It will be Pinellas youth football at its best today in the Lakewood-St. Petersburg matchups at Campbell Park.
"This is a neighborhood rivalry," said Amelia Grimm, first-year president of the Lakewood organization in the Pinellas Youth Football Conference. "We've told our kids it's just another team to play. We'll be there, for sure, with a full house of Spartan fans to support them."
Grimm has volunteered 16 years in the Lakewood program, the last 11 with no children involved. An attachment to the kids, especially the 15-year-olds, keeps her coming back.
"I think it's important that the kids know there is someone out there for them," said Grimm. "I think it's nice they have a familiar face supporting them."
Lakewood has eight teams this year, an increase to 300 players and cheerleaders. All the teams are in contention for the final-four playoffs, with the varsity Flyweights and Midgets in first place.
Varsity coaches include Willie Davis (Flyweights), Leamon Davis (Mighty Mites), Robert Golden (Pee Wees) and Chris Collins (Midgets). JV coaches are Carl Gregory, Roy Watson, Derrick Pollack and Craig Bryant. Assistant cheerleader coordinator is Cynthia Jordan.
Flyweight coach Davis hopes today's game will settle things.
"This is an on-going rivalry," he said. "Last season we tied with St. Pete; at the jamboree this year, we tied again. It's time to settle the score."
Davis is relying on six returning players to lead the Spartans today. His son Christopher has scored 14 touchdowns and is the starting quarterback. Fullback Derrick Washington, center Chauncey Gregory, halfback Alex Field, flanker Cortez Ritz and backup quarterback Patrick Carter are the other returnees who have helped the team to a 7-1 record.
"Our only loss this season was our first game with Largo," said Davis. "Then, we were missing eight starters and 12 just weren't ready to play. Since then, we have played high-intensity ball."
Intensity and high scoring are synonymous for the team. In fact, three of Lakewood's games have been stopped after the third quarter under the PYFC rule that officially ends games if either team is 30 points ahead at that point.
The same six returnees and Michael Henry key the defense.
"It will be hard to duplicate last year's 9-0-1 record," said Davis, "but we're on our way. You can be certain, though, that anytime it's Lakewood versus St. Petersburg, both teams come to play."
Games kick off at 8 a.m. today at Campbell Park and continue through the Midgets' 8 p.m. game.
More football: The St. Petersburg 'Lil Devils won all four of their varsity games last week against Azalea. The Dunedin Falcons did the same in the junior varsity against various teams.
The Clearwater Tornadoes extended their JV Mighty Mites record to 8-0 with a 14-0 victory over Greenwood and are tied with St. Petersburg No. 1 in first place.
Today's varsity games have Dixie at Azalea, Clearwater at Tarpon Springs, Countryside visiting Greenwood, Lakewood at St. Petersburg, Gibbs at Seminole and Largo hosting Northeast. Palmetto is idle. Flyweight games begin at 3:30 p.m., Mighty Mites at 5, Pee Wees at 6:30 and Midgets at 8.
National tennis: Joel Berman of Seminole has been invited to participate in a U.S. Tennis Association Player Development Camp at the National Training Center in Key Biscayne next month. Berman, the No. 1 junior in Florida's boys 14 division, will receive intensive training from USTA national coaches.
State tennis: Lori Grey of Seminole advanced to the final of the Sectional Mixed Doubles Championships in Boca Raton this month. She teamed with Matias Boeker of Miami to win four rounds, reaching the final against Richelle Raiss of Delray Beach and Andy Roddick of Boca Raton but losing in three sets.
Tennis in Clearwater: Brittina Pirker of Seminole defeated Palm Harbor's Savita Iyer in straight sets in the girls 12 final of the state-sanctioned Pete Wolfberg Invitational at Royal Racquet Club in Clearwater this month. The unseeded Pirker upset No. 2 seed Jessica Casper of Tampa 6-2, 6-2 in a semifinal and top seed Iyer 6-2, 6-1 in the championship. Kerri Goldberg of Tarpon Springs won the girls 12 consolation.
Top seed R.J. Murray and second seed Jeswin Jolly of Clearwater were upset by unseeded Guinio Ghedina of Italy in the boys 12. Ghedina beat Jolly in a semifinal 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 and defeated Murray in the final 6-3, 7-6(7-5).