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HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: James Gordon and Taylor Stone

If you're an opposing offensive player, you don't want to see a matchup with Plant City linebacker James Gordon. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
If you're an opposing offensive player, you don't want to see a matchup with Plant City linebacker James Gordon. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published Oct. 22, 2018

James Gordon, Plant City

The Raiders coaching staff spent last week concocting a plan that would take advantage of Gordon's playmaking ability.

The scheme was designed to have everything Bloomingdale ran funnel to their top players, creating a lot of one-on-one matchups that Gordon and his teammates were able to win.

When Gordon was unleashed on a blitz, he had only slight interference. Most times, a running back would be assigned to block him. Gordon repeatedly won those battles on his way to the quarterback.

As a result, the senior linebacker compiled some impressive statistics, registering 15 tackles and three sacks in a 24-10 win over the previously undefeated Bulls.

Raiders coach James Booth is used to seeing those numbers.

"James has been doing that all year," Booth said.

Gordon, a Minnesota commit, is averaging 10 tackles a game and has 6.5 sacks on the season. His performance is a big reason the Raiders are on the verge of clinching the Class 7A-9 title one year after missing out on the playoffs.

Last season, Plant City allowed 271 points, 201 coming in a four-game stretch against Armwood, Durant, Bloomingdale and Tampa Bay Tech — all losses.

In eight games this season, the Raiders (7-1) have allowed just 123.

Is Gordon the sole reason for the turnaround?

"Well, he's definitely a big part of it," Booth said. "But we've had great leadership from Tyreke Harrison, Ashton Mincey, Kobe Panier and Demije Hollins. The whole group has bought into the scheme we are running. But having a Power Five kid in there, who has been coachable, has been huge."

Taylor Stone, Osceola

Stone, a junior, thought Wednesday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference cross country meet at St. Petersburg's Crescent Lake Park was going to be just like every other. She started the race just like she always does. If anything, she felt unusually hot for mid-October.

By the time she sprinted past the finish line, Stone set a personal-record time of 17:34 over the 3.1-mile course.

She not only won the race, but according to long-time Osceola coach Peter Eagleson, she set a PCAC record. Eagleson said the previous fastest time he could find for the meet was 17:39 in 1982 by Carol Dorsett of St. Petersburg.

"It's really surprising," Stone said. "When (the race) started, it actually felt slow. I sprinted the final 200 yards or so but I had no idea it was going to be that fast. It's really surprising."

Osceola runner Taylor Stone recently broke the PCAC meet record.
Osceola runner Taylor Stone recently broke the PCAC meet record.

Stone is a long-time runner. She recently has had to overcome a stress fracture in her femur bone, but she is clearly healthy now. She said she gravitated to the sport not only because of the individual challenge but also because of the competition.

"I really like racing against other people,'' she said. "It motivates me.''

Like most cross country runners, Stone now has her sights set on districts and eventually the state tournament. She trains every day and believes she can beat her PCAC meet time.

"The goal is to have a PR (personal record) at states," Stone said. "I do believe that's possible."

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