with teammates at practice in August.
  7. Playoff profile: Indian Rocks Christian DL/FB Fisher Jones


    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....

    Fisher Jones, the strongest player on the team, owns most of the school’s records for weightlifting.
  8. Offenses beware: Grittier Ds abound this postseason


    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."...

    Sickles linebacker Jake Hampton leads the bay area with 133 tackles.
  9. Region final capsules: Class 3A and 2A


    Region finals

    Class 3A

    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)....

  10. Rowdies dismiss coach Ricky Hill, make Farrukh Quraishi team president, GM


    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.''...

    Ricky Hill, center, coached the Rowdies for four years and won the NASL Soccer Bowl title in 2012. Tampa Bay missed the playoffs in 2013 and ’14.
  11. Football: Lakewood 30, Gulf 27 (2OT)


    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. ...

  12. Playoff football primer: If you like postseason firsts …


    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....

    Gulf High School head coach Jason Messamore works with his team at practice Wednesday.
  13. Playoff football capsules: Class 8A


    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....

  14. Green Devils' running back trio leads the way


    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....

    St. Petersburg High’s Darius Miller, center, is tackled during a game against Lakewood.
  15. State volleyball: Clearwater Central Catholic takes all-Tampa Bay final

    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."...

    Clearwater Central Catholic’s Rachel Odell is one of five seniors who finally gets to take home state gold. The Marauders had been to state the two previous years, falling short both times.