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RAIDERS' SYKES GETS BETTER OFFER

A couple of weeks after publicly committing to Division II North Greenville (S.C.) University, Plant City state champion triple jumper Javonte Sykes has had a financially based change of heart.

Sykes said Thursday he plans to sign with D-II Virginia Union, which has offered him nearly a full scholarship. A Raiders wideout, he said he'll focus on track at the traditionally African-American school.

"Close to (a full ride)," he said of his offer.

In arguably the most dominant stretch run of any local athlete, Sykes set personal triple jump records in his final half-dozen meets, culminating with the winning effort (48 feet, 4 inches) on his last preliminary jump at the Class 3A state meet. Sykes had scratched on his first two efforts.

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Ten Panthers pick their paths

Ten Plant football players announced their college futures recently.

For some, the moment was more overwhelming than the fight. Linebacker Matt Suarez announced his commitment to Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis., while fighting tears. He sustained a compression fracture in his spine playing football as an eighth-grader, leaving him in a brace for six months, then became one of the best defenders on a Plant team that went to the Class 5A state title game last fall.

"It's amazing," Suarez said. "I finally made it. This has been my dream."

Ronnie Singleton entered the season second on the depth chart at cornerback, but broke his leg early in his senior season. He committed to Heidelberg University in Ohio.

"I never thought I'd get to go to college after breaking my leg," Singleton said.

Cornerback Eric Patterson (Ball State) was the lone Division I-A signee. Defensive lineman Wadensky Estimphile (Quincy), wing back Thornton Watson (Marian), tight end Tyrell Mills (Marian), running back Calvin Mann (Dean College) and defensive lineman Tupou Aleamotua (College of the Canyons) announced their commitments while defensive lineman Devin Zinkosky (Florida State) and long-snapper Trevor Fowlow (Florida Atlantic) will walk on.

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Knights standouts choose colleges

Robinson boys soccer captain Zac Steuer and three-time state wrestling qualifier Chris Padilla have settled on college programs. Steuer accepted a scholarship from Division I-A Mercer University in Macon, Ga. Steuer is believed to be the first player in program history to earn a D-I scholarship, said Knights faculty member and football assistant Shawn Taylor. Padilla, fourth at 160 pounds at the Class A state meet, is headed to NAIA William Penn University in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

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TC's Louis commits to Webber International

Tampa Catholic senior receiver Conner Louis has committed to play at NAIA Webber International. Louis' primary role was as a receiver, but he also played quarterback for the first four games of his senior season, was a nickel cornerback and returned kicks. "The only thing he didn't do was get me a hot dog at halftime," TC coach Bob Henriquez joked. Louis made 23 catches for 332 yards and three touchdowns last season. He also threw for 370 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 90 yards and a score.

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