Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Manatee, Plant to meet again

The 2010 prep football season will pick up right where '09 left off:
Manatee vs. Tampa Plant.
The two will meet in August during a Kickoff Classic at Hawkins Stadium - eight months after duking it out for the Class 5A state championship, which Plant won 21-14 last Friday at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
The Hurricanes and Panthers opened the '09 season with a Kickoff Classic at Dads Stadium, where Manatee won 49-33.
Manatee finished the year ranked 26th in the RivalsHigh 100. Plant, which has won three state titles since '06, finished 17th.
The Hurricanes will play their spring game at Pinellas Park Largo, which advanced to the second round of the Class 4A playoffs, losing to Armwood.
"We're playing two good teams," said Manatee coach Joe Kinnan.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Canes finish the year ranked 26th

Manatee's football team finished the year ranked 26th in country, according to RivalsHigh 100, which was compiled with the help of
The Hurricanes went 13-2 and finished second in the state in Class 5A following Friday's 21-14 loss to Tampa Plant in the state title game. They began the year ranked 66th, fell out of the top 100 after losing to Venice on Oct. 30 and then vaulted to 20th after upsetting Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas in a state semifinal on Dec. 11.
The Raiders, who were ranked No. 1 at the time, finished the season right behind Manatee at 27th. Tampa Plant, which won its second straight state title and third in four years - the previous two came when the Panthers were a 4A school - jumped ahead of Manatee, finishing 17th. They were 23rd entering the state title game.
Lakeland, which lost to Plant in the other Class 5A state semifinal, finished 75th.
West Palm Beach Dwyer, which won the Class 4A state title, finished seventh, tops among Florida schools.
Other Florida schools making the list were Class 6A champion Miramar (33rd), Class 4A runner-up Niceville (56th), Class 2A champion Cocoa (57th), Class 6A Deland (67th) and Class 2A runner-up Belle Glades Glades Central (72nd).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Aftermath of Manatee's defeat

Some tidbits from Manatee's 21-14 loss to Tampa Plant in Friday's Class 5A state title game:

- Junior Mike Blakely capped his postseason with another electrifying performance, finishing with 119 receiving yards, 64 rushing yards and a touchdown.
With Manatee down 21-7 in the third quarter, Blakely took a pass 86 yards to Manatee's 2, and then scored to make it 21-14.
"Coach gave me the ball the next play," he said, "and I knew I had to push it in for the team."
Blakely, who has already received offers from schools such as Clemson, Syracuse and USF, scored at least one touchdown in four of Manatee's five playoff games.
"We almost came back, but almost don't count," Blakely said. "Nobody thought we'd be here, but we're here. We ended up losing, but it's all right. We're going to regroup, we're going to work harder, we're going to come back next year and hopefully, get a win."
- Manatee's defense was much improved in the second half, shutting out Tampa Plant after allowing 21 points in the first half. The Canes limited James Wilder Jr., the Panthers' stud running back, to eight rushing yards after the break.
"We went inside and I challenged my guys to dig inside of them," said Canes defensive line coach Steve Gulash. "Plant is an unbelviable football team. But when you come out flat against a team who's been there, you've got to step it up quick.
"We came back out the second half and proved that we belonged here."
- Manatee is now 4-2 in state title games. Plant is a state champ for the third time since 2006 - and first time in Class 5A. The Panthers last two titles came as a Class 4A school.
- Manatee and Plant will see each other again next year for sure - the Canes face the Panthers in a Kickoff Classic for the second straight year next fall.

Manatee scores - again.

It's a game at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
One player after pulling in an 87-yard pass, Mike Blakely scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. Colby Lengel nailed an extra point, and the Hurricanes cut Tampa Plant's lead to 21-14 with 37 seconds left to go in the third quarter of the Class 5A state title game.

Manatee scores

The Manatee Hurricanes have a pulse.
Quarterback Brion Carnes and receiver Quenton Bundrage teamed for a 34-yard catch and run, and Colby Lengel booted an extra point, cutting Manatee's deficit to 21-7 in the Class 5A state title game against Tampa Plant.
There is 3:42 left in the third quarter.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Reiter heading to USF

Lakewood Ranch senior offensive lineman has committed to USF, said Mustangs coach Shawn Trent.
Schools such as Wake Forest, Florida International, Florida Atlantic and UCF also made offers to Reiter.
Reiter helped the Mustangs finish 6-5 this season en route to reaching the Class 4A playoffs. They were 1-9 last year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Canes climb the charts

Unranked entering the playoffs, Manatee is now 20th in the RivalsHigh 100 thanks to last week’s defeat of top-ranked Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas. The Hurricanes were ranked 66th at the beginning of the season before dropping off the list. Aquinas, which had won 37 straight games before running into Manatee, is now 24th.
Manatee's opponent in Friday's Class 5A state title game, Tampa Plant, is ranked 23rd.
The Panthers jumped from 50th after beating Lakeland in the state semifinals.

A little about the Citrus Bowl

Orlando's Citrus Bowl, where Manatee will look to win its fifth state title 7 p.m. Friday against Tampa Plant, was opened in 1936 and hosts its first bowl - the Tangerine Bowl - in 1947.
Originally built to hold 8,900 people, the Citrus Bowl has a seating capacity of 70,000. It includes a full press box plus 30 luxury suites.
The Citrus Bowl annually hosts the Champs Sports Bowl, with this year's pitting Penn State against LSU. The stadium also housed five World Cup soccer games in 1994.
But the Citrus Bowl isn't limited to sport, having hosted events such as Monster Jam, Wrestlemania XXIV and concerts featuring acts such as Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones.
The stadium was also featured in Adam Sandler's 1998 movie, The Waterboy, as well as the television show, Coach, starring Craig T. Nelson.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Manatee making national headlines

News of Manatee's defeat of nationally top-ranked Fort Lauderdale St.Thomas Aquinas during Friday's Class 5A state semifinal has spread.
To wit, USA Today mentioned in its blog at, as did
The Raiders had won 37 straight games, two consecutive Class 5A state titles and a national championship before bowing to the Hurricanes 28-20 at a raucous Hawkins Stadium.
Manatee (13-1) is back in a state final for the first time since 1993 and will face Tampa Plant (12-1) 7 p.m. Friday in the Citrus Bowl.
The Hurricanes and Panthers met during this year's Kickoff Classic at Tampa's Dads Stadium.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

PAL Bowl is coming

The Brad Price Memorial PAL Bowl will be played 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18 at the Ram Bowl in at Riverview High.
Here are the rosters:
Manatee County
BAYSHORE - Blake Karras, OL; Garrett Secor, OL.
BRADEN RIVER - Mick Olitsky, DB; Tevin Bryant, RB; Trevor Barnes, LB; Ty Davious Williams, DL; Joshua Spence, OL; Caleb Park, OL; Mark McKoan, TE; Joe Meador, DB, inj.
BRADENTON CHRISTIAN - David Schopfer, RB/DB; Josh Thomas, LB; Colton Goodwin, TE/DE.
LAKEWOOD RANCH - Octavious Washington, WR; Jared Brinton, DB; Danny Zarrella, DB; Peter Latham, LB; Austin Reiter, OL; Jake Carlton, TE; Steven Birakis, DL; Zack Self, TE, inj.
MANATEE - Ace Sanders, WR; Deonte Huggins, DB; Brion Carnes, QB; Shaunski Lawrence, DB/LB; Brandon Barber, OL; Taylor Shipley, LB; Ryan Brown, OL; Michael Duff, OL; Brandon Persinger, OL/DL.
PALMETTO - Donald Campbell, QB/WR; Brian Ackerman, DB; Ty Scott, DB; Tim Smith, OL; Jeremy Levan, OL; Travontae Rhodes, WR; Brandon Tarpley, K/P; Kerchal Byrd, Jr, LB, inj.
SAINT STEPHEN'S - Cam Allen, CB/RB; James Allen, OL/DL.
SOUTHEAST - Jonathan Dowling, DB; Letray Fagins, DB/RB; Jovon Garvin, DB; Waymon Bowden, RB/LB; Justin Pieterila, DE; Ryan Skipper, OL; Ricky Watkins, DL; Devon Bacon, WR.

SARASOTA COUNTY (are players only)
CARDINAL MOONEY - Mark Smith, OL/DL; Justin Adler, QB/WR/DB; Grayson Weber, OT; Blake Flessner, LB; Dylan Knopfke, WR/DB; Nick Smith, LB.
OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY - A.J. Strong, RB/DB; Jamie Onufrak, TE/DE: Spencer McKee, OL; Andrew McInnis, DB; Jon Grathwohl, DE.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Falcons ready to soar on mat

Saint Stephen's now features wrestling as a Florida High School Athletic Association recognized sport, and the Falcons will debut 4:30 p.m. Monday at Palmetto in a junior-varsity meet.
All of the Falcons' meets will be JV, and they will visit Clearwater Central Catholic on Dec. 12, Sarasota on Dec. 19, Braden River on Jan. 13, Englewood Lemon Bay on Jan. 16 and will compete in the county JV tournament Jan. 27 and 28 at Manatee, as well as the Don Sanford JV tournament Jan. 30 at Port Charlotte.
Saint Stephen's will wrestle varsity in the postseason, however, beginning with the Class 1A-District 11 meet, scheduled for Feb. 6 at Cape Coral Island Coast.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Canes grapplers ready to tackle adversity

Coach Andy Gugliemini and his Manatee Hurricanes have never shied away from challenges.
Well, the 2009-10 season should provide plenty of them.
Manatee was bumped from Class 2A to 3A this season, putting the Hurricanes in the same classification as state powers Kissimmee Osceola and Miami South Dade, along with Brandon, which has won 20 state championships and also made the jump from 2A.
Not only that, but the Hurricanes will have to make due without some key personnel, including three-time state-qualifier Isaac Riley, who Gugliemini said has chosen not to wrestle, and junior Alex Doran, who won a state title as a freshman and was a state runner-up last year.
Doran hurt his knee and probably won't see action until January.
Kyle Ballard, another state qualifier, has moved to Wauchula, and Jacob Gregory, who won a state championship last season, graduated.
"It's just another challenge," , said Gugliemini, whose Canes have won four straught district titles and finished second in the state in Class 2A twice in the last three years. "We still have kids who have worked hard in the wrestling room, and we're not going to sit there and cry about the kids who aren't in that room - we're going to work with the kids who are.
"They want to be Manatee Hurricanes."
One of the guys who wants to be in that room is Doran, who became Manatee's first freshman wrestler to win a state crown in 2008, and nearly repeated last year before losing 3-2 to Brandon's Clark Glass in the finals of the 130-pound class.
"He'll be all right," Gugliemini said. "He'll be ready when January rolls around. He's matured, that's the biggest thing, and yeah, he's a hard worker, and losing by a point in the state finals will only make him want to work harder."
Among the returning Hurricanes are juniors Marshall Stewart and Travis Fulk, senior Stephen Cotton and sophomore Ronnie Whitt, all of whom made state last year.
Stewart enjoyed the biggest breakthrough of all, rallying to finish third in the state at 135 pounds.
And Gugliemini is high on freshman Thor Miller (215 pounds), who won a national championship while wrestling with the Manatee Kids Club.
"He's going to be a monster," Gugliemini said.
As for the rest of his wrestlers, Gugliemini is confident they will be ready at the right time.
"By the time January rolls around," he said, "our kids are gonna to be ready."

Take the bus to Palm Bay Bayside

Chartered buses have been made available to anyone wanting to go to Manatee’s Class 5A-Region 3 championship game Friday night at Palm Bay Bayside.
The cost is $30 and includes a ticket to the game, a soft drink and two sandwiches at the game.
Tickets can be purchased at Manatee High from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily, and the buses will depart the Shake Pit, 3801 Manatee Ave. W, 3 p.m. Friday.
Parking for those taking the bus will be available at the Westgate Publix.
For more information, call 714-7300.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Manatee's foe in new territory

Manatee will be playing for the program's 11th regional championship Friday when the Hurricanes head to Palm Bay Bayside for the Class 5A-Region 3 final.
The hosts will be playing for their first.
The Bears are in the playoffs for the third time and secured their first postseason win Nov. 20 with a 17-13 win over Royal Palm Beach. On Friday, Bayside (8-4) rolled past Melbourne 28-3 to clinch their first appearance in a regional final.
The Bears made the postseason in 2006 but lost 30-0 to Daytona Beach Mainland, and qualified again last season before losing 33-7 to Delray Beach Atlantic.
By contrast, the Hurricanes (11-1) are in the playoffs for the 23rd time and are 43-18 in postseason play following Friday's 21-7 win over St. Petersburg in a regional semifinal.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Regional football matchups

Here are the area matchups for Friday's playoff football games.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.

Class 5A-Region 3 semifinal
St. Petersburg (10-1) at Manatee (10-1)
Class 3A-Region 3 semifinal
Lake Wales (9-1) at Braden River (7-4)
Class 1B-Region 3 final
Fort Myers Evangelical Christian (9-2) at Out-of-Door Academy (9-1)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Manatee's first-round opponent has pulled off solid turnaround

Say this about St. Petersburg Gibbs, which will host Manatee in a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal Friday night:
The Gladiators know when to start winning.
After an 0-3 start during which they were outscored 120-44, the Gladiators reeled off six wins in their final seven games and clinched the District 9 title with a 41-13 win over St. Petersburg 41-13 on Oct. 9.
It was the lone loss of the season for the Green Devils, who head to Venice on Friday in another regional quarterfinal.
Spurring the resurgence has been senior quarterback Josh Rembert, who has thrown for 1,550 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was solid against St. Petersburg, completing 13 of 18 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Gibbs is coached by former pro cornerback Donnie Abraham, who played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996-2001.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hurricanes looking to win Friday

Manatee finds itself in peculiar place this week - the Hurricanes are playing football.
Since Joe Kinnan returned to the sideline in 2005, Manatee had its bye week during Week 10. This year, the Hurricanes were off during Week 4. So Manatee (8-1) will close the regular season 7:30 p.m. Friday in Sarasota when the Hurricanes face Booker.
"We're playing to win," Kinnan said, "and keep the guys in there we need to have in there."
Kinnan views the Tornadoes (3-6) as a good tune-up for Manatee's Class 5A-Region 3 opener at St. Petersburg Gibbs on Nov. 20.
"They always have good athletes. Coach (Fred) Gilmore does a great job," Kinnan said. "They have similar athletes to what were are going to see against Gibbs."
The Hurricanes are hoping click as well offensively as they did against North Port, when they scored 43 points in the first half. Kinnan sat all his starters after halftime.

Falcons hoping to go out on a high

A victory Friday for Saint Stephen's gives the Falcons (4-5) their third straight .500 season.
But first year head coach Stan Brown thinks a victory over host Cardinal Mooney would mean more than just a the record.
"We want to go out on a high note," Brown said, "especially against a Class (2B) school."
The Class 1B Falcons' last game against a school that size didn't go well - they lost 48-7 to Class 2A Boca Raton St. Andrew's on Oct.2.
"I think our kids were kind of shocked," Brown said.
So they are hoping to right the ship against the Cougars (2-7), who have lost seven straight.
"Forget their record. They're a 2B school," Brown said.
Saint Stephen's returns both of their quarterbacks, Adam Vining and Michael Roberts, as well as Sam Mire, who runs the ball and catches passes, as well as other key players Brown will be looking at Friday.
Regardless, the coach is happy with how his team matured since getting shut out by St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut during the Kickoff Classic.
"We've fought hard," Brown said, "and we have shown a lot of progress."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Football playoff pairings

The regional football playoffs begin Friday, Nov. 20. Listed below are the matchups for the area qualifiers.
All games begin at 7:30 p.m.

Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal
Manatee at St. Petersburg Gibbs
Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal
Lakewood Ranch at Cape Coral
Class 3A-Region 3 quarterfinal
Lake Wales at Southeast
Braden River at Winter Haven
Class 1B-Region 3 semifinal
St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut at Out-of-Dor Academy

Alumni basketball game at Palmetto

Palmetto’s 2nd Annual Men’s Basketball Alumni game will be played 6 p.m. tonight at Butch Hughes Gymnasium. Among the participants will be Shelton Bruton, Danna Miller, Travaris Woodie, Deion Mathis and Julius Simmons.
Palmetto’s boys team will scrimmage after the game.
Anyone interested in playing can contact Wilmore Fowler at 723-4848, ext. 2049.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Woodie proud of his Tigers

Palmetto's resurgence has made a happy man of coach Raymond Woodie.
In a hole after an 0-3 start, the Tigers have won four of five and can clinch a third straight playoff berth Friday with a win over visiting Lakewood Ranch.
Not bad for a team that didn't score a touchdown until the third week of the season.
"I’m pretty happy with the improvement of the kids," Woodie said. "When you have young kids going against real tough teams, you always want to see improvement. We try to tell them, 'Let’s improve each week.' And they have."
The Tigers have received a jolt offensively from Marquis Green, whose switch from cornerback to tailback has given Palmetto a bona fide offensive threat. And Donald Campbell, typically a receiver, has adjusted to life under center, especially in the wake of quarterback Rian Kelly's ankle injury.
But the younger players have learned to work with the veterans, putting Palmetto on the cusp of a fine turnaround.
"I’m proud of my kids for working hard," Woodie said. "Like I always say, if you work hard, you’ll be in a good position. We still got a chance, and that’s all we ask for."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hurricanes looking for quick bounce back

Those who think Manatee's football team has little left to play for during its last two games is sorely mistaken.
Coach Joe Kinnan wants his Hurricanes to close the season with wins over North Port and Booker and take some momentum into the Class 5A-Region 3 playoffs, which begins Friday, Nov. 20 when the Canes head to St. Petersburg Gibbs.
"We have to rebound," Kinnan said, "and end the regular season 9-1."
Manatee (7-1) lost to Venice on Friday, costing the team a chance to win its first district title since 2006. The Hurricanes, however, will head to the postseason with the district's second seed.
They visit North Port on Friday for their final District 10 game of the season before traveling to Sarasota next week to face Booker.
Regardless of how they play the next two weeks, the Hurricanes can get a rematch with Venice in a regional semifinal if both teams win their first round games. That game would be played Nov. 20 at Venice.
"It's not often in sports that you get a second chance," Kinnan said."And right now, we possibly could get a second chance."
Kinnan said he hopes to get senior defensive back Travon Montgomery into the next two games in order to get him ready for the playoffs.
Montgomery has appeared in four games for Manatee, totaling six tackles and an interception. He didn't play varsity football last season.
"It's tough (to evaluate) a player when he doesn't play as a junior or a sophomore," Kinnan said.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blakely will play

Good news for the Manatee Hurricanes - Mike Blakely will play Friday against Venice.
"He's been practicing all week," said coach Joe Kinnan. "He's fine."
The talented running back, who also returns kickoffs, was hit in the head during last week's win over Riverview and was taken to the hospital for check-ups. Blakley had rushed for a touchdown and nearly 140 yards before he left the game in the second quarter.
The winner of tonight's game between the Indians and Hurricanes clinches the Class 5A-District 10 title.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hurricanes are all about now

The Manatee Hurricanes play host to Riverview on Friday night, and according to coach Joe Kinnan, that's all the team is thinking about.
"There are major, major implications for this ballgame," Kinnan said. "We couldn't stress it enough this week."
Manatee is 6-0 overall and 1-0 in Class 5A-District 10. The Rams are 4-2 and 0-1. A win puts Manatee in prime position to claim one of the district's two playoff spots, as well as on the doorstep of the program's first district title since 2006.
"It's a must-win game," Kinnan said. "And it's a must-win game for Riverview."
The Rams were shut out last week by Palmetto, which the Hurricanes beat handily during the second week of the season. Nonetheless, Kinnan said that is the furthest thing from his players' minds.
"I din't think they're underestimating Riverview," he said. "They know how big and strong Riverview is."
Nor is anyone looking toward next week's game against Venice, which could wind up being the district's championship game.
"I don't anybody is looking ahead at all," he said. "It's a focused, one-game season."
Kinnan said junior defensive lineman Drakkar Wilson will return to the fold Friday. Wilson, who had missed two games with an injury, has 16 tackles and one sack this season.
"He's going to play some," Kinnan said.

Falcons looking to finish

Saint Stephen's last football game left coach Stan Brown pleased with the result.
That doesn't mean he was entirely happy.
Saint Stephen's won its first Class 1B-District 6 game Oct. 9 at Moore Haven, where the Falcons scored a 23-20 victory.
All of those points, however, came in the first half.
"That drove me nuts," Brown said. "We watched the film, and it wasn't like we couldn't drive the ball. We'd get inside Moore Haven's 20 and 30..."
...and nothing. So Brown is hoping the Falcons (3-3, 1-1) can do a better job Friday when they continue district play at Fort Myers Evangelical Christian.
"The focus of the past two weeks has been to finish," said Brown, whose team had a bye last week. "That's been our motto."
Brown entered the Moore Haven game planning to use Michael Roberts and Adam Vining at quarterback. But Brown decided to stick with Vining, who led the Falcons to points on their first four possessions.
"I left him in there. It wasn't his fault those other drives stalled," Brown said.
Whomever is under center will be without the services of lineman Michael Depree, one of the captains, who has contracted mono. Brown said he was told Depree, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound senior tackle, will miss six weeks.
"But he lost 20 pounds in a week and a half," Brown said. "I don't see him coming back and playing."
That leaves the Falcons with just five linemen.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Manatee No. 2 on BHSN poll

Manatee has firmly entrenched itself in the No. 2 spot on the Bright House Sports Network football poll.
The Hurricanes have been sandwiched between No. 1 Lakeland (6-0) and No. 3 Tampa Plant (5-1), the latter of which Manatee defeated in the Kickoff Classic, for most of the fall.
Manatee is 6-0 overall and 1-0 in Class 5A-District 10, and faces district foe Riverview 7:30 p.m. Friday at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.
Southeast's recent two-game winning streak has caught the eye of the pollsters - the Seminoles are one of three teams on the bubble.
Southeast (3-3, 1-0 Class 3A-District 10) heads to Booker on Friday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Latest win a big boost for Tigers

Palmetto's latest win may have meant nothing in the standings.
But it meant plenty to the guys inside the Tigers' locker room. Palmetto blanked Riverview 10-0 last Friday at Harllee Stadium, giving the Tigers (2-4) an extra shot of momentum heading into Friday's pivotal Class 4A-District 11 game with Port Charlotte.
The Tigers and Pirates are both 0-1 in the four-team district, which means whomever loses Friday's game is wiped out of the playoff hunt.
"Little by little," coach Raymond Woodie said, "it's good to see that it's starting to come together."
Palmetto, which lost 15 starters from last year's team that won a district championship and went to the playoffs for a second straight year, began the season with three straight losses.
Their opponents in those games? Southeast, Manatee and Wauchula Hardee, three teams entering Friday with a combined record of 15-3.
The Tigers have rebounded. They earned their first win of the season Week 4 at Bayshore, played tough against Punta Gorda Charlotte, which was ranked second in the state at the time in Class 4A, and blanked the Class 5A Rams, who averaged 33.8 points in their first five games.
"We have to take one game at a time," Woodie said.
Woodie has commended the work of the offensive and defensive lines for the resurgence, as well as the play of Marquis Green, who began the year at cornerback but is now a full time tailback.
Green ran for 178 yards and a touchdown against the Rams, and has scored five touchdowns in the Tigers' last three games.
"He's really been a spark plug," Woodie said.

Crunch time is here

"From now on, it's the playoffs."
These were Joe Kinnan's words after his Manatee Hurricanes defeated Braden River last Friday. And though the head coach was talking about his own team, he was summing up everyone else's situation, as well.
These next few weeks are crucial for area football teams, especially since every team in Manatee County is in the playoff hunt.
Kinnan's Canes, owners of a 6-0 record, are 1-0 in Class 5A-District 10 and host district rival Riverview this week. Then they host Venice in what could be a district title game on Oct. 30 before wrapping their district slate Nov. 6 at North Port.
Southeast takes a 1-0 mark against Class 3A-District 10 opponent against Booker on Friday. The Seminoles have won two straight, including a 33-6 win over Braden River in each team's district opener two weeks ago.
Bayshore is 1-1 in 3A-10 play and faces Englewood Lemon Bay. The loser in that game will need help - each team already has one district loss.
Lakewood Ranch, which didn't sniff the playoffs during last year's 1-9 campaign, hosts powerful Punta Gorda Charlotte on Friday. The Mustangs are 4-3 and 1-0 in 4A-District 11, sharing first place with the Tarpons, who are 6-1 after losing their first game of the season last week to Venice.
Palmetto has turned its season around, having won two of three after starting the season 0-3. The Tigers (2-4) host Port Charlotte in a 4A-11 game, and since both are 0-1 in district play, it's a must-win for either team. A Palmetto win coupled with a Lakewood Ranch loss means the Nov. 6 meeting between the Tigers and Mustangs will come with a playoff berth on the line.
The Tigers have made the playoffs the past two years. Lakewood Ranch hasn't been there since 2006.
But the biggest game this week will be between two of the smaller schools - Bradenton Christian and Out-of-Door Academy. The fledgling programs have one loss between them - BCS is 7-0, ODA is 4-1 - and are the only two 2-0 teams in Class 1B-District 6. The winner will be in prime position to win a district championship, while the losing team will be looking to win out to get into the playoffs.
The Thunder reached the regional playoffs last year. The Panthers have never been there. Both programs were hatched in 2006.
Saint Stephen's, the other local 1B-6 team, salvaged its postseason hopes by beating Moore Haven two weeks ago. The Falcons (3-3, 1-1) travel to district foe Fort Myers Evangelical Christian.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

FHSAA Board, gender group agree on settlement

The Florida High School Athletic Association and a gender equity group have settled a lawsuit stemming from the association's attempt to pare down its prep sports schedules.
The agreement includes these points:
- The FHSAA will comply with all state and federal policies applicable state athletic associations, including the Florida Educational Equity Act, the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
- The FHSAA is prohibited from retaliating against the plaintiffs, their children or anyone else involved with the lawsuit.
- At the FHSAA's representative assembly in January 2010, the association will provide training about the obligations of Title IX and other laws dealing with gender equity. Similar training will be conducted at the next six FHSAA compliance seminars, beginning July 2010.
- The FHSAA will pay the plaintiffs' legal fees of $41,200.
Florida Parents for Athletic Equity was formed when the FHSAA, in an attempt to lessen the financial burdens of its member schools,voted to trim its schedules - 20 percent for varsity sports, 40 percent for sub-varsity sports - with the exclusion of football and competitive cheerleading.
The measure was carried out in April.
The group felt the cuts were biased against female athletes and violated Title IX, as well as state law, and filed a lawsuit in June, as well as a temporary injunction and restraining order.
In July, the FHSAA's board of directors called an emergency meeting and unanimously voted to rescind the cuts, which were referred to as Policy 6.
"It is unfortunate that the situation occurred while trying to help our member schools with the financial crisis they are facing, which inadvertently created an unintentional disparity to our student-athletes," said FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing. "We will continue to focus on providing excellent academic and athletic opportunities for the girls and boys in the state of Florida."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Blakely fielding offers

Mike Blakely is barely halfway done with his junior season.
But the Manatee playmaker has already received Division I scholarship offers from Clemson, USF and Syracuse, though he plans on taking his time before making a decison.
"I'm just waiting, because I'm still young," he said. "Hopefully, more colleges come after me."
Blakely scored three different ways Friday night - he returned a kickoff 91 yards, scored on a four-yard run and caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Brion Carnes. Manatee defeated Sarasota 35-20 win in its Class 5A-District 10 opener.
While Blakely is keeping his college options open, he said Clemson has been his most impressive suitor thus far.
"Clemson's been showing me a lot of love," he said. "Plus, it's a great atmosphere."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Canes defense a work in progress

Manatee is heading into its first district game Friday at Sarasota, and coach Joe Kinnan hopes the Hurricanes' new-look defense takes more steps in the right direction.
The Canes ditched the 3-4 they ran last year in exchange for a 4-2-5. Four weeks in, and Kinnan is starting to see improvement.
"This is a little different than what we've been doing, with different fronts and coverages," Kinnan said. "It's a learning experience for our kids as well as our coaching staff."
One change the Canes will make will be at defensive end, where freshman Marquis Dawsey will start Friday against the Sailors.
"The goal is to get the best players out there," Kinnan said.
Everything has gone the right way for Manatee, which is 4-0. But Kinnan knows tonight begins a pivotal stretch for the Hurricanes, who face Class 5A-District 10 opponents in four of their last six games.
"They're starting to understand what we’re trying to get across from them," Kinnan said. "Learning from our mistakes, and trying to improve, is the purpose of what we’re trying to do.

Falcons platooing at QB

Saint Stephen's will be using a two-pronged attack under center, Michael Roberts and Adam Vining taking the snaps, beginning Friday when the Falcons head to Moore Haven for a Class 1B-District 6 game.
"We'll see who wants it," said coach Stan Brown.
Vining started at the beginning of the season, helping Saint Stephen's earn wins against St. Petersburg Shorecrest Prep and Naples First Baptist Academy. But Roberts was inserted midway through the Falcons' Week 4 loss against Bradenton Christian, during which Saint Stephen's threw for 224 yards.
Roberts started last week against Boca Raton Saint Andrew's, throwing for 151 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. Roberts has thrown for 331 yards this season.
Vining has thrown for 193 yards and has rushed for 151.
"We've given each one a fair share, passing and running," Brown said, adding it will be a game-time decision to see which one starts against Moore Haven.
What Brown does know is the Falcons need a win Friday to stay in the postseason picture - they are 0-1 in district play.
"I told them, this is it. Our playoffs start Friday," Brown said. "Our playoffs don't start (in) November."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Woodie high on Ackerman

Palmetto defensive back Brian Ackerman played a pivotal role Friday for the Tigers, blocking a punt and returning a fumble 40 yards for a touchdown in a 27-9 win over Bayshore.
It was a solid performance, and one which came as no surprise to coach Raymond Woodie, who watched Ackerman make 21 tackles Week 3 against Wauchula Hardee.
"I expect that from him," he said. "He always has his motor running. In practice, he does a great job. If you practice perfect, things like this will happen in a game for him. And it doesn't surprise me because he works hard."
The Tigers will need Ackerman's motor to be running Friday when they head to Punta Gorda Charlotte for their district opener against Charlotte.
"Hopefully," Woodie said, "that type of energy will feed off the rest of these players. In practice, every heartbeat, you've got to keep it up."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Palmetto hoping for some momentum

There is no better time than now for Palmetto's football team to snap its skid.
The Tigers take an 0-3 record into Friday's game at Bayshore (2-2), and hope to get into the win column before heading to Punta Gorda Charlotte next week for each team's Class 4A-District 11 opener.
"Obviously, the kids need momentum," said coach Raymond Woodie. "We're looking at this week's game as the most important game on our schedule because it's the next game. It's all about execution. We just need to execute."
The Tigers have struggled offensively, mustering one touchdown and 13 points during their first three games. Of course, their first opponents were Southeast, Manatee and Wauchula Hardee - not exactly a collection of cupcakes.
"A lot of these kids are first year guys, and they understand we've been playing some good teams," Woodie said. "And if you make mistakes, good teams are going to capitalize."
Woodie said Donald Campbell and Rian Kelly, both of whom are seniors, will share the quarterbacking duties. The Tigers have thrown for an area-low 77 yards thus far.
"Hopefully, they’ll click before districts. And that’s the most important – each game, finding improvement," Woodie said. "We don’t want to put too much on them. Just try to keep it simple, and try to catch people off balance and not make many mistakes. When you’re a young team, you can’t make many mistakes, especially when you play a good opponent.
"We’ve just got to keep plugging and keep getting better."

Non-district game means plenty to Canes

There's no comparison between district and non-district football games. District games mean everything - win them and you're in the playoffs.
Win your non-league games and, makes for a nice overall record.
Consequently, Manatee coach Joe Kinnan has had his players focused on winning the county championship, which the Hurricanes can take a step toward clinching Friday at Lakewood Ranch.
Manatee is 3-0, having scored wins over Bayshore, Palmetto and Southeast.
"That's something we set our sights on," he said. "It gives us some extra incentive for those five (non-district) game."
Following Friday's game with the 2-2 Mustangs, Manatee heads to Sarasota for its Class 5A-District 10 opener. The Canes missed the playoffs last year for the first time since 2004.
"We had a very good week of practice last week. We made progress, which is good," Kinnan said, referring to Manatee's bye week. "Now, we're ready to start grinding again."
Lakewood Ranch has already doubled last year's win total and has an improved quarterback in Reggie Lindsey, who has thrown for 519 yards and hasn't been intercepted in 67 attempts.
Kinnan saw Lindsey play twice last season - in a junior-varsity game, and in Manatee and Lakewood Ranch's varsity meeting in Week 10.
"I even made a comment, 'He's better than what they have on the varsity level,'" Kinnan said, who was also quick to refer to the Mustangs' Week 2 win over Southeast.
"It got our players' attention," he said. "We're not overconfident or anything like that. But we're ready to play a game."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kinnan pleased with bye week

Initially, Manatee coach Joe Kinnan wasn't enamored about having a bye week this early in the season, especially since Manatee's open week the last few years came during Week 11.
Looking back, however, it worked out well. Manatee's last game, a 30-26 win Sept. 18 over Southeast, was an intense one played in front of over 7,000 fans. It felt more like a November playoff game than a non-district game in September.
Consequently, Kinnan was happy his team had a chance to catch its breath.
"Now, we're ready to go back," said Kinnan, whose Canes, 3-0 and ranked third in the state in Class 5A, head to Lakewood Ranch on Friday. "We're ready to play again.
"We had a very productive open week. We got back to the base stuff, and did a lot of things we wanted to do."
Kinnan wants to see better play out of his offensive line after Southeast sacked quarterback Brion Carnes six times.
"It comes down to technique. As an offensive lineman, there are certain things you have to do," Kinnan said. "We were bending at the waist, we were crossing our feet...We were freelancing, and not playing the way we've been coached."
Manatee had its share of big plays against the Southeast, but had its share of negative-yardage plays.
"We need to cut down on the negative plays," Kinnan said, "and keep the big plays coming."
This is a good time to start doing that - following Friday's non-district game with the Mustangs, the Hurricanes head to Sarasota for their Class 5A-District 10 opener.

FHSAA does away with regional baseball series

The Florida High School Athletic Association voted to discontinue its regional championship baseball series during Monday's meeting in Gainesville.
The association experimented with the series, which used a best two-of-three format to crown a regional champion, the last two springs.
"During the two-year trial, we received feedback from some of the participating schools that the experiment, while good for competition. was not being supported by spectator attendance," said FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing. "The format also created extended travel for schools, which became a budget concern."
Local schools Bradenton Christian, Cardinal Mooney and Out-of-Door Academy appeared in the series.
The regional championship will again be decided in one game.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mustangs show improvement at Tarpon Invite

Lakewood Ranch's swim team finished fifth during Saturday's Tarpon Invitation in Punta Gorda - one year after they placed 11th.
The girls team totaled 228 points, tying for fifth. Danielle Valley took first in the 100-meter breaststroke (1:11.39) and second in the 200 freestyle (1:56.73) and 200 freestyle (1:56.73). She also swam a leg on the 200 medley relay (1:59.53), which placed second, and the 400 freestyle relay (3:51.34), which was third.
Ashley Reid joined Valley on both relay teams and was second in the 200 individual medley (2:11.86).
The boys were eighth with 126 points. They got their best finish from the 200 medley relay team of Ryan Stasiowski, Phil Czupryna, Jimmy Cascone and Matt Polk, which was sixth with a time of 1:52.73.
The Mustangs return to action 4 p.m. Wednesday at Englewood Lemon Bay.

Braden River hosting FHSAA meeting Tuesday

Braden River High School will host one of the Florida High School Athletic Association's urban/rural committee meetings.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and will run until 6:30 p.m.
According to the FHSAA, the urban/rural committee will address issues such as Some of the issues include attendance boundaries, open enrollment, foreign student eligibility requirements and guidelines, and the potential for illegal recruiting of student-athletes.
The committee is made up of athletic directors Elijah Bell (Jay High School) and Bob West (Jacksonville Bishop Kenny), athletic trainer Rick Williams and private citizen James Harris.
The meeting will take place in the auditorium.

Speight earns college football honors

Southeast alum Todd Speight, a junior at Western Illinois, was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference's special teams player of the week for his work in Saturday's game against Stephen F. Austin.
Speight finished with 295 return yards (207 on kickoffs, 88 on punts)and became the first player in program history to return a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the same game.
Speight returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown - the second-longest punt return in school history - and a kickoff 93 yards for a score. The kickoff return was the 10th-longest in team history.
The Fighting Leathernecks lost the game 40-30. They have a bye this week, but return Oct. 3 to face Southern Illinois.
Speight is one of four former Noles on Leathernecks' roster, with others being receiver Charles Chestnut, defensive back Keiron James and lineman Enock Presendieu.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Southeast-Manatee not sullied

Southeast's loss against Lakewood Ranch shouldn't diminish the latest Southeast-Manatee game, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.
Would it be better if both teams were 2-0? Sure. But despite the loss, the Seminoles (1-1) are still ranked 10th in the state in Class 3A.
Manatee, which breezed past Bayshore and Palmetto during the first two weeks of the season, is third in Class 5A.
These teams are good. Both should make the playoffs and make spirited runs at a district championship. And try telling the players this game has lost its zest.
Southeast's Jonathan Dowling, for one, has never beaten Manatee. And Manatee's Ace Sanders wants to end his prep career with three straight wins over the Noles after Southeast beat the Canes in 2006, as does Brion Carnes, who made his varsity debut against Southeast that night.
And this is the last time Sanders, Carnes and Dowling, some of the top prep players in the country, will get their chance to leave a mark on the rivalry, which Southeast leads by a 14-13 margin.
Yes, Southeast-Manatee still means something, regardless of what happened last week. It will ALWAYS mean something.
And it will mean plenty come Friday.

Defense has Kinnan gushing

Counting the Kickoff Classic, Manatee has put up 129 points in three weeks, crafting an attack that's as successful in the air as it is on the ground.
The defense hasn't been too shabby, either.
The Hurricanes have yet to allow a touchdown during their two regular-season games, holding Bayshore and Palmetto to a combined. While neither are offensive juggernauts, Manatee coach Joe Kinnan is hoping the ratio sticks with the Canes throughout the season.
"You don't lose many when you don't let the people get on the scoreboard," Kinnan said, "except on a field goal."
Not even the Manatee defense of 2005 and '06, which carried the Canes to a pair of Class 5A state semifinal games, went consecutive weeks without allowing touchdown.
The Hurricanes (2-0) have allowed less than 300 yards of total offense over the first two weeks of the season. Consequently, they enter Friday's game against Southeast ranked third in the state in Class 5A, behind Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas and Lakeland.

Tarpley gives Tigers a boost

Palmetto's early-season struggles haven't gotten to Brandon Tarpley.
Considered one of the strongest prep kickers in the nation, Tarpley has accounted for all of the Tigers' scoring this season, converting field goals against Southeast and Manatee, and has been a force with his punts.
He averaged 44.7 yards on seven punts Friday at Manatee, saving his best for his last kick, which went 58 yards. Tarpley also hit a 50-yarder earlier in the game.
"He comes to play every day," coach Raymond Woodie said about Tarpley.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hurricanes volleyball a work in progress

Manatee High's volleyball team is ready for a rebuilding season.
But that doesn't mean the Hurricanes don't have their goals.
They want to win another county championship. They want to return to a mid-season tournament at The Academy of Holy Names in Tampa and retain their title.
The main point, however, is to get better.
"We'll take it one day at a time," said coach Jessica Hinkle.
Courtney McDonald, now at Auburn, and Taylor Mealy have graduated. The two were the main cogs of core that carried the Canes to four consecutive Class 5A regional tournaments and three county crowns since 2005.
This season, Hinkle is taking a different approach, one where she is teaching the game to some of the young players on her roster.
Manatee jumped right in, opening with Venice on Tuesday. The Indians rolled to a sweep.
"It's hard to open with Venice," Hinkle said. "But (the Canes) did well."
Paige Pierro, Taylor Jones and Shelby Knox are the seniors, and Hinkle is hoping the three can help carry Manatee to another county title.
Manatee hosts the tournament this year, to be played Friday, Sept. 18 and Saturday, Sept. 19. Friday's action will take place at Bayshore.
"It's a rebuilding year for us, hands down," Hinkle said."I think we have to take a more work-in-progess approach."

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Panthers looking to Lakeland again

When talking about his Bradenton Christian Panthers, Greg Geraldson doesn't mince words.
"We think we can go to the final four again," BCS' head coach said.
The Panthers may have lost Sarah Geraldson, last year's All-Area Player of the Year, from a team that reached the Class 1A state final four for the second time in three years.
But Greg Geraldson, Sarah's dad, believes the Panthers have the ingredients to get back there again.
Maria DeKuiper, a 6-foot junior, is the team's best attacker, Greg said, while sophomores Abi Van Ostenbridge and Zhynna Ratner, and senior Kelly Moss, add to the Panthers' offense.
"We're probably more balanced," Greg said, "attack-wise, than last year."
The Panthers are in a new district this season, so Greg Geraldson acknowledges he doesn't know BCS' district foes as well this year as he has in the past. But he will get a good gauge on his team beginning today, when the Panthers head to St. Petersburg Keswick to play in a three-day tournament featuring 16 teams.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Good start for Ranch swimmers

Lakewood Ranch's girls and boys swim teams began the fall on a fine note, sweeping Port Charlotte during Wednesday's season-opening meet.
The girls knocked off the Pirates 195-91 on the strength of Rebekah Baker, who had a hand in four wins. Baker placed first in the 100-meter butterfly (1:05.35) and the 100 backstroke (1:04.19) and swam a leg on two victorious relays. Regan Sauer won the 200 freestyle (2:09.19) and joined Baker on the 200 freestyle relay.
The boys meet was a bit closer, with the Mustangs winning 123-112. John Silvers won the 200 freestyle (1:56.81) and 500 freestyle (5:03.6), and swam a leg on the winning 200 freestyle relay team.
The Mustangs return to action Saturday, Sept. 19 at the Tarpon Invitational.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Sanders biding his time

Manatee wide receiver Ace Sanders has over half a dozen scholarship offers on the table. But the senior is taking his time before making a decision.
"I haven't narrowed down anything," Sanders said Tuesday night. "I'll probably make my decision before the season is over."
According to, Sanders has received offers from schools such as Miami, Indiana, USF and South Carolina. Florida also contacted Sanders this weekend after Sanders pulled in seven catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns Friday against Tampa Plant.
Sanders said Florida coach Urban Meyer called Sanders, but didn't hasn't offered him a scholarship yet. The Gators want to see the film of Sanders' performance against Plant.
Sanders and the Hurricanes open the regular season Friday when they host Bayshore.
"I'm very excited for the season to start," Sanders said, "especially after Friday's game."

Lights! Camera! Football!

The third edition of the season-opening rivalry between Southeast and Palmetto will play out in front of television cameras Friday night at John Kiker Memorial Stadium.
The game will be game of the week on Bright House Sports Network, hitting the air at 7:30 p.m.
The Seminoles have already gotten some love from the network - they are ranked eighth on the BHSN's preseason poll.
This won't be Southeast's only television appearance - the Noles' trip to Manatee will be the game of the week Sept. 18.
The Hurricanes are ranked fourth in BHSN poll.

Canes on the radio

Manatee football games will once again be broadcast on the radio on AM 1490 WWPR, or online at Coverage begins 7 p.m. on game nights.
Also returning is the Hurricane Hotline, which will run 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Tuesday on WWPR. The show, featuring Manatee coach Joe Kinnan and Hurricanes broadcaster Dave Bristow, broadcasts live each week from Beef O'Brady's on Manatee Avenue West.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Braden River to host meeting

Braden River High School will host one of the Florida High School Athletic Association's urban/rural committee meetings.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 22.
According to the FHSAA, the urban/rural committee will address issues such as Some of the issues include attendance boundaries, open enrollment, foreign student eligibility requirements and guidelines, and the potential for illegal recruiting of student-athletes.
The committee is made up of athletic directors Elijah Bell (Jay High School) and Bob West (Jacksonville Bishop Kenny), athletic trainer Rick Williams and private citizen James Harris.
The meeting, one of four, will take place in the auditorium.

An to be honored at halftime

Byeong-Hun An, a Bradenton Prep senior who became the youngest player to win a U.S. Amateur golf tournament Sunday, will be honored during halftime of Friday's football game at Palma Sola Park.
An, 17, will be in attendance Friday when the Patriots host Florida Christian. Kickoff is schedule for 7:30 p.m.
Walt Williams, Bradenton Prep's athletic director, said An will have his trophy in tow.

Canes' Sandberg to lose time after accident

Chase Sandberg, a sophomore wide receiver/placekicker at Manatee, sustained a broken nose and a broken leg after he was hit by a car prior to Friday's Kickoff Classic against Tampa Plant.
Coach Joe Kinnan said Sandberg will be out "for a while" Monday afternoon. Colby Lengel handled the placekicking duties for the Canes on Friday, converting all seven extra points in Manatee's 49-33 win.
Sandberg's dad, Chuck, is a longtime Manatee assistant who currently coaches the Hurricanes' receivers. Chase had two catches last year in that role.
Speaking of the Hurricanes, Kinnan said he was happy with the play of Clinton Heaven, a sophomore defensive back who was in on 11 tackles and assisted on three Friday night.
What he wants to see, however, is better play out of Manatee's tackles and its kicking and passing games, as well as the Canes' defensive ends and linebackers.
"All the mistakes on defense are correctable. What I am happy about is the kids played hard," Kinnan said. "It was a very physical football game. It was not your typical Kickoff Classic - it was a knockdown, drag-out heavyweight fight. And that's what we wanted."
Manatee opens the regular season Friday against Bayshore.

Gators to get a look at Sanders

Ace Sanders' electrifying performance during Manatee's Kickoff Classic at Tampa Plant has caught the attention of the defending national champions.
Florida has requested the tape of the Canes' 49-33 win over Tampa Plant on Friday, when Sanders grabbed seven catches for 193 yards in three touchdowns. Manatee coach Joe Kinnan said Gators coach Urban Meyer spoke with Sanders, a senior receiver, over the weekend.
"He is an explosive player," Kinnan said of Sanders.
According to, Sanders has received scholarship offers from USF, Miami, Indiana, Iowa, Purdue, South Carolina and Texas Tech.
Sanders has a local connection to the Boilermakers, who are coached by former Manatee assistant Danny Hope. Receiver Eric Williams, who graduated from Manatee over the summer, signed with Purdue in February.

New-look Axon graces EMU's Web site

Recognize that guy on Eastern Michigan's athletics Web site? It's Manatee alum Ben Axon, sporting a new haircut and the colors of his new school.
Axon headed to Eastern Michigan after he was not admitted to South Carolina over the summer. Arrested on a marijuana charge in May, Axon completed 50 hours of community service and has passed random drug tests, according to the release on the Eagles' Web site. The site said Axon is on probation until probation until Oct. 18, and the charge will be dropped if the terms of the probation are met.
Axon's application to EMU was reviewed by the school's Admission Review Committee, which also thoroughly examined his high school transcripts and received letters of recommendation from Manatee High officials and coaches.
"I understand the mistake I made and how it has and could have affected my life," Axon said in his admission statement to the school, "and my ability to reach my goals."
Axon will sit out this season. The Eagles open their season 7 p.m. Saturday at home against Army.
"He is a 19-year-old who made a very bad decision," EMU's head coach, Ron English, said in the release. "Since he is a first-time offender with no prior issues with drugs, we believe he deserves a second chance. It will not be easy. He has to fulfill his obligations to the court and, in addition, we are mandating that he sit out one year and maintain a clean record and good academic performance in order to play in 2010."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Axon to play at EMU

Axon headed to Eastern Michigan

Ben Axon's college football career will resume in Ypsilanti, Mich., home of the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
Manatee assistant coach Chris Conboy said Axon, a former running back with the Hurricanes, is headed to the school, which plays in the Mid-American Conference.
"It was the only fit for him, and Ben realizes that," Conboy said. "But he liked the coach who recruited him."
After signing with South Carolina, Axon was arrested in May on a marijuana charge. Earlier this month, Gamecocks head coach Steve Spurrier said Axon had not been admitted to the school.
EMU was 3-9 overall and 2-6 in the conference last year, finishing last in the MAC's West Division.
"They've put some money in it to try and improve their status," Conboy said, adding the Eagles' non-conference schedule includes Army, Arkansas and Northwestern. "It's a better conference than people realize.
"It's a great conference. A lot of guys in the NFL played in that conference, and you can get a lot of exposure there."

Lots of locals playing SCF volleyball

Seven Manatee County alums will suit up for the State College of Florida - formerly Manatee Community College - volleyball team, with five county high schools represented.
Six of the players are freshmen.
Manatee has two players on SCF's roster - Sara Sharpin (defensive specialist) and Brittany Wilson (outside hitter), as does Braden River - Sarah Tickner (outside hitter) and Lauren Earl (defensive specialist), who is a sophomore.
Bayshore has Whitney McElhiney (setter), Palmetto will be represented by Jamie Goff (outside/middle blocker) and Lakewood Ranch sends Amanda Persails (defensive specialist) into the junior-college ranks.
State College of Florida scrimmages at Clearwater tonight and opens the regular season 7 p.m. Thursday against visiting St. Petersburg College.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hurricanes hop up a spot

Manatee's football team has moved up a spot in RivalsHigh 100 prep football rankings.
The Hurricanes are 65th on the list, which was unveiled Tuesday. Manatee was ranked 66th on the first list, published Aug.10.
The Hurricanes head to Tampa Plant, last year's Class 4A state champion, 7 p.m. Friday for a Kickoff Classic. They open the regular season Sept. 4 against Bayshore.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Canes to host county tournament

This year's Manatee County volleyball tournament will be hosted by the defending champions.
Manatee will house the tournament, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18 and Saturday, Sept. 19.
The tournament was originally considered a tri-county tournament when it appeared the Florida High School Athletic Association was going to trim the volleyball schedules. But when the volleyball teams were allowed to play 25 games, all the county schools were back on board.
The Hurricanes won the county championship last season, defeating rival Southeast in the finals.

For Palmetto, it's Riverview times two

Palmetto's football team is getting a double dose of Riverview this fall.
First, the Tigers head to the Ram Bowl 7:30 p.m. next Friday for a kickoff classic. The two teams meet again when Riverview heads to Harllee Stadium for a non-district regular-season game Oct. 16.
Palmetto coach Raymond Woodie said it's a matter of geography - heading to Sarasota for an exhibition game was more practical than heading to Orlando Edgewater, which was also looking for an opponent.
And Woodie said he and Rams coach John Sprague have a good relationship, and Woodie credits Sprague for helping "show me the ropes" when Woodie was a young head coach at Bayshore.
"We've talked about treating the kickoff classic like a kickoff classic," Woodie said. "Of course, you want to have a good performance. But you really want to use it as a final evaluation piece."
The Tigers open the regular season Sept. 4 at Southeast.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hurricanes hit top 100

Manatee is one of the best prep football teams in the nation.
This according to the RivalsHigh 100, which listed the Hurricanes 66th in its rankings Monday.
The Hurricanes return plenty of experience this season, including quarterback Brion Carnes and receiver Ace Sanders. Both have been starters since they were freshman.
Carnes has committed to USF, while a number of Division I schools are interested in Sanders.
Manatee went 7-3 last season but missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which beat the Hurricanes in the 2005 and '06 Class 5A semifinals, is ranked No. 1 in the nation by RivalsHigh.
Other Florida schools making the list were Miami Northwestern (No. 11), Pahokee (No. 21), Miami Central (No. 24), Lakeland (No. 27), Miami Booker T. Washington (No. 36), Dwyer West Palm Beach (No. 43), Seffner Armwood (No. 56), Niceville (No. 69) and Delray Beach Atlantic (No. 96).

Axon denied admission to USC

Former Manatee running back has been denied admission to the University of South Carolina, according to a story in The State.
The story cited sources who claimed Axon's grades - thoughhe was an NCAA academic qualifer - as well as a May arrest on a marijuana charge were the reason he wasn't allowed in.
“He just wasn’t admitted. And as coaches, we understand why he wasn’t admitted,” Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier told the paper. “There’s a lot of players all over the country that are NCAA qualifiers, that universities don’t admit. So we understand that. I don’t want to go into all the reasons, but that happens sometimes.”
Axon, The Herald's Player of the Year in 2007, committed to Clemson last summer before changing his mind and signing with the Gamecocks. Florida, Florida State and West Virginia were among the other Division I schools interested in Axon during his career.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of schools looking at him because he’s a special player,” USC running backs coach Jay Graham told The State. “I hope things work out for him.”

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

ESPNU ranks Dowling 7th

Jonathan Dowling has caught the eye of the worldwide leader in sports.
Set to enter his senior year at Southeast, the defensive back was ranked 7th on ESPNU's top 150 recruits in the nation, and tops among safeties, for the class of 2010.
"Exceptional pass defender that has super instincts and outstanding ball skills," reads Dowling's evaluation on "Rarely out of position as a free safety and isn't out flanked by receivers."
Dowling had a program-best 14 interceptions last season for Southeast before verbally committing to Florida in the spring.
Jeff Luc, an inside linebacker from Treasure Coast, was the only player from Florida ranked higher than Dowling.
Jackson Jeffcoat, a defensive end from West Plano High in Texas, was ranked first.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Plenty of locals on baseball all-state squads

A pair of area baseball players have earned high praise from Florida sports writers.

Cardinal Mooney's Jon Zalud (Class 3A) and Out-of-Door Academy's A.J. Strong (1A) were named to their classification's first team all-state squads, which were released Tuesday.

Zalud, a senior, is a catcher and Strong, a junior, is an outfielder. Both players helped their teams reach the regional championship series in the spring.

Cardinal Mooney senior Nick Conforti made the second team as an outfielder, and classmate Tommy Goodman was named to the third team as an infielder. Pitchers Devin Carr (sophomore) and Michael Heller (senior) earned honorable mention.

The Thunder's Sean Fleeman (infielder), a junior, and Tony Gurry (utility) made the second team, while Taylor Emmons (utility) made the third team. Guiry and Emmons are seniors.

Saint Stephen's Conor McCarthy, a senior outfielder, was a second-team pick in Class 2A.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Southeast to be featured twice on game of the week

Bright House Sports Network will make two trips to Manatee County this fall for its football game of the week. Both games will include Southeast.
The Seminoles' regular-season opener against visiting Palmetto, scheduled for Sept. 4, and their Sept. 18th game with arch rival Manatee will be featured live on the network at 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Perez has shaky debut

Holmes Beach resident Chris Perez had a rough first outing with the Cleveland Indians.
Perez was touched for four runs and two hits in 2/3 of an inning during a 6-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Monday. Perez also hit a pair of batters and walked one.
An IMG graduate, Perez was acquired by the Indians on Saturday in a trade that sent Mark DeRosa to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals selected Perez with the 42nd pick of the 2006 draft. He went 3-3 with seven saves last season with St. Louis, and was 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA in 29 games this season before the trade.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Panthers place fourth

Bradenton Christian finished fourth out of the Florida High School Athletic Association's Class 1A private schools in the final 2008-09 Dodge Sunshine Cup All-Sports Awards point standings. The Panthers had 231 points.
Points are awarded based on where schools finished in each of the FHSAA's recognized sports. The Panthers' boys basketball and volleyball teams reached the Class 1A final four, and the girls basketball and softball teams reached the regional tournament.
Robby Bennett was a state champion in the 110-meter hurdles at the Class 1A track and field finals.
According to athletic director Drew Mitchell, BCS hasn't finished this high in the Dodge Cup standings since winning the award the 1998.
Boynton Beach Lake Worth Christian was first out of Class 1A private schools with 307 points.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hearing set for FPAE

A day after the Florida High School Athletic Association scheduled an emergency board meeting, a gender equity group was given its day to be heard.
---- Florida Parents for Athletic Equity, which is seeking a temporary injunction that would prevent the association from enacting its decision to pare down the prep sports schedules, had its hearing scheduled for July 17 by a federal court in Jacksonville, according to the St. Petersburg Times.
---- The group alleges that the FHSAA’s board of directors violated Title IX and were biased against female student-athletes when they decided in April to reduce varsity schedules by 20 percent and subvarsity schedules by 40 percent and excluded football.
---- Cheerleading schedules also went untouched, but since more than 36,000 boys in the state play football and just 4,000 girls, the group felt that decision lacked equity.
---- Last week, the six parents of female-student athletes filed a lawsuit against the FHSAA, and lawyers representing the plaintiffs filed the injunction as well as a temporary restraining order Friday.

Monday, June 22, 2009

FHSAA schedules board meeting

The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors have scheduled an emergency meeting.
---- Greg Zornes, the board’s president, called for the meeting, which will take place 1 p.m. Wednesday, July 15. The meeting’s agenda centers around reconsidering the reduction of prep sports schedules, a measure the board approved during a April meeting.
---- A gender equity group called Florida Parents for Athletic Equity filed a lawsuit last week against the FHSAA, alleging the cuts, which called for a 20 percent reduction of varsity sports and 40 percent of subvarsity sports for all sports excluding football and cheerleading, violated Title IX and were based against female student-athletes.
---- Monday, the group filed for a temporary injunction against the FHSAA. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a representative for the group, said a conference call has been scheduled for Tuesday to set a date for the injunction.
---- “Although the overriding reason for the reduction was to ease the financial burdens on the schools in Florida,” FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing said in a statement, “it would not help to turn around and have them pay money in legal feels for actions in litigation.”

Kitchie leaving St. Stephen's

Matt Kitchie is leaving Saint Stephen’s.
The only head coach in the Falcons’ three-year history, Kitchie has been hired as the head coach at Land O’Lakes.
“I didn’t really have any intention of leaving Saint Stephen’s,” said Kitchie, who also coached and played at Southeast. “But I got an offer I couldn’t pass up.”
The Falcons went 11-14 under Kitchie. After spending three years as an independent, the Falcons will compete in Class 1B-District 6 in the fall.
Land O’Lakes went 8-2 last season en route to winning the Class 4A-District 8 title.
Kitchie replaces John Benedetto, who coached the program for 32 years.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Equity group gaining steam on Facebook

Florida Parents for Athletic Equity, which was formed in response to the Florida High School Athletic Association's reducing its prep sports schedules, is drawing some interest to its Facebook pages.
A combined 99 Facebook members have signed on as fans to the FPAE, created after the FHSAA's board of directors voted to cut varsity schedules by 20 percent and subvarsity schedules by 40 percent in April. Football and cheerleading were excluded.
On Tuesday, six parents of female student-athletes attending FHSAA member schools filed a lawsuit against the FHSAA, alleging the cuts violated Title IX and discriminated against female student-athletes.
Since the suit was filed, one of the group's Facebook pages acquired 36 new members.
Visitors to the site can read the first letter FPAE sent to the FHSAA on June 3, as well as an email exchange between group representative Nancy Hogshead-Makar and FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing.
Also included is a link to the full 34-page complaint filed Tuesday in Jacksonville.
The pages can be found at or

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lawsuit filed today against FHSAA


A lawsuit filed by a gender equity group Tuesday in Jacksonville alleges the Florida High School Athletic Association violated Title IX and discriminated against female student-athletes when it decided to trim the high school sports schedules.
---- Florida Parents for Athletic Equity alleges the cuts, which were approved in April by the association’s board of directors and reduced varsity sports by 20 percent and subvarsity sports by 40 percent, were biased because they excluded football and cheerleading.
---- The exclusion of cheerleading doesn’t equal the playing field, the group contests, because according to the complaint, over 36,000 boys played football in 2007-08 while 4,310 girls and 210 boys were involved in varsity cheerleading.
---- And the group doesn’t view cheerleading as a sport because it doesn’t feature district and regional tournaments, and teams need just four sideline performances to compete for a state championship.
---- The FPAE wants to see the cuts rescinded or made more equitable, and cheerleading to be conducted in the same manner as other FHSAA sports. Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a Jacksonville attorney and representative for the group, said if an injunction was granted and the reductions were frozen, schools would be given enough time to adjust their schedules.
---- Waiting to file the suit wouldn’t give schools enough time to alter their schedules.
---- “You know that old saying — justice delayed is justice denied,” Hogshead-Makar said. “We said if (the board of directors) would have scheduled an emergency meeting on June 26th, we wouldn’t sue. But if they call a meeting on July 16th, then we’re out on our heels and flat on our feet.”

Monday, June 15, 2009

FHSAA taken to court
Deciding to reduce the high school sports schedules has the Florida High School Athletic Association facing litigation.
On Monday, Nancy Hogshead-Makar, an attorney and a representative of the Florida Parents for Athletic Equity, said a lawsuit was to be filed this morning in Jacksonviile.
Hogshead-Makar, a professor of law at Florida Coastal School of Law and a three-time Olympic gold medalist in swimming, said the suit will allege that the association, in making scheduling cuts for every varsity and sub-varsity sport with the exception of football and cheerleading, violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendement of the United States Constitution, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Florida Educational Equity Act.
The suit will be made on behalf of about half a dozen student-athletes whom Hogshead-Makar declined to name.

Read the rest of the story Tuesday morning at

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Reduced schedules to get a second look

Perhaps reducing the state’s prep sports schedules will save athletic departments money.
Perhaps it won’t.
Jeff Malloy doesn’t know for sure.
Consequently, Malloy, athletic director at Gainesville Oak Hall who also sits on the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors, wants to take another look at it. And he would like his fellow board members to follow suit during Friday morning’s meeting in Orlando.
In an attempt to cut costs, the board voted to reduce varsity sports schedules by 20 percent and sub-varsity schedules by 40 percent. Football was excluded.
Malloy voted against the measure, which in April passed by a count of 9-6.
“I don’t feel we had the information necessary to pass the game reductions — for both sides,” Malloy said Wednesday afternoon. “Maybe this is a viable change — I don’t know. I think we need more information.”
Malloy has proposed the board suspend the reductions for 2009-10 to allow members to gather more information from the FHSAA’s member schools. Malloy wants to find out how sports departments are funded, and if slashing the number of games, and therefore slashing the amount of money programs can generate from ticket sales and concessions, would do more harm than good.
“The outcry has been totally negative,” Malloy said, adding superintendents are the few who have voiced support for the reductions. “I feel we need more information, but more importantly, I don’t think we listened to our members."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Some spring observations

Spring football is over.
Did we learn anything? Some stuff, such as:
1. Manatee will score points. Quarterback Brion Carnes has already committed to USF, while receiver Ace Sanders and feature back Mike Blakely are being wooed by myriad Division I schools. Coach Joe Kinnan also expects wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, who caught a pair of touchdowns during the Hurricanes' spring win over Largo, to head to a top-tier program. That's four Division I prospects on offense. The defense and offensive line need work, but the Hurricanes should be an offensive juggernaut. Again.
2. Donald Campbell can play quarterback. Coach Raymond Woodie would love to keep Campbell at wide receiver, where Campbell has played since his freshman year. And the coach isn't closing the book on either Rian Kelly or Melvin Burston, neither of whom have varsity experience, filling the void left under center when Ethan Gilbert graduated. But Campbell was dazzling during the Tigers' spring game at St. Petersburg Northeast. His arm is solid, and he is extremely mobile and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He isn't reckless - but he isn't afraid to take a chance or two, either. Don't be surprised to see Soup taking some snaps once Palmetto begins its district play.
3. Braden River is resilient. The players and coaching staff have been going through the emotional ringer since the March car accident that took the life of assistant coach Doug Garrity. Head coach Josh Hunter, who has driving that night, resigned his post a day before spring practice. But offensive coordinator/interim head coach Ed Volz and his staff, along with players, persevered, and capped the spring with an impressive win at Riverview.
4. Bayshore will be better. The Bruins looked solid during their win over Sarasota. Of course, it was a spring game, and each team played all freshmen during the first quarter. But Bayshore looked more like a team than it had in the past, and may have a bona fide running back in Alex Jackson, who scored three touchdowns while finding space behind a massive offensive line. Bayshore has a tough schedule - Booker, Braden River and Southeast compete in its district, and the Bruins' non-district foes include Palmetto, Manatee and Arcadia DeSoto, so it may be too early so start camping out for playoff tickets. But if their spring game is any indication, the Bruins appear to be heading in the right direction.

Hurricanes excited to head to Plant

Joe Kinnan's scheduling of Tampa Plant for Manatee's kickoff classic is twofold.
One, Kinnan wanted to give his Hurricanes some good competition. Plant, which won the Class 4A state title last season, should provide plenty.
Second, the coach wants his team to experience a game in Plant's Dad's Stadium.
"That's a neat stadium," Kinnan said. "It's got a grandstand, it's got a roof on it, the track goes behind the stadium...
"I played there when I was in high school," he added. "It hasn't changed a whole lot."
After meeting in the preseason, the Canes and Panthers could meet in the postseason -Plant was bumped to Class 5A for the 2009-10 season.
To learn more about the Panthers, head to, the team's Web site featuring video highlights and stats from last year's state championship run, as well as a schedule for the 2009 season.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Who's the best team in Manatee County? We shall see.

All six Manatee County football teams will face each other this fall for the first time since Braden River, the county's newest program, began playing a full varsity schedule in 2007.
Now we'll truly get to see who's better. No more jabbering on about who had the tougher schedule or the tougher district. All six teams, at some point in the season, will settle their difference on the football field.
Economics is the cause for all this - what better way to save some cash than schedule a bunch of nearby opponents? And just think of how much money these games will generate at the gate. Financially, this is a no-brainer.
Nonetheless, it should be a whole lot of fun. Manatee and Palmetto, for example, haven't met in the regular season since Sept. 24, 2004. That will change when the Hurricanes roll into Harllee Stadium on Sept. 11.
Manatee will also play Braden River for the first time Oct. 16 at Joe Kinnan Field at Hawkins Stadium.
Some of these all-county affairs will have district implications, such as Braden River's games with Southeast and Bayshore, and Palmetto's game against Lakewood Ranch. Let's face it - those are the games the coaches really want. Beating your backyard rival is nice, but it's not nearly as nice as a long and fruitful playoff run.
And the district games will be fun, too.
But for the first time, all six Manatee schools will meet om the football field. It will be interesting to see who will be left standing.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Magley heading to Tulsa

Bradenton Christian alum D.J. Magley is taking his college game to the University of Tulsa, according to a story on
A center, Magley is transferring to the Golden Hurricane program from Western Kentucky and will sit out the 2009-10 season, the story said.
During his freshman season at Western Kentucky, the 6-foot-9 Magley made 33 starts and averaged 4.8 points and 3.3 rebounds a game in helping the Hilltoppers reach the Sweet 16.
But Magley's role diminished under new coach Ken McDonald - the former Panther started just once and averaged 10.9 minutes in 34 games. The Hilltoppers lost to Gonzaga in the second round of this year's NCAA tournament.
Magley was one of three players to leave WKU in April.
"He played for a great man his first year who treated the kids with respect, and they went to the Sweet 16," D.J.'s father, David, told The Bradenton Herald in April. "They went to the round of 32 this year because they had to use big men. He came up big in big games. You don't begrudge a coach for winning, but he needs more touches. It wasn't a good fit for him."
Tulsa went 25-11 last season, reaching the second round of the NIT, and 12-4 in Conference USA, falling to Memphis in the championship game.
Magley left BCS as the program's all-time leader in scoring, rebounds, assists and blocks. He helped the Panthers to a pair of district titles, four regional championship games and two Class 1A final fours.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Picking of An All-Area Team

The publication of the All-Area teams always brings on the inevitable question:
How is the team picked?
Well, one of the reasons I wanted a blog was to explain something like this. Blogs aren't constricted by time or space. There is no deadline. And there are no rules. So let me unveil what goes on when picking an All-Area team.
Keep in mind - this is how I pick an All-Area team. I am not speaking for other writers. There are no hard and fast rules for throwing these teams together, so what works for me may not work for others, and vice versa. But this is how I do it.
I get stats from the coaches. Then I step back, pick a player of the year and a team.
There ya go. That's how we do it. No equations or formulas. No votes. We keep the coaches' input in mind, but ultiamtely, the decision rests with the writer picking the team.
When picking the player of the year, stats play a pivotal role. But it's not everyting. I often take a team's schedule into account, as well as how the player did against area teams. And if the player just so happens to be on the team that went the furthest, I ask myself if the team would have gone that far without that player.
Keep in mind - the player of the year doesn't always come from the best team. There was a girls basketball team that won a state championship while I was working for a paper in Pennsylvania, and we picked a player for another team. The state championship team, as good as it was, didn't have a standout player. So like I said, this is a formula-free process.
The hardest part of picking a team in this area, however, is we have nearly a dozen teams spread out over five classifications. Do we punish the kids who play for small schools? No. But at the same time, should we measure a player who faces Class 5A or 6A competition against someone who sees Class 1A and 2A teams?
So yes, stats from a Class 5A player are weighed against those from 1A and 2A schools. Face it - the competition at the higher level is tougher. That's not to say there isn't any talent at the lower levels. If there wasn't, there wouldn't be any Class 1A or 2A players on our teams, or wouldn't earn Player of the Year status, which as has happened quite frequently.
So that's how it's done. That's how the team is picked. We do our best to be fair, all the while knowing everybody won't be pleased. But keep this in mind - there are no biases. We don't play favorites. We put the most deserving players on the team, and go from there.
Will everybody agree?
But let's be honest. That's part of the fun.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Spring football pairings

Let the games begin.

Here are the area matchups for the annual spring football games:

Thursday, May 21
Southeast at Cardinal Mooney, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 22
Sarasota at Bayshore, 7 p.m.; Bradenton Christian at St. Petersburg, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 23
Bradenton Prep at Ocala jamboree.

Thursday, May 28
Braden River at Riverview, 7:30 p.m.; Palmetto at St. Petersburg Northeast, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 29
Largo at Manatee, 7 p.m.; Cape Coral Island Coast at Lakewood Ranch, 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 30
Saint Stephen’s vs. Lakeland Victory Christian at Bryant Stadium, 7:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kinnan challenging Canes

When it came time to schedule a game for the spring and another for the Kickoff Classic, Manatee coach Joe Kinnan went looking for quality opponents.
He sure found them.
Manatee hosts Largo this month and heads to Tampa Plant for the Kickoff Classic in August.
Largo has made consecutive trips to the Class 5A final four. And Tampa Plant, now competing in Class 5A, won the Class 4A state title last year.
Manatee's quarterback, Brion Carnes, is set to enter his fourth season as a varsity starter. And the Canes return three offensive linemen from last year's squad, which went 7-3 but missed the playoffs for the first time since 2004.
"We thought we'd throw a challenge at them right away," Kinnan said.
Largo went 12-2 last year and recorded four shutouts en route to winning its second regional championship.
Plant, which was ranked among the top 50 football teams in the country, was 14-1 but got a scare from Southeast in the Class 4A-Region 3 semifinals, which Plant won 13-7.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Big turnout at Palmetto

Making consecutive playoff appearances, winning a district title and a playoff game, as well as sending three players to top-tier Division I schools, pays dividends.
Just ask Palmetto football coach Raymond Woodie, who had 100 kids report to practice this spring.
"It's no special formula - it's just the process of doing it the right way," Woodie said. "These kids are excited."
Palmetto has made the playoffs the last two years and clinched the program's first district title in nearly a decade last fall. The Tigers won 17 games combined in 2007-08, and have sent Joe Hills (South Carolina), Damian Copeland (Louisville) and Kedric Johnson (Florida) to Division I schools since '06.
And Division I scouts are coming back to Palmetto this year to get a look at guys such as Donald Campbell, Ty Scott and Brandon Tarpley. A scout from North Carolina was in attendance Tuesday.
"You have to have structure, and that's in anything you do," Woodie said. "Structure includes modeling the behavior and discipline, and that's what I told these coaches you have to do."
Palmetto, which heads to St. Petersburg Northeast on May 28 for its spring game, will move up to Class 4A-District 11 after competing in 3A.
Joining the Tigers in their district will be Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda Charlotte and Lakewood Ranch.

Regional baseball pairings

Cardinal Mooney and Out-of-Door Academy have advanced to baseball's regional championship series.
Both series begin Friday.
Listed below are the matchups:
Class 3A-Region 3
Fort Pierce John Carroll vs. Cardinal Mooney at Twin Lakes Park, 4 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled to begin 60 minutes after the completion of Game 1.
Game 3 - 1 p.m. Saturday (if necessary).
Class 1A-Region 3
Tampa Cambridge at Out-of-Door Academy, 1 p.m. Game 2 is scheduled to begin 60 minutes after the completion of Game 1.
Game 3 - 1 p.m. Saturday (if necessary).

Friday, May 8, 2009

Tigers take second

Palmetto's girls 400 relay team of Alexis Love, Kymbrell Smith, Trijala Kelly, and Brandy Gordon took second at the Class 3A state track and field championships in Winter Park today. They had a time of 47.82.
Pine Forest won with a time of 46.96.
It was the second medal of the day for Love, who was seventh in the 100. She is also competing in the 200.

Two more county medals

Lakewood Ranch's James Fulmer capped his prep track career in fine fashion Friday the Class 3A state track and field championships at Showalter Field in Winter Park.
The senior placed fourth in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.57.
Palmetto's Alexis Love earned a medal - awarded to the top eight in each event - by placing seventh in the 100 dash (12.22).
Love, a senior who is on her way to Murray State on a track scholarship, has two races left. She qualified in the 200 and is the anchor on Palmetto's 400 relay team.

Sanders medals at 3A meet

Manatee High junior Ace Sanders placed eighth in the long jump during today's Class 3A state track and field championships at Showalter Field in Winter Park.
Sanders' jump of 21 feet, 4 inches, earned him a medal, awarded to the top eight finishers in each event.
Sanders' teammate, Brion Carnes, was 15th in the discus with a throw of 117 feet.
On the girls side, Lakewood Ranch's Shanavia Jones was 12th in the high jump (five feet), and the the Mustangs' 3,200-meter relay team of Kelsey Gramaldi, Tracy Spronatti, Devon McDermott and Megan Reuss was 12th (10:00.51).

The preliminaries just wrapped here in Showalter Field with the finals scheduled for 7 p.m.

Stay tuned to Prep Rally for up-to-the minute results.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Area alums make good

Four area baseball players now at Manatee Community College were named to the Suncoast Conference's all-conference baseball team.
Lakewood Ranch's Gus Schlosser was named the conference's pitcher of the year and player of the year, and fellow former Mustang Jonathan Griffin made the first team as an infielder.
Cardinal Mooney graduate and Bradenton resident Hunter Ovens (outfield) and Manatee alum Derek Luciano (infield) earned second-team honors.
The Lancers open the JUCO state baseball tournament 7 p.m. Friday at Chain of Lakes Park against Chipola.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Swine flu forces FHSAA to schedule make-up meet

Athletes not permitted to compete in this weekend’s Class 3A and 4A state track and field championships because of fear of swine flu will be allowed to participate later.
The Florida High School Athletic Association announced Monday a make-up meet has been scheduled for Saturday, May 16 at Showalter Field in Winter Park. The news comes after the Hillsborough County School district closed Tampa Freedom High, as well as two middle schools, because students in those schools are included in the county’s five suspected cases of swine flu. None of those cases have been confirmed, according to The Associated Press.
Athletes competing in the make-up meet will be going against times and distances set during this weekend’s meets. The Class 3A is scheduled for Friday and the Class 4A champions are slated for Saturday.
They will take place at Showalter Field, as well.
Schools that are closed are not permitted to take part in FHSAA state series events, said Cristina Alvarez, the association’s director of media relations and marketing. That goes from track and field, as well as softball and baseball, which are also in the midst of their state tournaments.

Jensen's peronifies the best of Manatee County's prep atheletes.

I had a chance to speak with Austin Jensen on Monday during Manatee's spring football practice. Set to enter his junior season at Florida Atlantic, Jensen returned to his old stomping grounds to sneak a peak at the Hurricanes, who are two practices into the spring football season.
Jensen, who is wearing a cast after injuring his wrist during FAU's spring game, was always one of my favorite prep athletes, and not just because he was a dynamo between the hashmarks. He's a good a kid who is evolving into a good person, and our chat today only reaffirmed that fact.
Jensen would love to play his way into the NFL. And who wouldn't? But first, he wants to get his education, which is his top priority.
A kid putting education in front of athletics? It was nice to hear. And in my dealings with Jensen, he always came across as very sincere. He wouldn't say if it he didn't mean it.
Jensen is a good ambassador for Manatee County sports, and he's far from the only one. I have had the pleasure of talking to many great kids in my three-plus years covering high school sports down here, whether they were football players, sprinters or softball players.
They are enough to make a cynical guy like me feel a tad optimistic about the future. Hopefully, the up-and-comers follow their lead.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bennett a permament part of county tradition

Robby Bennett is a state champion.
A senior at Bradenton Christian, Bennett won the 110-meter hurdles during Friday's Class 1A state track and field championships at Showalter Field in Winter Park.
Manatee County, as well as BCS, has crowned its share of state champions in a plethora of sports. Bennett's case, however, is special.
He missed out on a state berth last year when he tripped while competing at the Region 3 meet. Bennett was third at the time. Top four in each event qualify for state.
So consider 2009 his redemption. And now, when you walk into Bradenton Christian's cozy gymnasium, you'll see Bennett's name on the wall, tacked alongside state champions of the past, as well as the future.
It's a testament to Bennett's fortitude, as well as the depth of athletic talent coursing through Manatee County. Yes, football here is king, and when you think tradition, you think about Manatee's four state football titles, Southeast's two state football titles and Palmetto's state football title in 1975 that went ahead and started it all.
But consider this - spring isn't over, and we've crowned a state track champion and a state weightlifting champion (Braden River's Tevin Bryant.) Let's not forget Friday's Class 3A meet featuring Palmetto's Alexis Love, fresh off winning three events at Thursday's Region 3 meet in Punta Gorda.
Love wants to be a state champion before taking her speed to Murray State University on a track scholarship.
Bennett is a state champion.
He wasn't Manatee County's first.
And he sure won't be its last.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Regional baseball pairings

Manatee High's softball team bowed out of the regional semifinals Friday, leaving baseball as the lone team sport remaining in the 2008-09 prep season.
Braden River, Out-of-Door Academy and Saint Stephen's won district championships and will open regional play Tuesday. That same day, runners-up Cardinal Mooney, Manatee HEAT and Manatee will hit the road.
Here are the regional pairings.
Class 5A-Region 3 - Manatee at Seminole Osceola, 7 p.m.
Class 4A-Region 3 - Lake Wales at Braden River, 7 p.m.
Class 3A-Region 3 - Cardinal Mooney at Tampa Catholic, 4 p.m.
Class 2A-Region 3 - Naples St. John Neumann at Saint Stephen's, 4 p.m.
Class 1A-Region 3 - Oldsmar Christian at Out-of-Door Academy, 4 p.m.; Manatee HEAT at St. Petersburg Canterbury, 5 p.m.

Winners advance to Friday's regional semifinal. The other teams head home for good.

Falcons soar

Coaches and programs never priortitize championships, because each one is its own accomplishment, and each championship team had to overcome its own share of obstacles and challenges.
Chances are, however, Rob Viera and the rest of Saint Stephen's baseball coaches won't forget the 2009 title any time soon. Viera steered the Falcons to the Class 2A-District 12 title Thursday when they defeated St. Petersburg Northside Christian.
It's the Falcons' six district title and fourth since 2003 - but a special won for Viera, who took over the program from longtime coach Mike LaValliere.
The Falcons host a regional quarterfinal Tuesday.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Palmetto standouts

Two of Palmetto’s standout student-athletes made their college choices officials Thursday morning.
Soccer player Bobby Stephenson and quarterback Ethan Gilbert signed, with Stephenson choosing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona and Gilbert going to Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C.
Stephenson, The Herald’s All-Area Player of the Year in boys soccer, scored 27 goals in leading the Tigers to district and regional championships. He also helped Palmetto become the first Manatee County area public school to reach the state final four.
Gilbert threw for 17 touchdowns and more than 1,700 yards for Palmetto, which on a district football title for the first time in nearly a decade.
Stephenson and Gilbert have grade-point averages better than 4.0.
“They are two models of the program,” said Raymond Woodie, Palmetto’s athletic director and football coach.
Stephenson and Gilbert ARE good models for high school sports. Stephenson, armed with a 4.2 GPA, hopes to one day work for NASA.
"He's a great character kid," said John Haworth, an assistant soccer coach at Embry-Riddle. "We think he has a great future of front of him."
Gilbert is a study of perseverance. Playing behind Bryan Smith for two seasons, Gilbert soaked up all the information he could, got better and led Palmetto to a district title for a first time in a roughly a decade.
Gilbert formed great relationships with receivers such as Trey Yarn and Damian Copeland, giving Palmetto one of the area's best air attacks.
Stephenson and Gilbert have solid futures in front of them and are solid representatives of Manatee County athletics.
We can only hope there are more them coming down the pike.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Leasure time

Manatee's spring is getting better and better.
A night after the school's softball team clinched a berth in the 5A-Region 3 semifinals, the baseball team upset top-seeded Port Charlotte 4-3 in the semifinals of the Class 5A-District 12 tournament Wednesday afternoon.
The hero was Steven Leasure, who allowed an earned run in eight-plus innings in outpitching Pirates stud David Holmberg, who is on his way to Florida and entered the game with a 7-0 record and a 0.14 ERA.
Manatee plays either Punta Gorda Charlotte or North Port 7 p.m. Thursday in the district championship game. The Hurricanes also clinched a spot in the regional tournament for the first time since 2002.
Regional playoffs begin Tuesday.
For more on Leasure's gem and Manatee's win, check out

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Regional softball results

Manatee is moving on.
Braden River and Bradenton Christian are not.
The Hurricanes defeated Seminole 6-3 during Tuesday's Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinals behind the pitching of Carloine Curran, who struck out eight and stranded eight baserunners over the final four innings.
Tura Magley drove in three runs and Shelby Knox doubled, tripled and had an RBI for Manatee (24-4), which heads to Venice on 7 p.m. Friday for a regional semifinal.
Braden River, the only area softball team to win a district title, lost 13-3 to Bartow in the Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
Bradenton Christian fell 9-1 to St.Petersburg during a a Class 1A-Region 3 quarterfinal.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Hurricanes ready to rebound

If John Carlock had his way, a bus would be rumbling its way out of Pinellas County on Tuesday on its way to G.T. Bray.
Instead, Carlock and the rest of Manatee's softball team will be doing the traveling, heading to Seminole for a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal game at 7 p.m.
The Canes (23-4) are looking to put Friday's 1-0 loss to Venice in the District 12 championship behind them, and Carlock was pleased with what he saw during Monday's practice.
"Everybody seems in good spirits," he said.
Seminole (14-10) defeated Seminole Osceola to win the District 11 championship.
"We win (Tuesday)," Carlock said, "or we don't practice Wednesday."
Tuesday's winners advance to Friday's regional semifinal, where the Hurricanes could see the Indians again. Venice hosts Seminole Osceola in the quarterfinals.
Manatee swept Venice during the regular season before the Indians won the title tilt behind pitcher Stephanie Sullivan, who struck out 13 and limited Manatee to three hits.
Carlock knows his girls want to see Venice again - but they have to get there first.
"We tried to focus on this game," Carlock said of Monday's practice. "Whenever somebody brought (Venice) up, we shuffled it to the side and talked about something else."

FHSAA's board reduces amount of varsity games

The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors is cutting schedules in order to cut costs.
By a vote of 9-6, the association’s board Monday decided to reduce the amount of varsity games in all sports — except for football — by 20 percent for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Sub-varsity games will be slashed by 40 percent.
Sports that were allotted 25 regular-season games — baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball — can now play no more than 20. Tennis and wrestling have been trimmed from 18 to 15 games, golf will be cut from 14 to 12 matches, and cross country, swimming and diving, track and field and weightlifting will be limited to 11 events after being permitted to play 13.
“I’m very frustrated,” said Southeast girls basketball coach John Harder, “and very, very disappointed.”
The reason for the reduction, according to a statement on the association’s Web site, was to lessen the operating costs of high school athletic departments.
“People are losing their jobs as schools are cutting millions and millions of dollars from their budgets. Our jobs is to look out for all the schools,” said Greg Zornes, president of the FHSAA board of directors, said in the statement.
Harder, however, would rather see athletic departments be permitted to police their own finances instead of seeing the FHSAA’s board uniformly chop five games off everyone’s schedule. He was also upset the association didn’t get any input from coaches or players around the state.
“There’s no survey, no involvement from the coaches. You don’t feel as if you have a say,” Harder said. “We could always play less games. Now, you can’t play enough.”
Less games on the schedule means less flexibility for coaches. Bradenton Christian’s boys team, for example, will play 10 games — or 50 percent of its schedule — against the Panthers’ five Class 1A-District 8 opponents, limiting the amount of non-district games coach David Magley can schedule.
“We played nearly every team in the county this year, and they were great games,” Magley said. “And you could feel some rivalries building. Now, that’s gone. And it’s very disappointing.”
Magley and Harder said limiting games limits the amount attention players can get from colleges.
“My guys are trying to go to college,” Magley said. “They just got 20 percent less of a chance to play in front of a college coach.”
Manatee’s softball team was expecting to play in a tournament next spring and host one, as well. Coach John Carlock doesn’t see that happening now.
“It really limits what you can do in the season,” said Carlock, whose Hurricanes head to Seminole tonight for a Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal game. “We always enjoy going out and playing different teams.
“The whole scenario is ludicrous. I’m vehemently opposed to it. What are they trying to save, and why don’t they do it for football? I think it’s going to send a lot of people packing and heading toward travel ball.”
The reduction is to last just two years, according to Zornes.
“That’s it — we really mean two years,” he said. “We fully intend to restore what he had until (Monday) at the end of the two-year period.”
Harder hopes the board sticks to that promise and doesn’t go in the other direction.
“That’s my next fear — that it’s 18 (games), then 16 and then, why play?” he said. “This is isn’t enough for me to be discouraged by the FHSAA. Everybody is allowed to have a miscue. This, to me, is a mistake, and hopefully this can be rectified at some point.”