Wednesday, November 21, 2018
Hometeam

Embrace the Butter (Bowl)? You’d better believe it

LAND O'LAKES — Most everyone around here knows this is not the place where they make the butter.

So why, when the town's two biggest high schools meet up for one of the county's biggest football rivalries, is it called the Butter Bowl?

Originally, and it's a sentiment the leaders at both Sunlake and Land O'Lakes continue to foster: to lighten the mood.

"Right after I became principal here I noticed there was a lot of tension regarding this game," said Ric Mellin, who has held the position at Land O'Lakes since March 2009. "I really wanted to try and embrace the idea of the Land O'Lakes community. So I reached out to the then-principal at Sunlake, Steve Williams, and said let's come up with a way that we lessen the rivalry (aspect) and let's have fun with this."

Anyone who has seen the original trophy can attest that they did their part.
It's a slap-dash plaque, with a plastic gator, an old cat toy that might pass for a Seahawk and, yes, the lid from an actual carton of Land O'Lakes butter from the company that — for the benefit of those still unaware — is located in faraway Arden Hills, Minn.

Mellin and Williams knew they had to embrace the butter.

"I'm constantly hearing, 'Are you guys the home of the butter?' So I said to (Williams), 'What about, calling this the Butter Bowl,' and we came up with a goofy trophy, that we hand back and forth through the years to whoever wins this game. He really liked the idea and it would be a great way to embrace the rivalry," Mellin recalled.

The only hitch in his concept is that there's only been one handoff. Land O'Lakes won the first three contests by a combined score of 96-14.

"The first year there, no senior class, one junior who had played football previously, and we had a 160-pound average weighing line. It took a few years," said Bill Browning, the only coach the football team has known.

In 2007, a year Browning admitted the Seahawks should have been playing a JV schedule, they went 0-10, improving to 1-9, then 4-6. But Sunlake completed the turnaround, with 2010 marking the first of six straight seasons with at least eight wins, four playoff trips, and nothing but wins against the Gators.

The last four have come by an average of nearly 25 points.

"We used to be looked at as the little brother. We used to be beat by the older brother, but now it's evened out a little bit," said Michael Cloyd, Sunlake principal since 2015. "It's really very important to keep it positive, because we are one community. When Sunlake opened in 2007, the students we got and a bulk of our faculty came from Land O', and so it really is a family competition."

Cloyd decided to modernize the trophy last year, his right since it's been sitting in his office for so long, but also because the original parts were falling off.

But the Butter Bowl name isn't going anywhere. And both principals hope the original spirit of the idea is remembered. They each took to Twitter this week to stress the importance of sportsmanship.

Last year at Sunlake featured a pregame incident neither wants to see repeated.

"Our students tailgate in the parking lot, and a group of Land O' students decided they were going to tailgate in the parking lot. That didn't go very well," said Cloyd, who is addressing that by having Sunlake students and supporters hold their pregame festivities on campus before driving up to the Swamp.

There is a major chance for the community aspect to show out. Mike Connor, longtime Land O'Lakes booster and public-address voice for football, will have the press box named after him before Friday's kickoff. Connor, a proprietor of Beef O' Brady's whose son Matt does PA for Mitchell, has been in declining health recently but is planning to attend.

There will be a social open to the public at the school's lower cafeteria starting around 6:15.

As for the game itself, it may be one of the most competitive and important in the series. It's the Class 6A, District 6 opener. With only the group champion guaranteed of a playoff spot, and the other three teams (defending champ Mitchell, Pasco and Springstead) all currently with better records Friday's loser may face a steep climb.

Even though he's lived in Tampa Bay fewer than two years, Gators first-year coach Chad Walker realizes the scope.

"When I took the job, people said, it almost doesn't matter what the season turnout is, as long as you beat Sunlake. Kinda was a recurring theme," Walker said.

He knows rivalries, playing in a large high school one (Cedar Cliff vs. Red Land, Pa.) before going 3-1 in college for Lafayette University, against Lehigh, merely the most-played matchup in the sports history.
So although the Butter Bowl may be a new concept, Walker has embraced it.
For that matter, so has the actual butter maker.

"I reached out to the company that first year and asked if they'd be interested in sponsoring it, and I never heard back," Mellin said. "Through the years, after posting about the Butter Bowl on Twitter, I finally got a response back from the corporation.

"They gave it a thumbs up."

Comments
Seffner Christian’s remarkable turnaround starts with the O-line

Seffner Christian’s remarkable turnaround starts with the O-line

Seffner Christian’s offensive line has accepted a lot of responsibility for helping the Crusaders to their first undefeated season (11-0) and first playoff victory.
Updated: 11 hours ago
LB/FB Lorenzo Valencia runs the show for Admiral Farragut

LB/FB Lorenzo Valencia runs the show for Admiral Farragut

Nothing gets by the senior on defense, and he's got an eagle eye on the offense as well.
Published: 11/20/18
Armwood’s ‘rebuilding’defense doesn’t miss a step

Armwood’s ‘rebuilding’defense doesn’t miss a step

SEFFNER — Armwood High started the football offseason with an overwhelming sense of loss. By February, the Hawks' bid adieu to eight defensive starters who signed with college programs, including lineman Malcolm Lamar (Florida State), safety Ma...
Published: 11/20/18
Jesuit pulls off a rare Tampa Bay repeat in state swimming

Jesuit pulls off a rare Tampa Bay repeat in state swimming

STUART — Jesuit boys swim coach Bill Shaffer spent all week trying to score the Class 2A meet. Based off his numbers, the Tigers were not going to have enough to defend their state team title.But in the preliminaries, things changed. Jesuit swi...
Published: 11/17/18
Bishop McLaughlin’s first volleyball loss of season comes in Class 3A final

Bishop McLaughlin’s first volleyball loss of season comes in Class 3A final

FORT MYERS — Bishop McLaughlin wasn't pulling any punches after its 25-16, 25-16, 25-22 loss to Doral Divine Savior Academy on Saturday afternoon in the Class 3A state final.As the Hurricanes (30-1) stood on the Suncoast Credit Union Arena floo...
Published: 11/17/18
Shorecrest claims first state volleyball title

Shorecrest claims first state volleyball title

FORT MYERS — Almost as soon as the ball slammed to the court, Jacqueline St. Cin started crying. Her thunderous kill, one of 16 on the day, finished off a 25-23, 25-18, 25-22 Class 4A state final win over Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin on Saturday...
Published: 11/17/18
Football playoffs: Jefferson 34, Lakewood 23

Football playoffs: Jefferson 34, Lakewood 23

ST. PETERSBURG — Jefferson continues to prove that seedings don't matter in Class 5A. A week after upsetting top seed Hardee, the No. 8Dragons took down No. 4 seed Lakewood 34-23 in the region semifinals.Niko Duffey scored two first-half rushin...
Published: 11/17/18
Football playoffs: Bloomingdale 21, Palmetto 14

Football playoffs: Bloomingdale 21, Palmetto 14

VALRICO — In the offseason, Bloomingdale coach Max Warner told his players the goal was to play on Thanksgiving weekend.That left a lot of perplexed looks from the Bulls."They didn't know what that meant," Warner said.Bloomingdale had neve...
Published: 11/17/18
Football playoffs: Plant 39, Viera 18

Football playoffs: Plant 39, Viera 18

VIERA — Once again, the Plant Panthers proved they're the kind of team that can take a little momentum … and run you over with it.That was the case in Friday night's Class 7A, Region 2 semifinal as the Panthers rallied from an 18-10 halft...
Published: 11/17/18
Football playoffs: Seffner Christian 27, Carrollwood Day 16

Football playoffs: Seffner Christian 27, Carrollwood Day 16

DOVER – Isaiah Knowles connected with Christian Helms on a pair on 10-yard touchdown tosses as Seffner Christian defeated Carrollwood Day 27-16 on Friday, giving the Crusaders their first playoff win in school history. The win, a rematch o...
Published: 11/17/18