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Football: Clearwater 28, Palm Bay Heritage 18

Special teams and defense highlight the Tornadoes’ opening win against a state-ranked Heritage team.
Week 1 of high school football kicked off across Tampa Bay on Friday night. [Times]
Week 1 of high school football kicked off across Tampa Bay on Friday night. [Times]
Published Aug. 24, 2019

CLEARWATER — “That’s the first chapter of the book.”

That was Clearwater coach Don Mesick’s message to his team after a shaky but hard-fought 28-18 victory over Palm Bay Heritage on Friday night.

On an opening night plagued with major penalties, costly turnovers and inconsistent offensive play, this year’s Tornadoes squad held itself together where, in the past, it might have gone off the rails.

“Last year, we played three games where we had our entire team,” Mesick said of a 2018 with an unending rash of suspensions. “The kids know the rules and we're keeping the thumb down. It's a different team with a different vibe.”

An aggressive, confident defense and strong special teams play kept Clearwater competitive until quarterback Rent Montie and the offense found itself.

Junior Marquvion Jeter fielded a second-quarter Heritage punt, paused a second for his blocking to jell, then blasted up the right side 94 yards for a touchdown. He also contributed a pair of sacks while senior Matthew Nieves added two sacks and four more tackles for loss on the night.

MORE FOOTBALL: Lakewood 48, St. Petersburg 0

As a team, the Tornadoes corralled Panthers quarterback Devin Alves for seven sacks.

“We’re young at linebacker but our defensive line has played three years of varsity ball,” Mesick said. “The big difference has been at defensive coordinator. (John Scargle) is at the top of his game and makes tremendous adjustments. He knows what he’s doing and the team respects every move he makes. He’s our best acquisition of the offseason.”

Even with those pluses, 115 yards in penalties, a fumble returned 71 yards for a TD by Christian Gonzalez and two rushing TDs from Rontavius Farmer (87 yards) had Clearwater in an 18-14 hole with seven minutes left in the third quarter.

Special teams once again stepped up when junior Michael Hern stripped the punter of the ball with teammate Damond Dennis recovering deep in Heritage territory. Two Marcus Jeter carries and Clearwater had the lead to stay.

MORE FOOTBALL: Northeast 57, Tarpon Springs 0

After forcing a Panther punt near midfield, Montie (209 passing yards including a 54-yard first-quarter TD bomb to Keedrik Murray) came to life, connecting twice with junior Cardrece Mobley — first on a big third-and-nine conversion, then turning a wide receiver screen into a 34-yard gain to the Heritage 9. Latrez Bradley did the honors from there to close out an impressive 80-yard drive and lock down the victory.

“We have a tremendous receiver corps,” Mesick said. “We have a lot of weapons, we just have to stop making silly mistakes.

“Heritage has a known quality defense and is the 10th-ranked team (in Class 6A) in the state. If you told me (before the game) we’d score 28 … that would be a stretch, especially since our (kickoff classic game) was rained out. But in practice and in the classroom, the kids have been doing a great job so far.”


  1. Carrollwood Day sophomore Milahnie Perry controls the tempo in a 74-36 victory over Tampa Prep in a Class 3A region quarterfinal. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  2. BJ Graham and Jesuit are already off to a strong start, as was expected of the nation's top high school program. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  3. Newsome Wolves catcher Lydia Castro is dynamic behind the plate and with a bat in her hand. She is also committed to USF. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  4. Elli Black, 11, crosses the finish line in first place in the women's division at the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 8K. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
  5. There were many standout players for Tampa Catholic on Saturday, including goalkeeper Charlie Gembarowski, who set school records in shutouts (16) and wins (22) with the state semifinal victory. [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  6. Jesuit, ranked No. 6 in the state and 15th nationally by MaxPreps, will play for their seventh school title next Saturday in DeLand against Pembroke Pines Charter. [JOSEPH WEISER  |  Icon SMI via ZUMA Press]
  7. Shorecrest coach Jason Montoya, seen here in a previous playoff match, was happy with how his team played in Saturday's state semifinal. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
  8. Elaine Jeffers, left, and mom Jennifer are all smiles in their pirate and parrot costumes after finishing the 15K and 5K races Saturday morning. Today, both Elaine, 33, and Jennifer, 60, will run their 61st half-marathon. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  9. Joe Conrad, at the mere age of 90 in the orange hat, crosses the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K finish line with 30 of his relatives: kids, grandkids and so on. Conrad, who has set several age-group records at races the past few decades, finished in 59 minutes, 28 seconds, but he did, of course, benefit from all the pacers around him. [SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times]
  10. Cambridge Christian runner Reed Legg finishes first (15:29) during Saturday's Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 5K. [LUIS SANTANA  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  11. Tampa Bay Tech, still missing star sophomore Janiah Barker, falters in the region final Friday, but if healthy should make another deep playoff run next season. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  12. After its 3-1 victory over Westminster Academy of Fort Lauderdale on Friday, the Shorecrest girls soccer team  will be playing in the program's first state final next week in Deland. [CHUCK FRYE  |  Special to the Times]