Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Prep football: Manatee's Willie Smith done for the year

photo by Grant Jefferies
Manatee defensive back Willie Smith is done for the season after being diagnosed with a torn ligament in a knee.
A senior who has committed to Florida International, Smith suffered the injury Friday against Venice and had an MRI taken Wednesday.
"All I can do is just stay here and be here for my team off the field," Smith said Wednesday after watching his teammates prepare for Friday's Class 7A-Region 3 title game againt Fort Pierce Central. "Just do what I can for my team from the sideline."
Smith, who will undergo surgery next week, hopes to report to FIU at 100 percent.
"If not, redshirt," he said, "or do whatever I've got to do."
Smith leads the Hurricanes with four interceptions this season. He also missed two games during the regular season with a hamstring injury.

Prep football: Manatee's Trevon Walters ready for Friday

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
Manatee's leading rusher will be back for Friday's regional final.
Trevon Walters, who twisted his ankle during the first round of the Class 7A playoffs and didn't play last week against Venice, will be in the backfield when the Hurricanens head to Fort Pierce Central for the Region 3 championship game.
"He's good," coach Joe Kinnan said. "He practiced (Tuesday)...looks good. He'll be 100 percent by Friday."
A junior, Walters has rushed for 945 yards and has scored 16 touchdowns this year for Manatee. He was in uniform Friday but didn't play in Manatee's 56-7 win.
In his place was freshman Johnnie Lang, who rushed for 84 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries, a performance that may have earned him more playing time this postseason.
"It's good to have two guys that, right now, we have a lot of confidence in," Kinnan said. "(Lang)'s gotten better and better, and that makes both of them better. Competition. Nothing wrong with competition."

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Prep football: Who's having more fun than Joe Kinnan?

photo by John Lembo
Joe Kinnan's Hurricanes look to run their winning streak to 24 Friday night against Venice in a Region 3 semifinal
If you think Joe Kinnan is enjoying Manatee's recent golden age, you're right.
Yes, that was Manatee's head coach arguing vehemently during last Friday's Class 7A-Region 3 playoff opener when his Hurricanes were flagged with a procedure penalty during a win over St. Petersburg Northeast.
But Manatee's venerable head coach doesn't have much to complain about these days. And it shows.
This is a kindler, gentler Joe Kinnan, one who routinely cracks a smile during practice and encouraged his team to stay for the girls soccer match following Tuesday's workout.
"We're undefeated. How can you not enjoy (it)?", said Kinnan, whose Canes host Venice on Friday in a Region 3 semifinal. "We've got great leadership, we've got a great group of kids. They're fun to be around, they have a good time, they enjoy playing and that's good."
Good enough for Kinnan to return next season?
"I always go year to year," he said. "I always evaluate at the end of the year."
Not that this season isn't worth his attention. Manatee is 11-0 and has won 23 straight games. The Hurricanes have scored 567 points this season and are ranked No.1 nationally by ESPN, MaxPreps and USA Today.
Friday they meet the Indians, they're District 10 foes, in the second round of the playoffs for the third straight year. Manatee won the last two postseason games and has won the teams' last five meetings overall.
"I'm sure they're going to onside kick and run every trick they play they've got in their back pocket, and run their options, which they did a good job of before and we didn't defend real well," Kinnan said. "Defensively, they're going to give us a few different looks...they've showed several different fronts in the last two game films.
"So we'll just have to wait and see. We'll just have to recognize what they do, go out and go get 'em."
The winner meets either Fort Pierce Central or Stuart Martin County on Nov. 30 for the Region 3 championship and a berth in the final four.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Prep soccer: Nike Thanksgiving High School Soccer Tournament begins Monday

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
The 2012 Nike Thanksgiving High School Soccer Tournament runs Monday through Wednesday at the Premier Sports Complex in Lakewood Ranch.
Braden River and Palmetto will compete in the boys and girls divisions and Lakewood Ranch and Manatee will send boys teams.
Listed below are the groups, as well as pairings involving area teams.

GROUP A - Braden River, Clearwater Central Catholic, Clearwater, Tampa Wharton; GROUP B - Palmetto, Tampa Catholic, East Lake, Flagler Palm Coast; GROUP C - Seminole, Tampa Plant, Tampa Leto, Auburndale.
GROUP A - Tampa Jesuit, Seminole, Riverview, Tampa Leto; GROUP B - Lakewood Ranch, Clearwater Central Catholic, East Lake, Tampa King; GROUP C - Manatee, Cape Coral Mariner, Palm Harbor, Auburndale; GROUP D - Braden River, Palmetto, Clearwater, Countryside.

GIRLSEast Lake vs. Palmetto, 9 a.m. Field 1
Clearwater vs. Braden River, 4 p.m., Field 1
Braden River vs. Countryside, 9 a.m., Field 2
East Lake vs. Lakewood Ranch, 2 p.m., Field 2
Clearwater vs. Palmetto, 2 p.m., Field 3
Cape Coral Mariner vs. Manatee, 6 p.m., Field 3

Flagler Palm Coast vs. Palmetto, 2 p.m., Field 2
Braden River vs. Clearwater Central Catholic, 6 p.m., Field 1
Tampa Catholic vs. Palmetto, 6 p.m., Field 2
Tampa Wharton vs. Braden  River, 2 p.m., Field 1
Manatee vs. Auburndale, 9 a.m., Field 1
Palmetto vs. Coutryside, 9 a.m., Field 2
Clearwater vs. Braden River, 11 a.m., Field 2
Lakewood Ranch vs. Tampa King, 11 a.m., Field 3
Manatee vs. Palm Harbor, 2 p.m., Field 3
Braden River vs. Palmetto, 8 p.m., Field 1

Group A winner vs. Group C winner, 2 p.m., Field 1
Group B winner vs. Wild card (based on points), 4 p.m., Field 1
Group A runner-up vs. Group C runner-up, 2 p.m., Field 2
Group B runner-up vs. Group D runner-up, 2 p.m., Field 3
Group A winner vs. Group B winner, 4 p.m., Field 2
Group C winner vs. Group D winner, 4 p.m., Field 3

Friday, November 16, 2012

Prep football: Looking back on Manatee's perfect regular seasons

Manatee opens the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs at home tonight against St. Petersburg Northeast, and the Hurricanes will be doing so on the heels of a perfect regular season, their fifth under coach Joe Kinnan.
Will it result in a state title?
Time will tell.
Here is a rundown of Manatee's other undefeated teams and how some of them fared in the postseason.
(A big thank you for to Herald assistant sports editor Tad Reeve and his incredibly well-researched book, 1989's Manatee Magic.)

1915, 9-0: Long before Kinnan roamed the sideline and the likes of Tommie Frazier and Cord Sandberg ran the offense, there were the Manatee Maroons, and they were good. Crazy good. Coached by Julian C. Howard, a science teacher who brought football to Manatee in 1914, the Maroons not only won every game, they didn't allow a point. The Maroons featured 13 players and played six teams - Plant City, St. Petersburg and Tampa appeared on the schedule twice - including Palmetto. Manatee closed the season with a 10-0 win over Gainesville in what was considered the mythical state championship game - the Florida High School Athletic Association didn't start officially crowning state champs until 1963.
1955, 9-0-1: Consider this Manatee's first real golden age. Led by Wheeler Leeth, Manatee won the last two games of the '54 season before winning the Western Conference championship in '55. The season began with a 13-0 win over Tampa Plant, which had defeated the Canes in 13 of the previous 14 games. It was key win - Plant went 6-1 in the conference, Manatee went 7-0 to clinch the title. Leading the way was  halfback George Henderson, who needed just 104 carries to total 907 yards and score 15 touchdowns, while Donald "Duck" Lewis, who weighed 225 pounds, anchored the offensive line. Manatee's only stumble was a 19-19 tie against Fort Myers in Week 7.
1956, 8-0-2: Leeth and his boys continued their roll, splitting the conference championship with Tampa Hillsborough after the teams played to 6-6 tie. Henderson had another big year, rushing for more yards in '56 (945) despite having fewer attempts (96) than he did the year before. He scored 18 touchdowns and added 10 extra points, giving him 118 points on the season. Manatee, which also played Tampa Plant to a draw, ran its winning streak to 24 before losing to Plant during the third game of the '57 season.
1983, 14-0: With all due respect to the 1915 Maroons, the '83 edition may be the best in school history. What's undisputed is these Hurricanes brought the school its first official state championship after scoring a 27-21 over Miami Southride in the Class 4A title game. With Kinnan on the sideline for the third year, the Hurricanes scored four shutouts, including three straight against Seminole, Orlando Park Ridge and Northeast, and were quarterbacked by Tracy Sanders, who now coaches Manatee's defensive backs. Of Kinnan's five undefeated regular seasons, this was the only one that resulted in a state championship.
1984, 12-0: The Hurricanes' defense of their first official state championship got off to a promising start. Manatee rolled in the regular season, scoring blowouts over everyone but Riverview (21-17), winning by an average of 33 points and climbing to No.1 in the state and No.3 in the country. The Canes opened the playoffs with a 42-14 Tampa Chamberlain, but were stunned in the sectional playoffs to Lakeland, which scored a 19-14 win. The game was later awarded to Manatee via a forfeit, but it didn't prevent Hurricanes fans from wondering what might have been.
1990, 12-1: A year after winning the program's third state title in seven years, the Hurricanes looked unstoppable heading into the Class 5A playoffs and were ranked ninth by USA Today prior to a state semifinal at Fort Walton Beach Choctawhatchee. But the Indians were too much for the Hurricanes, scoring a 35-14 win and putting an abrupt end to the Canes' 20-game winning streak. Manatee ran up 406 yards of offense but trailed 21-0 at the half, as the Indians needed 39 carries to run for 252 yards. The Hurricanes won another state title two years later, but wouldn't have another defeated season for 20 years.
2010, 13-1: Manatee jumped back into the national conversation in 2009 after beating Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, considered the best team in the nation, in a Class 5A state semifinal, and the Hurricanes kept the momentum flowing the following fall. Led by Sandberg, then a sophomore, Manatee rolled to its first district title in four years and its fourth regional title in six years. But this team was hit hard with injuries. Running back Mike Blakely struggled with ankle injuries during most of the second half of the season, and defensive linemen Drakkar Wilson and Quinton Pompey suffered knee injuries on consecutive series during a first-round playoff game against Northeast. Both underwent surgery, but Pompey never returned. The Hurricanes met Aquinas again in the semifinals, but things didn't go as well as they did the year before - the Raiders cruised, 31-7, and beat Tampa Plant the following week to win the 5A title. Manatee hasn't lost to a Florida school since.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Prep wrestling: Williford is first Palmetto Tiger to earn scholarship

photo by John Lembo
Tyler Williford made history Wednesday inside Palmetto's auditorium
 Chalk up another first for Palmetto's wrestling team.
Senior Tyler Williford signed a letter-of-intent Wednesday with the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, making him the first Tigers wrestler to earn a scholarship.
Williford said he will earn a major scholarship from the Divsion II school.
The Tigers began fielding a wrestling team in 2005.
"It's pretty exciting," Williford said Wednesday before signing his letter inside Palmetto's auditorium while about two dozen relatives, friends and teammates watched.
Williford caught the Braves attention while Palmetto was competing in the Disney Duals over the summer.
"This all happened in about three months," said Bryan Wilkes, who has coached Palmetto's program since it began. "We're hoping this starts a good relationship with UNC Pembroke."
An Ellenton resident, Williford began wrestling eight years ago with the Manatee Kids Wrestling Club and has been on Palmetto's varsity team since freshman year.
He was 25-9 last season wrestling at 152 and 160 pounds and came within a victory of reaching the Class 2A state tournament.
The Braves finished third last season at the NCAA Division II national championships and began this season ranked 12th in the nation.
"We were talking to a lot of people and getting my name out there and stuff," Williford said. "But this is the one where we actually made full contact and talked. It's real nice - me and my coach talked about getting this done early so I could focus on school and wrestling and stuff, and didn't have to worry about where I was going."
While Wednesday was a big day for Williford, it served as another step in the right direction for Palmetto's wrestling program.
"The other kids see there is opportunity now," Wilkes said. "This is the first time that I have kids asking me, 'Hey coach, do you think I can get a scholarship?'"

Prep basketball: Smaller field set for Willie Clemons Classic

photo by Grant Jefferies
Southeast coach John Harder hosts the 9th Annual Wille Clemons Classic, beginning Dec. 26.
The 9th Annual Willie Clemons Classic will be smaller than in years past, with eight teams slated to take part in the three-day girls basketball tournament that runs from Dec. 26-28 at Southeast.
The field used to feature 16 teams.
Listed below are the first-round pairings. Local teams are listed in bold.

Venice vs. Gulfport Boca Ciega, 2 p.m.
Riverview vs. Seminole, 3:30 p.m.
Lakewood Ranch vs. Tampa Sickles, 5 p.m.
Lakeland Kathleen vs. Southeast, 6:30 p.m.

The semifinals are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 6:30 on Dec. 27, and the championship game will be played 6:30 on Dec. 28.
The consolation final will be played 3:30 p.m. on the 28th.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Prep football: Southeast playoff tickets on sale Wednesday

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
Tickets for the Southeast’s Class 5A-Region 3 quarterfinal against Lake Wales will be available at Southeast’s front office 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

The cost is $9 for reserve and $8 for general admission.
The game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Southeast.

Prep volleyball: Lakewood Ranch not just happy to be in final four

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
Seniors Emily Ruple (left), Mariah Robertson (center) and Jordan Wopinski (right) helped the Mustangs make history this fall.
 The 2012 Lakewood Ranch volleyball team will never be forgotten.
Trailblazers are remembered forever, and the Mustangs are just that. They make the program's first final four appearance noon today when the Mustangs meet St. Augustine in a Class 6A state semifinal at the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.
It's a big achievement. But the Mustangs are planning to do more than just show up today.
"We're not holding anything back (Tuesday)," said senior libero Jordan Wopinski.
Added senior hitter Mariah Robertson: "It's strictly business."
Lakewood Ranch nearly reached this point last year before falling to Tarpon Springs in the Region 3 final. The Mustangs have been striving toward the final four ever since.
"We felt like we had a really strong group coming back," said coach Perri Hankins. "The seniors have been great this year with their leadership and play on the court.
"After last year, we definitely at that moment made the goal that we're going to get to state this year."
Now, the goal is to win it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Prep football: Manatee closes season ranked tops in 7A

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
Trevon Walters and Manatee head into the playoffs ranked tops in the state in Class 7A
As expected, Manatee closed the regular season ranked No.1 in Class 7A in the latest AP Poll, which was released Monday.
The Hurricanes, who defeated Lakewood Ranch on Friday to go 10-0 for the second time in three years, have been ranked No.1 since defeating Jacksonville First Coast in last year's 7A state championship game.
Manatee earned all 14 first-place votes in the latest poll. The Hurricanes open the Region 3 playoffs Friday at home against St. Petersburg Northeast.
Southeast was off last week and heads into the playoffs ranked ninth in the state in Class 5A. The Seminoles (8-2) host Winter Haven in the first round. 
Ranked first in 5A for much of the season, Palmetto was bumped out of the top 10 after back-to-back losses to Manatee and Southeast. The 8-2 Tigers did receive three votes, but that wasn't enough to get them back in the top 10.
Palmetto closed the regular season with a 27-7 win over Ocala Trinity Catholic. The Tigers head to Auburndale on Friday.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Prep cross country: Local regional runners

photo by Paul Videla
Kristin Zarrella and Lakewood Ranch's girls cross country team are looking for a return to the state meet
 The regional cross country meets are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Listed below are the area's regional qualifiers.
The top six teams and 15 individuals qualify for the state cross country meet, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 17 at Apalachee Regional Park in Tallahassee.

When: 9 a.m. Saturday
Where: McIntosh Middle School
Locals: Manatee's girls team, Chris Pate (Manatee).

When: Friday, TBA
Where: Estero Commiunty Park
Locals: Lakewood Ranch's girls team, Lakewood Ranch's boys team, Canaan Meester-Kitterman (Bayshore), Alexis Cullen (Braden River)

When: 8 a.m. Saturday
Where: Holiday Anclote High
Locals: Southeast's girls team, David Marvel (Southeast), Cole Tuttle (Southeast)

When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Melbourne Holy Trinity
Locals: Saint Stephen's girls team, Carling Landenche (Out-of-Door Academy), Grace Casagrande (Cardinal Mooney), Saint Stephen's boys team, Peter Runge (Out-of-Door Academy), Cal Turner Davidson (Cardinal Mooney).

Prep football: Manatee looking to pad two impressive streaks Friday

photo by Grant Jefferies
It's been a long time since coach Manatee coach Joe Kinnan and quarterback Cord Sandberg have lost to a Florida school
Manatee hosts Lakewood Ranch on Friday with a chance to go 10-0 for the second time in three years.
Impressive, right?
What's even more impressive, however, is a pair of streaks the Hurricanes are looking to lenghten at the Mustangs' expense.
First, they are looking to run their county winning streak to 24 games.
Second, Manatee is hoping to win its 28th straight regular-season game against Florida schools.
In fact, quarterback Cord Sandberg has never lost to a state school in the regular season. The only Florida team to beat Manatee with Sandberg running the offense is Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquians in the 2010 Class 5A state semifinals.
Want to know the last county and state teams to beat the Hurricanes?
Check out my story in Friday's edition of The Bradenton Herald.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Prep football: Manatee's opponent wrong on FHSAA website

photo by John Lembo
Who will Cord Sandberg and Manatee meet in the 7A-Region 3 playoffs next Friday?
 Manatee opens the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs at home Nov. 16 against St. Petersburg Northeast.
The Florida High School Association, however, has the the Hurricanes hosting Largo Pinellas Park in the 7A bracket.
This time, the FHSAA is wrong, though it is understandable.
Going strictly by what happened on the field, Clearwater Countryside won District 9 and Pinellas Park was the runner-up.
Consequently, Pinellas Park was to head to Bradenton while Countryside hosted Venice in a the first round.
But Countryside was docked by the FHSAA for the use of ineligble player and had to forefeit six games, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
So Pinellas Park is the district champ and hosts Venice.
Northeast in the runner-up and Countryside will miss the postseason.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Prep football: Southeast in, Palmetto out of 5A top 10

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
The Southeast Seminoles not only played well enough to win a district title last week, they made their way into the Class 5A top 10 for the first time this season.
Southeast is ranked ninth in the state in Class 5A in the latest poll, released Monday.
The Seminoles beat Palmetto last Friday to clinch the District 10 title. Southeast (8-2) is off this week and hosts Lake Wales on Nov. 16 in a Region 3 quarterfinal.
Palmetto has lost two straight since beginning the season 7-0 and is out of the top 10 after owning the No.1 ranking for most the fall. The Tigers host Ocala Trinity Catholic on Friday before opening the playoffs at Auburndale.
Manatee, as expected, maintained its top spot in Class 7A after beating Sarasota to win the District 10 title. The Hurricanes have been No.1 since winning the state title last December.
The Hurricanes received all 14 first-place votes this week after second-ranked Jacksonville First Coast earned a top vote last week.  Manatee beat First Coast in last year's championship game.
Manatee is 9-0 and takes a 21-game winning streak into Friday's game against Lakewood Ranch. The Hurricanes are looking to wrap their second undefeated regular season in three years before opening the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs at home against St. Petersburg Northeast.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Prep football: Breaking down Manatee County's three big ballgames

photo by Grant Jefferies
Manatee and its stacked defensive line look to clinch the Class 7A-District 10 title tonight.
Tonight marks the final week of the district portion of play, which means by Saturday mornin we will know how many teams are heading to the playoffs, which gets underway Nov. 16.
Three games tonight have playoff implications.
Here they are:

SARASOTA (5-3, 1-1 7A-10) at MANATEE (8-0, 2-0)
At stake: Despite their 20-game winning streak and a No.1 national ranking in three separate polls (ESPN, MaxPreps and USA Today), the Hurricanes haven't officially locked up a district title or even a playoff berth. They're heavy favorites, however, heading into tonight's game with the Sailors, and will clinch the District 10 championship with a win. A Hurricanes win means they host the District 9 runner-up, which will be Clearwater Countryside, Pinellas Park or St. Petersburg Northeast. All three are in the mix tonight to win the district or advance as the runner-up.
SOUTHEAST (7-2, 3-0 5A-10) at PALMETTO (7-1, 3-0)
At stake: The Seminoles and Tigers are the only area teams to officially seal a trip to the playoffs, but tonight's game decides the district champion and the host of a first-round playoff game. The losing team heads to the winner of tonight's District 9 title game between Lake Wales and Auburndale, while the loser of that games heads west to Manatee County.
SEMINOLE OSCEOLA (6-3, 3-1 6A-7) at LAKEWOOD RANCH (5-3, 3-1)
At stake: The math is simple - winner heads to the playoffs, loser doesn't. The Mustangs won last year's meeting in Pinellas County before nearly upsetting nationally-ranked Seffner Armwood in the first round of the Region 3 playoffs. Neither team gave district champ Largo much a game this season, though the Warriors found the end zone in a 41-20 defeat while the Mustangs didn't, losing 38-0. Will that have any bearing on tonight's game? Tonight's winner opens the playoffs at Tampa Hillsborough, the District 8 champion that upset Armwood (3-0) on Oct. 18.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Prep volleyball: And then there was one...

photo by Tom Hubbard
Ashlyn Falahee serves during Lakewood Ranch's regional win Tuesday over Dover Strawberry Crest. The Mustangs are the only locals left standing in the volleyball postseason.
 The opening round of the regional volleyball tournaments wasn't kind to area teams, as three squads were eliminated Wednesday.
The only team left standing is Lakewood Ranch, which hosts Tampa Sickles on Tuesday in Class 6A-Region 3 semifinals.
The Mustangs beat Dover Strawberry Crest in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
Listed below are Wednesday's results.

Stuart Martin County 3, Manatee 1
Clearwater Calvary Christian 3, Saint Stephen's 2
Clearwater Central Catholic 3, Out-of-Door Academy 0