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Simply the best?Single season like no other

The autumnal evolution of Robert Marve has been nothing short of mesmerizing.

A year ago, the 6-foot-2 Plant High quarterback was a skinny upstart - a 1,600-yard passer with a dab of fleetness and several flaws. Marve led the Panthers to a 9-3 record and playoff berth but lacked velocity, muscle mass and, occasionally, command.

But during the course of 2006, the greatest season in Panthers history, something astounding occurred. Solid has segued into spectacular. Skinny has grown into sturdy. Unassuming has been supplanted by unprecedented.

In short, Marve has evolved into marvelous.

"He sees the field so much better," said Robinson coach Mike DePue, whose club lost to Plant 52-14 in the regular-season finale. "He is much more elusive. Against us, he would feel the pressure and spin out, and our defensive linemen would think they have him and whiff."

Now, few can argue Marve has put together the greatest single season of any quarterback in bay area history. Entering Saturday's Class 4A title game against Ponte Vedra Beach Nease, Marve has completed 249-of-376 for 4,067 yards and 45 touchdowns.

With a touchdown pass Saturday, he'll tie the state record held by ex-Nease and current University of Florida standout Tim Tebow, and is well within striking distance of the state's single-season marks for completions (263) and yards (4,286).

Combine his staggering numbers with his team's success, and no other local quarterback ever has enjoyed an autumn so prosperous.

We know, we've checked. What's more, we've ranked.

Following are the next nine best seasons by a bay area quarterback. Statistical and team achievement were taken into account. Only those from the modern era, which began in 1963 (when state football playoffs began), were considered.

2. Reche Caldwell, Jefferson, Jr., 1996

Almost single-handedly, Caldwell guided the Dragons to the Class 5A semifinals and was named the state's 5A player of the year. A master of improvisation when his protection collapsed, Caldwell ran for 966 yards, passed for 2,626, punted, returned punts and held for kicks. In the state semifinals against perennial power Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, Caldwell threw for 334 yards.

3. Jameel Williams, Armwood, Jr., 2003

The engineer of the Hawks' daunting triple-option attack totaled 2,046 yards - 1,497 on the ground - and 25 touchdowns while leading the Hawks to the first of their consecutive 4A titles. Williams averaged more than 9.6 yards a carry, fumbling only five times all season.

4. Kenny Kelly, Tampa Catholic, Jr., 1995

Kelly set then-Hillsborough County records for yardage (3,179) and touchdowns (38) while leading the Crusaders to the 3A semifinals. His top target: current Seattle Seahawks wideout Darrell Jackson.

5. Drew Weatherford, Land O'Lakes, Jr., 2002

Long before he was a struggling Seminole, Weatherford was a prolific Gator. In his best prep season, Weatherford threw for 2,645 yards and a state-best 39 touchdowns for a program that previously had been mired in a playoff funk. Land O'Lakes finished 12-1, earning its first postseason victory in nine seasons and first second-round win in school history.

6. Stephen Garcia, Jefferson, So., 2004

Though his numbers were far better as a senior, the bay area's career leader in passing yardage (8,081) and TDs (83) led his team to its greatest glory as a sophomore. Garcia threw for 2,600 yards and 26 TDs, guiding the Dragons to the 3A title game. In a semifinal win against defending state champ Miami Pace, Garcia went 11-for-17 for 136 yards.

7. Stacy Manning, St. Petersburg, Sr., 1984

A North Carolina State signee, Manning threw for 1,197 yards, ran for 711 and scored 27 touchdowns while leading the Green Devils to the title game in 3A. Manning's dream season ended in the final against Pensacola Escambia, led by a sophomore sparkplug named Emmitt Smith. Trivia note: Defensively, Manning tallied nine interceptions.

8. Marquel Blackwell, Dixie Hollins, Jr., 1995

The eventual University of South Florida starter passed for 1,670 yards and 23 touchdowns while guiding the Rebels to the 5A title game. His 172.3 efficiency rating was reflected in the fact he threw only three interceptions.

9. John Reaves, Robinson, Sr., 1967

The eventual Gator gunslinger, NFL journeyman and USFL star passed for 2,213 yards and 22 touchdowns, leading the Knights to the semifinals in 2A, then Florida's largest classification.

10. Shaun King, Gibbs, Sr., 1994

This former (some wish he were current) Buccaneers signal-caller totaled nearly 2,800 yards (including 2,258 in the air) and 37 TDs in his final season for the Gladiators. The reason he's not higher on this list: Gibbs lost in the first round of the playoffs.

4A state title game

Plant (14-0) vs. Ponte Vedra Beach Nease (14-0)

Where: Dolphin Stadium, Miami

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

Admission: $10

TV: Sun Sports

Radio: Live stats and radio coverage available at FHSAAsports.com.

On the Web: The Times will provide live updates throughout the game on our Web site: blogs.tampabay.com/preps/

FAST FACTS

Some of the state's best*

Among the best seasons in state history are:

Tim Tebow (right) Ponte Vedra Bch. Nease Jr. 2004

4,286 yards, 46 TDs (both state records)

Jimmy Jordan Tallahassee Leon Sr. 1975

4,098 yards, 40 TDs (won 4A title)

Adrian McPherson Bradenton Southeast Sr. 2000

218-for-364, 3,736 yards, 42 TDs

Xavier Lee Daytona Bch. Seabreeze Sr. 2003

567 rush yards, 10 TDs; 3,133 pass yards, 37 TDs

John Brantley Ocala Trinity Sr. 2006

41 TDs for 2B state runnerup

* Most statistical information obtained from Floridapreprecords.com.

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