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Tampa Bay Times’ all-Tampa Bay football

As usual, the gridiron talent in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties is unmatched.
Plant City quarterback Braxton Plunk is the 2018 Tampa Bay Times Hillsborough County offensive player of the year. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published Dec. 24, 2018

Our all-area players of the year had it all, leading teams in their respective counties to deep playoff runs.

And those were just on offense. 

Defense? 

The area had stars on that side of the ball, too, including a defensive lineman who fought through double teams to deliver big-time hits, a veteran who led a young team to the state final and a record-setting sack specialist. 

Some are high-profile recruits. Others are just starting to become known after breakout seasons. They all had outstanding performances. 

Hillsborough Offensive Player of the Year

QB Braxton Plunk, Sr., Plant City

Why we picked him: In his second season as a starter, Plunk became the talk of the town. There were even "Plunk City" T-shirts sold at the school. That had a lot to do with Plunk's performance on the field. He threw for an area-best 2,602 yards and 26 touchdowns to lead the Raiders to a title in an ultra-competitive district (Class 7A-8). His most memorable game came when Plant City beat Tampa Bay Tech to secure a district championship. "It was just an unbelievable year," Plunk said. "The city, the school and the relationship with the players made this season so special."

Did you know? Plunk said he is the best dancer on the team. He practices his moves every day in the locker room. So what makes him stand out? "Rhythm," he said.

What's next? Plunk did not sign during the early period last week. He currently has been offered a walk-on spot at USF, but is waiting to see if he gets any offers from Division I-A schools.

Nature Coast running back Mike Weston is the 2018 North Suncoast offensive player of the year. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

North Suncoast Offensive Player of the Year

Mike Weston, Sr., Nature Coast

Why we picked him: At a school known for producing record-setting running backs, Weston had a season that ranks among the best. He finished second in the state in rushing with 2,893 yards, 27 behind the leader. He also was third in the state in rushing touchdowns with 34. His single-season totals in yards and touchdown are the second-best in school history behind former standout DeShawn Smith, who was named Mr. Florida Football in 2014.  Behind Weston's tough running, the Sharks advanced to the Class 5A region final, losing in the final minutes of regulation to eventual state finalist North Marion.

Did you know? At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Weston has the size to handle a heavy workload. He proved to be durable, too. He had a whopping 387 carries. No other back who ranked among the state's top 10 rushing leaders had more than 280.

What's next? Weston is waiting to see if he picks up more interest before committing to a college program.

Pinellas County offensive player of the year: Pinellas Park High School’s Lawrance Toafili. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

Pinellas Offensive Player of the Year

Lawrance Toafili, Jr., Pinellas Park

Why we picked him: The breakaway back can break tackles. In the spring, he shredded through six would-be tackles against Largo in a highlight run that offered a preview of things to come. This season, he finished with 1,434 yards and 17 touchdowns. Those totals are even more impressive when you consider the Patriots waltzed through an undefeated season in which the starters sat the second half of most games. Toafili said his best moment came when he returned a kickoff for a touchdown in a win over East Lake. It was the first time Pinellas Park coach Kenny Crawford had a player return a kickoff for a score, and it was the first time the Patriots had knocked off East Lake.

Did you know? Toafili's father, also named Lawrance, played for Indian Rocks Christian in the mid-1990s before transferring to Pinellas Park. "I saw some old tapes of my dad," Toafili said. "He was pretty good."

What's next? One of the nation's most coveted running backs in the 2020 class, Toafili already has offers from just about every major college program. He said he likely will schedule visits soon to Florida, FSU, Oregon and Ohio State. Toafili does not anticipate making a commitment until next season, but said he could end up graduating early.

Armwood defensive back Jalil Core is the 2018 Tampa Bay Times Hillsborough County defensive player of the year. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

Hillsborough Defensive Player of the Year

DB Jalil Core, Jr., Armwood

Why we picked him: The enforcer of the area best's secondary delivered bone-jarring hits that rattled ball carriers and receivers. He recorded 93 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles in helping the Hawks reach the Class 6A state title game for the second straight season. Core may be known for inflicting pain, but he can play through it, too. He played every snap of the title game against Miami Northwestern with a torn meniscus. His most memorable moment was practicing on Thanksgiving, then beating previously undefeated Ocala Vanguard in the region final the following night.  "Just to have that feeling of playing in a state championship game two years in a row is what really made this season special," Core said.

Did you know? Core grew up in a rough neighborhood in Philadelphia. His mother decided to have the family move two years ago to get away from the violence and because the football competition was better in Tampa Bay. "I lost my grandmother and a close friend when I was in Philadelphia. That's what makes me go hard every day," Core said.

What's next? Core will continue to beef up in the weight room in preparation for his third and final season as a starter in Armwood's secondary.

Wiregrass Ranch defensive end Dylan Ridolph is the 2018 North Suncoast defensive player of the year. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

North Suncoast Defensive Player of the Year

DL Dylan Ridolph, Jr., Wiregrass Ranch

Why we picked him: Since arriving at Wiregrass Ranch, Ridolph has specialized in bringing down opposing quarterbacks. He did that so often this season that he was on the verge of a few Pasco County records. Ridolph had 22 sacks, finishing a half-sack away from tying the county single-season record set by Pasco's Morgan Flournory in 2012. That total gave Ridolph 37 sacks for his career, which already is a county record. And he can still add to it considering he has another to go. Sacks were not the only thing that made this season memorable. Ridolph said one of his best moments came when he returned an onside kick 44 yards against Wesley Chapel, something that does not happen often for defensive players. He also helped the Bulls make the playoffs for the third straight season.

Did you know?  A self-described history buff, Ridolph is just as studious off the field as he is on it. After all, he has a 4.0 GPA. In his spare time, Ridolph said he likes to watch anime.

What's next? The sacks should continue with Ridolph returning to anchor another ferocious pass rush for Wiregrass Ranch next season.

Pinellas County player of the year: Clearwater Central Catholic High School’s Kennedy Roberts (defensive player of the year), 17. (DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times)

Pinellas Defensive Player of the Year

DL Kennedy Roberts, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

Why we picked him: Kennedy Roberts posted solid numbers last season with 105 tackles and six sacks. Those stats made opposing coaches take notice. Known now as a force up front. Roberts received plenty of attention from other linemen in the trenches. He had to get past double teams constantly. That caused his numbers dip slightly. Still, Roberts fared well, finishing with 86 tackles and 6.5 sacks. By occupying so many blockers playing on the inside, Roberts helped his teammates thrive. Five other Marauders had at least three sacks this season, led by Harrison Thomas with 11.  "That made my day helping everyone else make plays," he said.

Did you know? Usually a jokester, Roberts becomes quiet on game days. "I don't say anything," Roberts said. "I'm in a zone. My teammates know not to talk to me. The only time I'll say anything is on the field. I like to just be by myself at that time."

What's next? Roberts is waiting until February to make his college decision official. He is taking an official visit to Kent State in January and likely will schedule one for Coastal Carolina.

Armwood’s Evan Davis coaches his players in the second quarter against Crestview during the state semifinals. (BRONTE WITTPENN | Times)

Coach of the Year

Evan Davis, Armwood

Davis made history by becoming the first football coach in Tampa Bay history to make two straight state championship game appearances in his first two seasons with a program. Better still, Davis did it with two completely different teams. After graduating a bulk of their starters, the Hawks started the season with a lot of new faces. But they finished in a familiar spot by playing in the Class 6A final for the fifth time in the past six seasons.

RELATED: All-North Suncoast football

Offense

First team

QB Cam'ron Ransom, So., Armwood: Taking over as the starter this season, Ransom threw for 1,724 yards, ran for 412 and accounted for 32 touchdowns.

RB Eric Wilson, Jr., Armwood: A big-play threat, Wilson ran for 1,223 yards and 13 touchdowns, including a 96-yard run for a score against Plant.

RB Walter Wilbon III, Sr., Plant: Ohio signee took over as the featured back and ran for 1,551 yards and 17 touchdowns.

RB Treshaun Ward, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech: Despite missing two games with injuries, Ward still finished 1,118 yards and 14 touchdowns.

RB Charles Montgomery, So., Bloomingdale: Multi-talented back even spent time at quarterback and finished with 1,427 all-purpose yards.

WR Demario Williams, So., Plant City: Coveted recruit had a breakout season as the favorite target of Braxton Plunk, finishing with 950 yards and 14 touchdowns.

WR Agiye Hall, So., Armwood: Speedster became the Hawks' go-to guy with 878 yards and 10 touchdowns, a good chunk of that coming in some of the biggest games.

OL Will Putnam, Sr., Plant: An undefeated state champion in wrestling, the Clemson signee continued to maul opponents for the Panthers' high-flying offense.

OL Everett Smalley, Sr., Plant: Air Force signee teamed with Putnam to form a solid wall of protection in the Panthers' passing game.

OL Ethan Carde, Sr., Bloomingdale: Division I-A prospect helped the Bulls set all kinds of records en route to their first Class 7A region final appearance.

OL Nolan Troyer, Jr., Armwood: Became a dependable force up front for the Hawks' revamped offense.

OL Logan Wellman, Sr., Nature Coast: Road grader was a big reason the Sharks were able to lead the state in rushing with more than 5,000 yards as a team.

UTIL Jerjuan Newton, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic: Used in a variety of ways, Newton was the Marauders' biggest weapon, finishing with 1,330 all-purpose yards, including 1,076 receiving.

KR Psaveon Reaves, Sr., Admiral Farragut: No one was better at returning kicks for scores than Reaves, who had nine touchdowns on special teams for the 2A state finalists.

K Davis Hughes, Sr., Countryside: Was near automatic on field goals, hitting 10 of 12 this season, including a long of 56 yards.

RELATED: All-Hillsborough County football

Second team

QB Tyler Riddell, Sr., Chamberlain

RB Tyler Willams, Jr., Mitchell

RB Jayvon Wilson, Sr., Fivay

RB Kyle Leivas, Sr., Land O'Lakes

RB Israel Fields, Sr., Hernando

WR Terrel Ferrell, Sr., Bloomingdale

WR Keedrik Murray, Jr., Clearwater

OL Joseph Lock, Sr., Tampa Bay Tech

OL Jordan Elbert, Jr., Nature Coast

OL Michael Rankins, Jr., Lennard

OL Jeff Miller, Sr., Armwood

OL Devante Penny, Jr., Pinellas Park

UTIL Tucker Gleason, Jr., Plant

KR Cartrell Strong, Sr., Zephyrhills

K Alan Kervin, Sr., East Lake

RELATED: All-Pinellas County football

Third team

QB Rory Hicks, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

RB Tino Hunt, Jr., Lennard

RB Javion Hanner, Sr., Zephyrhills Christian

RB Nathan Sims, Sr., Springstead

RB Kobe Smith, Sr., Spoto

TE Brett Seither, Sr., Clearwater Central Catholic

WR Khaishef Edwards, Jr., Largo

OL Zac Elam, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic

OL Noah Kidd, Sr., Pinellas Park

OL Raymond Collins, Sr., Largo

OL Ethan Hunt, Sr., Mitchell

OL Myles Hunt-Cruz, Sr., Armwood

UTIL Derek Bryant, Jr., Pinellas Park

KR Leonard Parker, Sr., Plant

K Adrian Olivo, Sr., Armwood

Defense

First team

DL Samuel Bergeron, Sr., Zephyrhills: Anchor of one of the North Suncoast's stingiest defenses had 104 tackles, 15 sacks, eight forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

DL Malik Womack, Sr., Bloomingdale: A force up front, Womack had 71 tackles and six sacks on a defense that posted six shutouts.

DL Desmond Watson, So., Armwood: Younger brother of former Hawk/current Oregon standout Darrian McNeal wreaked havoc with 44 tackles and six sacks.

LB Adrian Cabrera, Sr., Springstead: Led the bay area and was second in the state in tackles with 169, an impressive feat considering his team played fewer games than others that made the postseason.

LB James Gordon IV, Sr., Plant City: Minnesota signee was the catalyst for the Raiders' resurgence on defense, finishing with 126 tackles and eight sacks.

LB Ricardo Watson, Sr., Armwood: Veteran of a young defense recorded 46 tackles, six sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception for the Class 6A state finalists.

LB Brett Gerena, Jr., Jesuit: Run-stuffing specialist had 142 tackles to help the Tigers reach the Class 5A state semifinals for third time in the past four seasons.

DB Kym-Mani King, Sr., Mitchell: Though the Iowa State signee played quarterback, he had a bigger impact on defense with 58 tackles and two interceptions.

DB De'kwan Hughes, Jr., Armwood: Assigned to the opposing team's best receiver each week, Hughes typically made them a non-factor. He also had 22 tackles and a blocked punt.

DB Jordan Oladokun, So., Gaither: Younger brother of former Sickles/current USF quarterback Chris Oladokun picked off seven passes.

DB Josh Given, Sr., Admiral Farragut: Blue Jackets' biggest playmaker in the secondary had eight interceptions, returning four for touchdowns to help the program reach the Class 2A state semifinals.

UTIL Jaden Pask, Sr., Jesuit:  Versatile playmaker was everywhere, finishing with 116 tackles, six sacks, two blocked punts and an interception.

PR Dane Belton, Sr., Jesuit: Iowa signee consistently gave the Tigers great field position by coming up with big plays in the return game.

P Phillip Pierre, So., Lakewood: Sweden transplant averaged 47 yards per punt and had 12 inside the 20.

Second team

DL Ro'al Whittaker, Sr., Armwood

DL Harrison Thomas, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic

DL Nicholas Syms, Jr., Pinellas Park

LB Jaylen Harrell, Jr., Berkeley Prep

LB Alvin Mathis, Jr., Pinellas Park

LB Jayion McCluster, Jr., Largo

LB Cai Teague, Jr., Nature Coast

DB Romain Mungin, Sr., Plant

DB Kavbion Marbra, Sr., Zephyrhills Christian

DB Aamaris Brown, Jr., Armwood

DB Shemar Lawson, Sr., Nature Coast

UTIL Jackson Hacker, Jr., Plant

PR Quadre Hearns, Sr., Chamberlain

P Andrew Ilcken, Sr., Wharton

Third team

DL Clyde Pinder Jr., Jr., Armwood

DL Dominic Marino, Sr., Mitchell

DL Ari Stephens, Sr., Jefferson

LB Lorenzo Valencia, Sr., Admiral Farragut

LB Nyjohn Moody, Sr., Zephyrhills Christian

LB Nick Ferrini, Sr., Mitchell

LB Sean O'Keeffe, Sr., Plant

DB Solomon Brown, Sr., Largo

DB Micah Abraham, Sr., East Lake

DB DJ Mann, Sr., River Ridge

DB Giancarlo Margarejo, Jr., Clearwater Central Catholic

UTIL Jamal Nash, Sr., Armwood

PR Tre'Pavis Mobley, Sr., Zephyrhills

P Clark Cooley, Sr., Sunlake

Honorable mention

Admiral Farragut: Steel Sherman, Peyton Smrekar, Nick Manhertz

Alonso: Jael Feliz

Berkeley Prep: Joshua Youngblood

Bishop McLaughlin: James Frick

Bloomingdale: Levi Williams

Boca Ciega: Cornelius Cutliff, Deven Foster, Alfonso Franklin, Ahavion Solomon

Calvary Christian: Aidan Shahriari, Richie Ilarraza

Chamberlain: Earnest Johnson

Clearwater: Brandon Gary, Levis Greaves, Rent Montie, Qwa'shaun Perry

Clearwater Academy: Sio Nofoagatoto'a, Kervens Bonhomme, Ludovick Choquette, Jared Wayne

Clearwater Central Catholic: Makkah Jordan, Casey Levy, Cade Richards

East Lake: Madison Davila

Freedom: Jeremiah Ashe

Hernando: Bronson Tafelski, David Bronson

Hudson: Dominick Rutigliano, Darius Smith

Jefferson: Shawn Hardy, Ahmarean Brown

Jesuit: Junior Vandeross, Larry Hodges

Lakewood: Derrick Thomas, David Woods, Greg Spann II

Land O'Lakes: Myron Bloom, Nate Howard, Collin Corrao, Ethan Forrester, Jacob Neary

Largo: Keylen Gulley

Lennard: Corey Freeman

Mitchell: Nic Fairbank, Cameron Heid

Nature Coast: Anthony Houston, Corey Peterson, Kinyatah Morgan, Fabian Burnett, Jonathan Haley, Isaiah Heeke

Northeast: Craig Richardson Jr., Xavier McDonald, Qezzy Guyden

Pasco: Jacquez Mobley, Darrion Robinson

Pinellas Park: Cody Willoughby

Plant: Evan Passath, Max Phillips

Plant City: Chris Rodriguez, Zamir' Knighten

River Ridge: Marshall Stewart, Tyler Poirier, Anthony Roussos

Riverview: TJ Robinson

St. Petersburg: Javien Newton, Robert Dudley, Derrel Kelley III, Anders Margan

St. Petersburg Catholic: Keenan Hester

Steinbrenner: Logan Kilburn

Superior Collegiate: Keyvone Lee

Weeki Wachee: Sebastian Class

Wesley Chapel: Tyler Wittish, Jelani Vassell

Wiregrass Ranch: Kasean Ridgel

Zephyrhills: Caleb Keeling, Tyreese Wigfall, Doug Crawford, Ja'Quan Sheppard, Ethan Vest, Demetris Wright

Zephyrhills Christian: Jalen Spencer, Kollin Eckel, Malik Jones

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