Thursday, November 21, 2013

Prep football: MaxPreps considers Florida's Class 8A the second-most toughest bracket in the country

Manatee's road to a sixth state championships is one of the roughest in the nation.
This according to Stephen Spiewak, national football editor for MaxPreps, who listed Class 8A second on his list of the top 10 toughest football brackets in the country.
"In many years, some of the medium-sized brackets in the state of Florida have the deepest fields," Spiewak wrote. "This season, Class 8A presents the most intrigue."
Manatee (16th) and Miramar (15th) are ranked in MaxPreps' Xcellent 25, and Apopka set the state record for points in the season before hanging 77 on Orlando University last week. The Blue Darters, who play Winter Park in a Region 1 semifinal, won the Class 8A crown last year and have recorded 601 points this season.
No one thinks the 11-0 Hurricanes will have an easy time Friday against 9-1 Fort Pierce Central in a Region 2 semifinal, nor will the winner get an easy draw next week, when its either Orlando Dr. Phillips or Tampa Plant in the regional final.
Then there is undefeated Deerfield Beach, which rolled past Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas during the regular season. Deerfield Beach meets Miramar on Friday in a Region 3 semifinal, with the winner getting Palm Beach Gardens or Palm Beach Central next week for the regional championship.
Florida was one of two states (California being the other) to land two brackets on the list: Spiewak ranked Class 6A at No. 6. That class features national powers such as Miami Central, the 6A defending state champion, and Seffner Armwood.
The No.1 ranking went to Texas' Class 5A-Division I bracket of the University Interscholastic  League, which includes Allen, currently at the top of MaxPreps' national composite rankings.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Prep football: Former Palmetto QB Trent Miller earns conference honors at Mars Hill

photo by Grant Jefferies
When Trent Miller talks about his first season at Mars Hill, a Division II school in North Carolina, he harkens back to his days as a Palmetto Tiger.
"It was pretty similar to Palmetto, where all the pieces were in place," he said Wednesday night. "They just needed that quarterback piece."
What the Lions got was Miller, who beat out two other candidates for the starting job and was named the South Atlantic Conference's Offensive Freshman of the Year on Wednesday.
"I'd say it's worked out for the best," said Miller, who transferred to Mars Hill after being a preferred walk-on at USF. "It was kind of scary leaving USF - it was in the summer and it was late, and it was nerve-wracking trying to find a team that needed a quarterback."
Miller finished third in the conference in passing yards (2,757) and touchdown passes (23) while completing 53.8 percent of his passes. He set a single-game program record Nov. 16 by throwing for 439 yards against Tusculum and helped wide receiver Dimitri Holmes set single-season school records in receiving yards (1,591) and touchdown catches (15).
"When I walked in, we had three quarterbacks and we were all fighting for the job. I wasn't expecting anything," Miller said. "I just focused on what I could control."
The scramble for the starting quarterback job was a little more crowded at USF, especially when Steven Bench transferred from Penn State and Fort Lauderdale University's Mike White signed on. White is now the Bulls' starter.
"They never came out and said, 'This is where you are on the depth chart,'" Miller said. "But with seven quarterbacks, I kind of saw the writing on the wall."
 Miller helped lead Palmetto to the Class 5A state final four in 2011, his only year as a Tiger. His team didn't taste similar success this past fall, when Mars Hill went 3-8 overall and 1-6 in the conference.
"We had the statistics this year, and if you look at the games, we were three plays away from winning those games," Miller said. "We have a lot of returning starters back next year, but now it's time to turn those stats into more production. Let's try and take it one drive more...We're losing some key seniors, but we know we have the depth behind them."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Prep football: FHSAA looking into Palmetto, East Lake scrum

The Florida High School Athletic Association plans on contacting administrators from Palmetto and Tarpon Springs East Lake in regards to a small scrum that broke out following Friday's Class 7A-Region 3 playoff game. An East Lake parent alleged on The Herald’s Facebook page and website that a Palmetto coach struck an Eagles player during the scuffle, and also sent the same letter to two different editors at The Herald.
The confrontation ended quickly and the teams did not shake hands. Palmetto huddled on its sideline after the game while the Eagles gathered under a goal post in one of end zones following the Eagles' 13-12 win.
"As of now, we haven't seen the game film. We're communicating with both schools," said Justin Harrison, the FHSAA's executive director of athletic services whose responsibilities include overseeing the conduct of coaches and players. "Whenever allegations come in of the sincerest nature, we always take a look to see what happened."
Harrison said he received an email from someone over at East Lake regarding the incident, but no official report had been filed. He also said he plans on speaking with the game's officiating crew.
Matt Braselton, a Palmetto assistant, responded to the claim by commenting on The Herald's page that "not ONE PHS coach threw any punches and allegations like that are not needs to be made clear coaches from both sides broke up a small scuffle that broke out after a late hit. No coaches threw any punches at any players, bottom line."
Palmetto athletic director Kenny Ansbro said he hadn't heard anything from the FHSAA as of 5:15 p.m. Monday.  Ansbro, who watched the game from Palmetto's sideline, said he didn't see any of the Tigers' coaches strike any East Lake players.
"I don't know where that came from," Ansbro said. "The referees, the coaches, they made everybody get back and that was it...It was quick."
Ansbro said the decision not to shake hands was mutual between the teams, adding the East Lake coaches were "very respectful."
Palmetto stayed 45 minutes after the game while the players ate their postgame meal, Ansbro added.
"The kids ate right there," Ansbro said. "Don't you think someone from their staff would have said something (if a coach hit a player)?"
Ruth Riel, East Lake's athletic director and assistant principal, said Monday afternoon she was still trying to gather information and declined further comment.
Bob Hudson, the Eagles' head football coach, did not respond to a phone call requesting comment Monday afternoon.
The Eagles (11-0) host Largo Pinellas Park on Friday in a Class 7A-Region 3 semifinal.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Prep soccer: Palmetto hosts defending national champion Monday

photo by Paul Videla
Palmetto's boys soccer team has long been the area's best.
Monday night at Harllee Stadium, the Tigers will go up against the nation's best: Montverde Academy, which visits Palmetto for a 7:30 p.m. match.
The Eagles have not lost a match since 2010 and were named prep national champions last year by MaxPreps, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Elite Soccer Report.
They also earned MaxPreps' top ranking in 2012 and was voted to the top of the ESPN RISE/Powerade Top 50 in 2011.
Montverde has also sent 24 players to Division I programs since 2010, according to the academy's Facebook page.
The Eagles are coached by Mike Potempa, who has played for three different national teams (U17, U19, U20), played at Clemson and was a draft pick of Major League Soccer's Los Angeles Galaxy.
What Montverde cannot do is play for a state championship - the Eagles are members of the Florida High School Athletic Association, but compete as an independent.
While the Tigers have no national crowns in the trophy case, they have been the area's most consistent program for over a decade, appearing in district championship games in 11of the past 12 years while winning five straight district titles.
Palmetto became Manatee County's first public school boys program to reach the state final four in 2009 and repeated the feat in '10. The Tigers reached the semifinals last year, too
The Tigers are 4-0 this season.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Prep football: Playoff primer

photo by Tiffany Tompkins-Condie
Palmetto's Dave Marino, above, is one of three area coaches leading his team into a playoff game Friday when the prep football posteason gets underway around the state.
The Class 7A Tigers will be joined by Manatee in Class 8A and Cardinal Mooney in Class 3A as each team begins its march toward a potential trip to Orlando's Florida Citrus Bowl, home of the state championship games.
Here is a look at each team's postseason picture.

MANATEE - Just because the top-ranked Hurricanes (10-0) don't have to worry anymore about Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas, which is now in 7A, that doesn't mean their road to Orlando gets any easier.
In fact, it may be the hardest its been since coach Joe Kinnan's return to the sideline in 2005.
It begins Friday against the 9-1 Vero Beach Indians, and while only two of their wins came against teams with a winning record, the Indians have a solid quarterback in Dalton Stokes, who has thrown for 2,220 yards.
The winner gets either 9-1 Fort Pierce Central or white-hot 7-2 Riverview, whose only two losses have come to Manatee and Class 6A playoff qualifier Venice. Perennial powers Orlando Dr. Phillips or Tampa Plant probably await whomever makes it to the Region 2 final. And what does the Region 2 champ get for a reward? A probable state semifinal against Apopka, which set a state scoring record this year with 529 points despite losing Nebraska-bound quarterback Zack Richardson to a concussion in Week 1.
Not easy. At all.

PALMETTO - That loss to Sarasota not only cost the Tigers (5-5) a chance of winning their second district title in three years, it also cost them some fuel - they open the Class 7A-Region 3 playoffs tonight in Tarpon Springs against East Lake.
And East Lake isn't exactly a delightful first-round draw: The Eagles are fresh off the first perfect regular-season in program history and are ranked second in the state in Class 7A.
The Tigers have had some success on the road under coach Dave Marino, who took over in 2010. Palmetto traveled to Immokalee in 2011 and returned to Manatee County with its first regional title in 25 years, and opened last year's playoffs with a win at Auburndale. So it has happened before.
And if Palmetto gets by the Eagles, the region's clear-cut favorite, things open up. Largo Pinellas Park or Sarasota await in a semifinal, and either Charlotte, Port Charlotte, Melbourne, or Melbourne Eau Gallie will come out of the other side for the Region 3 final.
Of those teams, only the Pirates (No.9) were ranked in the final Associated Press poll of the regular season.
The Region 3 champion, however, probably has to meet Aquinas or top-ranked Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer in a semifinal.

CARDINAL MOONEY - Classes 1A through 4A may have one fewer round than their bigger counterparts, but the Class 3A Cougars (7-2) still have a tough road to hoe to Orlando.
Mooney hosts a Region 3 semifinal tonight against St. Petersburg Catholic in a rematch of an Oct. 11th meeting the Cougars won 14-12 in St. Pete.
All three of Catholic's loss have come to playoff teams, including Clearwater Central Catholic, which the Cougars-Barons winner probably faces next week for the regional title.
CCC ended the regular season ranked fifth in Class 3A and took IMG Academy to overtime on Halloween before losing 19-13 in Bradenton.
The Marauders are the only ranked team in the region, which also includes traditional powers such as Hollywood Chaminade and Pahokee, as well as Fort Myers Bishop Verote, Miami Westminster Christian and West Palm Beach Cardinal Newman.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Prep football: Manatee playoff tickets on sale Thursday

Joe Kinnan and the Manatee Hurricanes are the only county team opening the playoffs at home when they host Vero Beach on Friday, Nov. 15 in a Class 8A-Region 2 quarterfinal.
Tickets are $9 for reserve seating and $8 general admission and can be purchased beginning Thursday at the ticket window from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and on Friday from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Tickets will also be available at Manatee High from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12 through Thursday, Nov. 14, and from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15.
School is closed Monday for Veteran's Day.
Seats will be held for season-ticket holders until Tuesday.
Manatee is 10-0 and has a bye this week.
The winner of next week's game meets either Fort Pierce Central or Riverview in a Region 2 semifinal Friday, Nov. 22.