Thursday, December 18, 2014

Basketball: Holiday tournament brackets

A pair of holiday traditions, The Willie Clemons Holiday Basketball Classic at Southeast and the Smoothie King Classic at Bradenton Christian, get underway Dec. 29 and wrap Dec. 31.
Here are the first-round pairings for each tournament.

Bayshore vs. Tampa Sickles, 9:30 a.m.
Englewood Lemon Bay vs. Oldsmar Christian, 12:30 p.m.
Manatee vs. Sarasota Christian, 3:30 p.m.
Bradenton Christian vs. St. Petersburg Shorecrest, 6:30 p.m.
Sarasota Christian vs. Southeast, 11 a.m.
Braden River vs. Manatee, 2 p.m.
Bayshore vs. Cape Coral, 5 p.m.
Bradenton Christian vs. Seven Rivers Christian, 8 p.m.

Braden River vs. Riverview, 2 p.m.
Palmetto vs. Clearwater Calvary Christian, 3:30 p.m.
Gulfport Boca Ciega vs. East Bay, 5 p.m.
Southeast vs. Lakeland Kathleen, 6:30 p.m.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Football: Tentative assignments for 2015-18

Here are the tentative football districts featuring area schools for the 2015-18 cycle.
Schools can appeal their placement with the Florida High School Athletic Association.

Alonso (Tampa)
Riverview (Riverview)
George Steinbrenner (Lutz)
Newsome (Lithia)
Palm Harbor University
Riverview (Sarasota)

Braden River
Lakewood Ranch

North Port

Booker (Sarasota)
DeSoto County (Arcadia)
Hardee (Wauchula)
Lemon Bay (Englewood)

Bishop Verot (Fort Myers)
Cardinal Mooney
Calvary Christian (Clearwater)
Clearwater Central Catholic
St. Petersburg Catholic

Out-of-Door Academy
Bradenton Christian
Cambridge (Tampa)
Carrollwood (Tampa)
Seffner Christian
INDEPENDENT - IMG Academy, Saint Stephen's

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Football: Lemmy Awards

Rent that tuxedo. Purchase you ball gown.
Hire the babysitter and take your pick between the sirloin and the salmon.
It's time  to hand out the postseason Lemmy Awards, surely the highlight of every prep football season and another excuse to get decked out in your Sunday best.
Annual disclaimer: These awards have no bearing on the upcoming All-Area Team, which is put together by Herald staffers with input from area coaches.
The Lemmy Awards are put together by me. Hence the name.
The envelopes, please...

COACH OF THE YEAR: Curt Bradley, Braden River - Bradley wins it for the second year in a row because his Pirates overachieved for the second year in a row. Yes, I picked the Pirates to reach the playoffs way back in August.  But I didn't expect an undefeated regular season and district title clinched with a three-touchdown defeat of Palmetto. Bradley asked his players to believe in him and his staff while in the throes of a nightmarish 1-9 campaign in 2012, and he has certainly delivered. And the players deserve credit for sticking with it. Now comes the tough part: Keeping the winning  going when everybody expects it. Given what Bradley has done in such a short time,  however, it has become awfully tough to bet against him.
HONORABLE MENTION: John Booth, Manatee; Josh Smithers, Cardinal Mooney.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Johnnie Lang, Manatee - Oh, what a year.  The speedy Hurricane plowed his way to 2,116 yards (second-best single-season total in Hurricanes history) and 32 touchdowns in leading Manatee to its 15th regional championship. What made Lang's season so special was he didn't sneak up on anyone.  Opponents, especially when Manatee was ironing out its passing game early in the season, knew stopping the Hurricanes meant stopping Lang. And few could. In a season of standout performances, nothing topped what he did against Vero Beach in the second round of the Class 8A playoffs, scoring five times and rushing for 208 yards. Here's the best part, Canes fans: Lang is only a junior.
HONORABLE MENTION: Jacob Huesman, Braden River; Kwanzi Jackson,  Manatee; Quincy Washington, Palmetto; Reese Vita, Cardinal Mooney.

CLUTCH MOMENT OF THE YEAR: Nick Null's game-winning field goal in Class 8A-Region 2 final: With the wind swirling as momentum shifted away from Manatee, Null booted a 39-yarder to snap a 21-21 tie with Orlando Dr. Phillips with two minutes, 36 seconds remaining. John Madden said there is no such thing as a chip shot, that all kicks from all lengths are difficult. That's especially true in the prep ranks, where the kickers are far removed from their high-powered foes in the NFL. But Null, who also hit a big 42-yarder to help  Manatee beat Venice, made it look simple that night at Bill Spoone Stadium, where Phillips lost for the first time in 38 games.
HONORABLE  MENTION: Braden River's Jacob Huesman throwing for 316 yards and two touchdowns vs.  Palmetto in 7A-10 championship game; Manatee's  defense blanking Venice; Lakewood  Ranch's  Darren Lowery's 1-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds remaining vs. North Port.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR: "...We just thought that maybe that would be a memory for them to kind of find something that everybody could unify around." - Cardinal Mooney assistant and former Southeast head coach Paul Maechtle, who created a drill at the end of practice reminding Mooney of a key personal foul penalty suffered in last year's  Class 3A  playoffs. This year's Cougars won their first playoff game since 2006.

Read more here:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Football: Manatee's Booth, Lang third in voting

Manatee coach John Booth and running back Johnnie  Lang each took third in Class 8A in the Coach and Player of the Year balloting for the Florida Dairy Farmers High School Sports Awards.
Results were announced Monday.
In his first season at Manatee, Booth tallied 70 points, tying him with Miami Columbus' Chris Merritt. The Hurricanes went 12-2 and won district and regional championships under Booth, a 2000 Manatee alum hired in July.
Pembroke Pines Flanagan Devin Bush was first and Apopka's Rick Darlington was second.
Lang rushed for 2,116 yards and 32 touchdowns in his junior season and first as a starter. He finished with 56 points behind Player of the Year De'Andre Johnson of Jacksonville First Coast and runner-up Jacques Patrick from  Orlando Timber Creek.
Braden River's Curt Bradley (7A) and Cardinal  Mooney's  Josh Smithers and Reese Vita (3A), coach and  player of the year nominees in their classifications, did not crack the top three.
Voting was done by a panel of coaches and media members.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Football: The skinny on Apopka

Manatee heads back to the Orlando area Friday to face Apopka in a Class 8A state semifinal with the winner off to the state championship game Dec. 13 at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Here is a primer on the Blue Darters.

HOW THEY GOT HERE: The Blue Darters were the runner-up in District 4 and defeated District 3 champ Oviedo in the first round of the playoffs before blasting Winter Garden West Orange, 42-0, after losing to the Warriors during the regular season. Apopka then won a shootout over Jacksonville First Coast, 64-48, to claim the Region 1 title.
QUITE THE QUARTET: Apopka's four losses this season all came to playoff teams: Orlando Oak Ridge, West Orange, Plantation American Heritage and Orlando Edgewater.
VERY OFFENSIVE: The Blue Darters have scored 190 points during their current four-game winning streak, though this is nothing new: Apopka set a state scoring record last season with 786 points despite losing Nebraska-bound quarterback Zack Darlington to an early-season injury.
HE'S NO  1:  Senior lineman Martez Ivey (6-foot-5, 271 pounds) is ranked the nation's top offensive tackle by Rivals. Florida State, Ohio State and Auburn are among the 16 schools to make Ivey an offer.
POSTSEASON PATTERN: Apopka has made the playoffs every year since 2000 and won state titles in '01 and 2012. Both championships came under current coach Rick Darlington, who returned to Apopka in 2006 after spending 2003-05 coaching Valdosta High in Georgia.  The Blue Darters lost last year's Class 8A state title game to South Dade.
QUOTABLE: "People  call  it a Pop Warner offense, and that's not a joke: Pop Warner invented it in 1907. Jim Thorpe was his tailback, that's how old it is." Rick Darlington on Apopka's single wing offense.

Football: Booth, Bradley, Lang, Smithers and Vita up for awards

Braden River's  Curt Bradley (7A), Cardinal Mooney's Josh Smithers (3A) and Manatee's  John Boooth (8A) are all up for Coach of the Year in their classifications, while Manatee running back Johnnie Lang (8A) and Cardinal Mooney quarterback Reese Vita (3A) are player of the year nominees in the Florida Dairy Farmers High School Sports Awards.
In his first year replacing Joe Kinnan, Booth has the Hurricanes (12-1) in the Class 8A state semifinals Friday at Apopka after leading them to district and regional titles. A big part of that has been Lang, a junior who has rushed for 2,088 yards and 32 touchdowns. Only Shevin Wiggins (2,267 in 1993) has rushed for more yards in a single season at Manatee.
Two years after losing his first nine games, Bradley helped the Pirates win their first district title and record an undefeated regular season en route to Region 3 semifinals.
Smithers, who took over the Cougars in 2007, helped Mooney win its second straight district title and reach the Region 3 championship game. Vita threw for 1,226 yards and set program records for passing yards and touchdowns in a career.
The players of the year in each classification will have a chance to be named Mr.  Football, while the coaches of the year will be up for the state's overall award.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Volleyball: Manatee's Cothron, Coulter win Class 8A awards

Winning its first state title is continuing to pay dividends for Manatee's volleyball team.
Haley Coulter was named the Class 8A Player of the Year and Tony Cothron was named the classification's Coach of the Year in the Florida Dairy Farmers High School Sports Awards after helping the Hurricanes win a state championship Nov.  15.
Coulter earned 132 points to beat Jupiter's Cara Guthrie (119) after finishing the season with 356 kills, 261 digs and 31 blocks. In Manatee's state semifinal and final victories, Coulter, a junior who has committed to Tulsa, had 32 kills and 22 digs.
"It's nice to be recognized for something I love to do,"  Coulter said, "and this award is just as much mine as it is my coach's, my team and my family's. I wouldn't be the player that I am today without them."
By winning the honor in Class 8A, Coulter is up for Miss Volleyball along with the players of the year in the state's  seven other classifications.
Manatee had never advanced past the regional semifinals before Cothron took over the program prior to this season. A longtime area club coach, Cothron led the Canes to 25 wins and a 3-1 win over nationally-ranked Jupiter in the state championship match.
Cothron tallied 146 points to beat Jupiter's Blane Betz (133) and is now a nominee for the state's overall  Coach of the Year honor.
Lakewood Ranch coach Perri Hankins finished third  in the Class 7A Coach of the Year honors with 49 points. Hankins helped the Mustangs reach the state semifinals for the second time in three years.