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O'BRIEN RESIGNS; TURNER PROMOTED

Three weeks before the start of preseason drills, Sickles football coach Pat O'Brien stunned his players by informing them Monday he has resigned to take an assistant's job at a Division III college in South Dakota.

Offensive coordinator Brian Turner has been hired to replace him.

"They were very surprised," said Turner, who found out less than a week ago. "Very few people knew what was going on, and we wanted to make sure it didn't get out because we wanted Pat to be able to tell the kids and parents.

"They were shocked and very upset. Hopefully we can stay together and move forward."

A former Guy Toph Award-winning quarterback, O'Brien will be defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at Division III Presentation College in Aberdeen, S.D. The program begins play in 2011; O'Brien must report for work this month.

"I've always had aspirations of being a coach in a small college town," O'Brien said. "I didn't necessarily think South Dakota would be the place, but it just happened all this at (Presentation) opened up."

While geographically a drastic move for O'Brien, it makes sense from a family perspective. His son, Cullen, is a quarterback at Southwest Minnesota State, a three-hour drive from Aberdeen. Presentation coach Andy Carr was an assistant at Southwest Minnesota State.

O'Brien's sophomore daughter, Cassidy, who played basketball for Sickles, will join one of the Midwest's top girls programs at Aberdeen Central High.

In 11 seasons as a coach in Hillsborough County, including a stint at King and a previous stop at Sickles, O'Brien compiled a 40-72 record. He was 18-24 in his second go-round with the Gryphons, who started with an 0-10 campaign in 2006 but ended with postseason berths two of the past three years.

The 2009 team (8-3), the best in program history, reached the Class 4A playoffs.

Turner, son of all-time Hillsborough County coaching victories leader Billy Turner, called O'Brien "the most knowledgeable coach I've ever been around."

The developments of the past week culminate a longtime head coaching pursuit for Turner, 44.

A physical education teacher at Sickles, he hoped to step in as Chamberlain's coach when his father retired at the end of the 2008 season, but the administration opted instead of John Colbert, who quit shortly after spring practice. Turner joined O'Brien's staff shortly thereafter.

* * *

Jefferson comes up short at NFL tourney

Jefferson fell just short of winning the NFL High School Player Development National 7-on-7 Tournament on its home field Sunday.

Despite rallying from 10 down at the half, the Dragons lost 55-45 to Belle Glade Glades Central in the tournament's "Super Bowl" game. Jefferson was driving for a tying score when an interception, which by 7-on-7 rules gives the opposing team three points, ended its hopes.

"It was one of those games where it seemed whoever had the ball last was going to win," Jefferson coach Mike Fenton said.

Each squad in the 22-team draw represented an NFL team - Jefferson wore red and represented the Bucs; Glades Central represented the Dolphins. Most of the other teams were comprised of area all-stars from all over the country.

"I'm talking about some great talent," Fenton said. "There were only four or five actual high school teams. It was great to have an all-Florida matchup."

The Dragons won eight of 10 games over the weekend, their losses coming to Glades Central, the event's defending champ and a Class 2A state finalist last season.

"It was a great experience," Jefferson quarterback Quentin Williams said. "Glades Central, they're a good team. We got looks from really good teams from other states, too."

In the Super Bowl matchup, Williams threw six touchdowns.

"Quentin was on fire the entire tournament," Fenton said. "It was the usual cast of characters. He made some throws the whole weekend that jaws were dropping."

* * *

Ely, Wilder, Wilson to show skills in Orlando

The coronation of Phillip Ely and James Wilder Jr. rages on. The Plant football stars, essentially considered royalty in most parts of South Tampa, now have been designated kings for a weekend by ESPN.

The two, along with Jefferson linebacker Ramik Wilson, are among 65 of the nation's top skill players chosen to compete in the second Champion Gridiron Kings at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex July 24-25 in Orlando.

The event, part of the ESPN RISE Games, includes performance training, position-specific training, skills challenges and a seven-on-seven competition. All three county players will compete for the Southeast squad.

* * *

County signings

Wharton guard Damian Dixon, the Wildcats' MVP this past season, has signed with Division III Greensboro (N.C.) College, coach Tommy Tonelli announced.

Dixon led the 27-2 Wildcats in scoring, assists and steals. He averaged more than 10 points for a team with three double-digit scorers, totaling 25 in a pair of Class 6A playoff games.

- Three recently graduated Jefferson baseball players have signed to play at the junior college level, Dragons coach Pop Cuesta said.

Pitcher Dennis Lopez signed with Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., while catcher Alex Rivera and third baseman/outfielder Kevin Cruz are heading to Faulkner State CC in Baldwin County, Ala.

Lopez was 7-1 with a 0.62 ERA in nine appearances. He threw three shutouts, including an 8-0 complete-game win over Steinbrenner in the district semifinals.

Rivera hit .312 with four doubles and three homers. His 21 RBIs were second on the team. Cruz batted .355 with four doubles, three homers and 17 RBIs.

* * *

Hoops tournament attracts top talent

From a sports perspective, the dullest week of the year may be upon us. Hence the reason you might want to venture to South Tampa today, Wednesday or Thursday. Chances are you'll spot a big-time college basketball coach, not to mention some serious local boys hoops talent.

The Best of the South Summer Showcase, an NCAA-certified 17-and-under AAU tournament, will be staged those days at Plant and Robinson high schools. Action at both gyms begins today at 9 a.m.

At least a dozen AAU teams from the state are competing. Last year's event drew 75 college coaches, according to Plant coach Mike Phillips. This year, Louisville's Rick Pitino, East Tennessee State's Murry Bartow and coaches from Virginia Tech have told Phillips they'll show up.

"Those are just the guys I know of," Phillips said.

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