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Bucs tight end Dallas Clark finds niche in new world


By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2012

TAMPA — A playful smile spread across Dallas Clark's face as he decided to work a shift as the fashion police in the Bucs locker room after practice last week.

Pulling his shorts low around his hips and trying to mirror the just-below-the-boxers look of linebacker Dekoda Watson one cubicle away, Clark sought approval for his new, casual style.

"Whaddaya think?" Clark said.

Watson quickly got the attention of running back LeGarrette Blount and receiver Mike Williams, who turned to face Clark as all three burst out laughing.

"I just don't pull that look off very well," Clark said.

For his first nine seasons, Clark was a huge part of division titles, conference titles and one Super Bowl title with the Colts, a wing tips-and-briefcase franchise led by quarterback Peyton Manning. Clark averaged 59 catches during the five seasons he played at least 15 games, including 100 for 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2009.

But injuries and salary concerns conspired to make him part of the same Colts housecleaning that swept Manning to Denver.

Now starting over at 33, Clark is fitting in nicely with a young Bucs team that can use his playfulness and play-making ability.

After catching only nine passes through the first five games, Clark has 18 for 174 yards and three touchdowns over the past five, including the overtime winner last week at Carolina.

"No one here really cares what you've done or where you've done things and things of that nature," Clark said. "You're here to help your new team, and that's what you've got to do.

"It's been a lot of change; a lot different. But you knew wherever you went, it was going to be like that. You've just got to take it in stride and understand it's never going to be the same … and understand this is the new normal."

• • •

Shortly before the Bucs traded tight end Kellen Winslow to the Seahawks on May 21, they worked out Clark, who had been hampered the past two seasons by knee and wrist injuries.

"It was one of those great workouts where you just say, 'Wow!' " said general manager Mark Dominik, who signed Clark to a one-year, $2.7 million contract. "The ball was so soft on his hands. He can really adjust to the football and make some great plays."

There has never been another time in the NFL when the tight end position produced more big men who can affect the game at so many different spots on the field. Clark credits the Falcons' Tony Gonzalez and the Chargers' Antonio Gates for ushering in the era of players physical enough to hold up as run blockers but with enough speed, supple hands and body control to be targets in the passing game.

No longer are tight ends just next to tackles. They are split wide, lined up in the slot or lined up in the backfield.

"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have a job because there's no way I could line up and block power or lead run (block). I'd be horrible at it," said Clark, drafted 24th overall in 2003 by Indianapolis.

"You've got to have a sprinkle of everything. You've got to have some toughness. You've got to have some ability. It's not all glamorous out there catching balls when you have grown men trying to kill you."

• • •

Clark's failure as a walk-on linebacker at Iowa changed his life.

Three days before graduation from high school, his 48-year-old mother, Jan, collapsed and stopped breathing in the garage of their home in Livermore, Iowa. Clark ran inside to call 911 and attempted CPR.

Paramedics later told him she would not have survived the heart attack even if the nearest hospital hadn't been 10 miles away. At Iowa, Clark wrote "MOM" in block letters on his wristbands.

"Your family is always there for you," said Clark, who's father, Doug, died at age 65 in August, one day before the Bucs' final preseason game. "They're your No. 1 support system. They're there the whole way; for your ups and your downs. They're critical when you go through different things in your life."

Clark redshirted after missing the second half of his freshman season at Iowa because of an appendectomy.

Meanwhile, he took out $15,000 in student loans and mowed the grass at Kinnick Stadium. It wasn't until Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz saw him playing catch with a quarterback that he decided to move him to tight end.

"I was a horrible linebacker," Clark said. "I'm a great backyard linebacker, where you just go tackle the ball. But when you have rules and jobs, I don't like that. I was holding third-string linebacker down pretty good. But (Ferentz) said, 'Let's try something else because you're wasting your time and our time.'

"(Tight end) was more natural. It just felt right. Tell me to run 10 yards and not get covered by a guy, back to the backyard type of stuff. I like that type of football. The more I can do that the better."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud @tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620.

Crossover star carries Michigan


Times wires
Friday, November 23, 2012

NEW YORK — Tim Hardaway Jr. brought the ball up, then dribbled between his legs and headed to the left. Then he flashed to his right, rose up and knocked down a midrange jumper.

The crowd at Madison Square Garden gasped at the crossover, which was reminiscent of his famous father's most memorable move as a five-time NBA All-Star. Michigan fans cheered. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber called timeout, but it didn't work.

Hardaway scored 23 to power No. 4 Michigan to a 71-57 victory over the Wildcats in the final of the NIT Season Tipoff on Friday.

Glenn Robinson III had 12 rebounds, and Trey Burke and Jon Horford had 10 points apiece for the Wolverines (5-0). Hardaway made 10 of 15 shots from the field before he was kneed in the head with less than four minutes left. He returned to the bench in time to celebrate and collect the MVP award for the event formerly known as the Preseason NIT.

"This is what he works for. He works hard at not just being a shooter but to have an in-between game, be a rebounder," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "The biggest thing is his work ethic. That just doesn't happen. He's got great DNA, but DNA doesn't get you there alone."

Hardaway wasn't available to reporters. Trainer John Do-Rosario said he passed concussion tests and was cleared to fly home.

Louisville stops Missou

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Luke Hancock scored 19, and Russ Smith had 18 points and six steals as No. 2 Louisville looked more like itself with an 84-61 victory over No. 13 Missouri in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

The Cardinals had a rougher-than-expected 51-46 opening-round win over Northern Iowa, and coach Rick Pitino was upset afterward.

Louisville was back to being one of the nation's better defensive teams against the Tigers (4-1), forcing 23 turnovers that the Cardinals turned into 31 points. Missouri's Phil Pressey, considered one of the better point guards in the country, had eight turnovers.

The Cardinals (5-0) face Duke tonight in the title game.

No. 5 Duke 67, VCU 58: Mason Plumlee, a 6-foot-10 center who helped break Virginia Commonwealth's pressure, had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Blue Devils (5-0) into the Battle 4 Atlantis title game against Louisville.

Minn. 84, No. 19 Memphis 75: Andre Hollins scored a career-high 41 as the Gophers (5-1) toppled the Tigers (2-2) in the consolation semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. The sophomore guard was 12-for-16 from the field, making all five of his 3-pointers.

No. 17 Gonzaga 72, Okla. 47: Elias Harris scored 18 and the Zags (5-0) advanced to Sunday's title game of the Old Spice Classic in Lake Buena Vista. Gonzaga plays Davidson (3-2), which beat West Virginia 63-60.

No. 3 Ohio St. 91, Missouri-KC 45: Deshaun Thomas scored 21 as the host Buckeyes (4-0) coasted to a huge lead against Missouri-Kansas City.

No. 8 Ky. 104, LIU-Brooklyn 75: Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin each scored 22 and the host Wildcats (4-1) ran away from winless LIU-Brooklyn, but only after there were 10 lead changes and nine ties early.

No. 15 Mich. St. 70, Oak. 52: Keith Appling shook off a sprained right ankle and scored 20 as the host Spartans (4-1) needed an 18-0 run late to pull away.

No. 16 N.C. St. 82, UNC Asheville 80: Richard Howell scored 23, including the go-ahead basket with 3:06 left, as the host Wolfpack (4-1) rallied.

Oregon 83, No. 18 UNLV 79: Damyean Dotson scored 19 as the Ducks (5-0) upset the host Running Rebels (2-1) to reach the final of the Global Sports Classic against Cincinnati.

No. 22 Cincy 78, Iowa St. 70: Sean Kilpatrick made all 16 of his free throws and scored 32, leading the Bearcats (5-0) to a Global Sports Classic semifinal win.

Eckerd 72, P.R.-Bayamon 58: Josh Snodgrass and Alex Bodney scored 12 each as the host Tritons opened their season with a win in their Thanksgiving classic.

Coach suspended: Morehead State suspended coach Sean Woods for one game after he pushed guard Devon Atkinson during a loss to Kentucky. Woods, who said in an apology it "will not happen again," will sit out Monday against Norfolk State.

USF Bulls set school mark for losses, fall to Cincinnati Bearcats


By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
Friday, November 23, 2012

CINCINNATI — Remember when there seemed to be nothing more difficult for USF fans than the close, last-minute defeats that piled up into a six-game losing streak earlier this season?

The Bulls now offer an alternative, with a second straight blowout loss Friday night, struggling on offense in third-string quarterback Matt Floyd's first career start. A week after a 40-9 rout at Miami, the Bulls showed little spark in a 27-10 loss at Cincinnati, becoming the first USF team with eight losses in a season in the program's 16-year history.

"There were a lot of mistakes made, and there really weren't a lot of plays made tonight," coach Skip Holtz said. "I thought the young quarterback stood in there and showed an awful lot of poise, an awful lot of toughness. I was really proud of the way he competed. We certainly, in the last two weeks, have not done a lot to help him on the perimeter."

The mounting losses only add to the public criticism of Holtz, who has lost 13 of his past 15 Big East games in his three seasons; all signs point to him returning to try to turn things around in 2013.

USF (3-8, 1-5 Big East) barely avoided the lowest-scoring three-game stretch in its history — 32 points, better only than the 23 in the final three games of 2005. The Bulls had gone more than 10 quarters without a touchdown, showing how much they miss senior quarterback B.J. Daniels, who was out most of that span with a season-ending leg injury. Demetris Murray ended the drought with a 5-yard run midway through the fourth quarter Friday.

"It's part of being young in a lot of respects," Holtz said of the lopsided losses. "You're still looking at a lot of youth out there on the football field. I'm certainly not making that as an excuse. We expect them to go out and compete. We talked about a lot of guys having to step up with the productivity of B.J. out of the lineup. I don't think that has been the case. … We're not helping (Floyd) a lot."

USF's defense, which struggled against the pass at Miami, kept the game reasonably close into the third — the Bulls had the ball inside the Cincinnati 10, in position to get within a touchdown of the lead. But Holtz settled for a field goal, then the defense stopped stopping the Bearcats (8-3, 3-2), who pulled away in their home finale before a crowd of 21,171 at Nippert Stadium.

The Bulls hurt themselves with fumbles — officially a school-record seven, though they only lost two. Four came from Floyd, mostly on bad exchanges on snaps.

Cincinnati recovered Murray's fumble at the USF 19 in the first quarter, and senior quarterback Brendon Kay, who improved to 2-1 since taking over as the starter, scrambled 18 yards for a 7-0 lead.

USF's offense couldn't muster any sustained drives, but its defense kept it close until an 81-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 3-yard touchdown from Kay to tight end Travis Kelce with 2:58 left in the half, gave the Bearcats a 13-0 lead.

The Bulls offense started clicking in the third quarter, but a drive stalled inside the Cincinnati 10. Facing fourth and 2 at the Bearcats 7, Holtz settled for Maikon Bonani's 25-yard field goal.

For the second week in a row, Floyd struggled early, completing 5-of-15 in the first half for 47 yards. The redshirt freshman had better success in the second half, but the game was out of reach.

"It felt really good," Floyd said of the long-awaited touchdown. "It just felt nice to get back in the end zone."

The Bulls have dropped eight of nine. No USF team has had more than seven losses, and the Bulls still have a home finale against Pittsburgh (4-6, 1-4) next weekend.

CCC, East Lake still alive


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Two Pinellas high school football teams survived the second round of the postseason Friday.

Clearwater Central Catholic advanced to the state semifinals for the first time since 2005, beating Tampa Catholic 10-7 in a tight Class 3A rematch. The Marauders trailed 7-0 at halftime, then scored the winning 32-yard field goal with 35 seconds left.

East Lake, which was hoping for a Class 8A region final rematch with defending state champion Plant, instead will meet unbeaten Orlando Dr. Phillips, which knocked off Plant 24-7. East Lake dispatched Vero Beach 29-7 in a region semifinal. Daniel LaCamera kicked three consecutive field goals in the second quarter to help the Eagles pull ahead for good.

And Lakewood appeared to be in position to pull off the night's biggest upset, leading Class 5A state title contender Robinson late in the fourth quarter. But Zain Gilmore's touchdown pass and two-point conversion gave the Knights a 22-19 victory.

UCF Knights earn spot in C-USA title game with win over UAB


Times wires
Saturday, November 24, 2012

ORLANDO — UCF earned the rematch it craved.

Quincy McDuffie ran for three touchdowns and Blake Bortles threw for two to lead the Knights to a 49-24 win over Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday and a spot in the Conference USA title game against Tulsa.

UCF (9-3, 7-1), which clinched the East Division title with the win, travels to Oklahoma to play West winner Tulsa on Dec. 1 for the second time in three weeks. Tulsa beat UCF 23-21 on Nov. 17 to clinch homefield advantage in the title game.

Knights coach George O'Leary was happy with the result, if not the effort that earned it. UAB (3-9, 2-6) racked up 599 yards of offense.

"Any time as a defense you give up 600 yards, it's pathetic, in my opinion," he said. "There was poor tackling and poor coverage, and we better improve before we head to Oklahoma.

"Offensively, I thought we did what we had to get done and we had some opportunities we didn't take advantage of. Other than that, it's a win and another division championship."

McDuffie had scoring runs of 9, 8 and 43 yards. Bortles, who completed 17-of-23 for 225 yards, hit J.J. Worton with scoring passes of 18 and 4 yards.

Lyle Dankenbring returned an interception 78 yards for a score as the Knights took advantage of numerous Blazer mistakes to jump out to a 35-10 halftime lead.

Jonathan Perry threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for a score for UAB.

UAB outgained UCF 322-237 in the first half, but three drives inside the Knights' 20-yard line ended with no points.

"We didn't play well enough," UAB coach Garrick McGee said. "It's the only reason you lose, because you don't play well enough to beat a team that's really hungry, that has a vision, has goals and knows exactly what their target is."

This is the third time in the eight years of the CUSA title game that UCF and Tulsa play each other. Each school makes its fourth title game appearance.

Miami Hurricanes top Duke Blue Devils 52-45


Times wires
Saturday, November 24, 2012

DURHAM, N.C. — Nobody could stop anything named Duke on Saturday. Not the Blue Devils' defense and definitely not Miami's, either.

That led to a bunch of big plays and an unforgettable finale for the Hurricanes' seniors.

Freshman Duke Johnson rushed for season highs of 176 yards and three touchdowns, Stephen Morris had three passing scores and Miami held on to beat Duke 52-45 for a share of the ACC's Coastal Division title.

Morris was 15-of-25 for 369 yards for the Hurricanes, who outgained Duke 646-583 and never trailed but could never really breathe easy, either.

Playing for the first time since self-imposing a second straight postseason ban that keeps them out of both a bowl game and next week's league title game, the Hurricanes finished the wild affair that saw 1,229 total yards, five touchdowns that covered at least 20 yards, two 21-point Miami leads that were cut to seven, two onside kicks and an attempted fake punt.

"I'm not surprised that it was this type of game," Miami coach Al Golden said. "It was such an emotional week, when you think about the range of emotions. … When they came storming back, just the way they did it with a 99-yard play, I felt like, 'Oh man, now we've got to respond. Do we have enough in the tank to respond?' "

Sean Renfree threw for a career-high 432 yards and a career-high-tying four touchdowns — including a 99-yarder, the longest play in school history — in his final home game for Duke. Brandon Connette's second touchdown run pulled the Blue Devils within seven with 2:32 left.

But Miami (7-5, 5-3 ACC) denied Duke (6-6, 3-5) its seventh win.

"We're right there. It's like being at the top of a wall, you've got both hands and fingers got a firm grip of it," Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe said. "But if you don't have anything really left in you, you're not going to climb over it."

Morris' touchdown passes covered 11 yards to Clive Walford, 72 to Mike James and 65 to Herb Waters. James also had a 1-yard scoring plunge late in the first half.

Johnson scored on runs of 18, 6 and 65 yards. He finished with 947 yards rushing, easily surpassing Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record of 838.

Renfree hit Jamison Crowder for a 99-yard score with 11:45 left to get Duke within 45-31. He was 36 of 59.

With Miami's sanction, Georgia Tech (6-6, 5-3) — which lost to Miami — heads to Charlotte, N.C., for next weekend's title game against Florida State. Some fans in the Hurricanes' corner of Wallace Wade Stadium held posters bearing anti-NCAA messages.

"We've given up a lot," Golden said. "We gave up a bowl game last year, we're giving up a bowl game this year, and now we've given up a (league title) game in Charlotte. … We've given up three games in the postseason to right the ship."

Captain's Corner: If the wind is too much ...


By Jay Mastry, Times Correspondent
Saturday, November 24, 2012

What's hot: Windy conditions have prevented most from getting offshore. But there are alternatives. Forced to abort our traditional Thanksgiving morning kingfish trip, we bottom fished the edge of the ships channel off the south end of Mullet Key. Protected mostly from the howling north wind, we got a handful of keeper-sized (and a bunch of short) grouper during the last three hours of the incoming tide.

Tips: Rivers, bayous, the lee side of barrier islands and residential canals can provide cover in windy conditions. Fishing a couple canals in northeast St. Petersburg last week produced sheepshead. Bycatch included black drum, mangrove snapper, trout, juvenile red fish, flounder, mackerel and ladyfish. All were caught on shrimp pieces, frozen fiddler crabs or quarter-ounce jig heads with assorted color rubber tails.

What's ahead: Whitebait and greenbacks abundant on the flats will thin out. Cold temperatures will have them scurrying to warmer and deeper water, including the structure and shadow line of bridges and piers. We got plenty of greenbacks and whitebait just before daylight on Thanksgiving with a few shad mixed in at the Structure C Bridge.

Jay Mastry charters Jaybird out of St. Petersburg. Call (727) 321-2142.

NFL Week 12


By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012

Raiders (3-7) at Bengals (5-5)

1 p.m.

Bengals by 8½, 50½

It's hard to tell whether the Bengals are a real threat in the AFC playoff race, but they've won their past two games by a combined score of 59-19. Today, they face their former QB, Carson Palmer, above, now the starter in Oakland. He might throw for some decent yardage, but the Oakland defense will give up the costlier plays. The Raiders have yielded eight pass plays of 40 yards or longer this season. Bengals WR A.J. Green has five all by himself.

Bengals 29, Raiders 20

Steelers (6-4) at Browns (2-8)

1 p.m., Ch. 10

Steelers by 1, 34½

The Browns' record doesn't inspire one to pick them to win any game, much less one against a division rival. But the Steelers' quarterback situation coupled with the Browns' ability to keep games close this season even the playing field a bit. Charlie Batch, above, starts for Pittsburgh with Ben Roethlisberger and Byron Leftwich injured. Can the Steelers adjust their offense to quicker throws? Because Batch is immobile and the Browns can rush the passer.

Steelers 17, Browns 16

Bills (4-6) at Colts (6-4)

1 p.m.

Colts by 3, 51

That 59-24 loss by the Colts to the Patriots last week was ugly. There is no arguing that. But keep a few things in perspective: The Patriots scored three touchdowns off turnovers, and rookie QB Andrew Luck had, arguably, his worst game. If the Colts can buy into the theory it was worse than it looked, then they can ride their slightly superior talent to a win. This, however, is contingent on the defense limiting Buffalo's playmakers, namely RB C.J. Spiller, above.

Colts 27, Bills 23

Broncos (7-3) at Chiefs (1-9)

1 p.m.

Broncos by 10½, 44

The Broncos aim for their sixth straight win, and there doesn't seem to be a reason why they won't get it. Instead, let's talk about a subplot: QB Peyton Manning, above, can surpass team executive John Elway for the NFL's second-most regular-season wins as a starter. Manning also is 25 yards shy of his 14th 3,000-yard season, which would be second all time. Obviously, the guy has a place reserved in Canton. Should we just enshrine him now?

Broncos 31, Chiefs 16

Titans (4-6) at Jaguars (1-9)

1 p.m.

Titans by 4, 44½

This one isn't in the running for game of the week, but we were intrigued by the performance of Jaguars QB Chad Henne, above, last week. The Jaguars might be moving on from 2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, who's out for the season. Is it possible this team's problems were mostly a product of Gabbert? The valiant effort in the overtime loss at Houston suggests that's possible. Still, Tennessee's bye week could be the difference here.

Titans 23, Jaguars 20

Ravens (8-2) at Chargers (4-6)

4 p.m.

Ravens by 1, 47

The Chargers have lost five of their past six games, and they're running out of time to not only make a playoff push, but avoid far-reaching changes in the organization during the offseason. Can they scratch and claw their way to an upset here? Here's how it happens: The Chargers make this a shootout, and if QB Philip Rivers, above, can protect the ball, the Ravens have exploitable weaknesses on defense. Can the Chargers make them pay? We'll see.

Chargers 24, Ravens 22

Rams (3-6-1) at Cardinals (4-6)

4:25 p.m.

Cardinals by 1½, 37

The Rams last won on Oct. 4, the Cardinals on Sept. 30. So odds are at least someone will get in the win column for a change. We think it will be the Rams, which is more an indictment of the Cardinals than a vote of confidence in St. Louis. The Cardinals cycle through quarterbacks like socks, and the Rams are a capable pass-rushing team. DEs Robert Quinn and Chris Long, above, are a bad matchup for Arizona's poor excuse for an offensive line.

Rams 24, Cardinals 17

49ers (7-2-1) at Saints (5-5)

4:25 p.m., Ch. 13

49ers by 1, 49

Even the folks in Vegas had a hard time picking this game. Us, too. Here's what we know: It's one thing for 49ers second-year QB Colin Kaepernick, above, to beat Bears backup Jason Campbell, who ran for his life Monday night. It's quite another to beat Drew Brees at his place, the raucous Superdome. New Orleans is going to have a lot to say about the outcome of the NFC playoff picture. The Saints have won five of six and are heating up.

Saints 26, 49ers 23

Packers (7-3) at Giants (6-4)

8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Giants by 3, 50½

If momentum means anything, and in the NFL it usually does, there's too much here to ignore. The Packers have won five straight and look like the favorite in the North. The momentum applies in particular at quarterback. Green Bay's, Aaron Rodgers, above, is sizzling. New York's, Eli Manning, has no touchdowns and three interceptions over his past two games (both losses). By the way, why do the Giants seem to have a mini-tailspin every season?

Packers 27, Giants 23

Panthers (2-8) at Eagles (3-7)

8:30 Monday, ESPN

Panthers by 3, 40½

These clubs deserve each other. About the only team more disappointing than the Panthers is the Eagles. The Panthers will make life tough for rookie QB Nick Foles, above. They have a for-real pass rush — to which the Bucs can attest — including DE Charles Johnson. The Eagles defense has been so dreadful recently, you have to assume Cam Newton will be a factor. If he can make a handful of big plays, it will be enough to beat this hapless team.

Panthers 28, Eagles 23

Vikings (6-4) at Bears (7-3)

1 p.m.

Bears by 7, 39½

The big unknown is the status of Bears QB Jay Cutler (concussion) because it appears only he can win in spite of their embarrassing offensive line. The Bears demoted one lineman (Gabe Carimi) and saw another (Chilo Rachal) go AWOL after he, too, was benched. If the Bears don't get a yeoman's effort from their defense against RB Adrian Peterson, above, it might not matter who plays quarterback. The NFC North is tight, making this a huge game.

Bears 20, Vikings 17

Seahawks (6-4) at Dolphins (4-6)

1 p.m.

Seahawks by 3, 37½

After the troubles Miami had moving the ball against Buffalo last week, it seems Seattle's formidable defense can rise above the loooong trip east and shut Miami down with its pass rush and coverage ability. The Seahawks have good pass rushers, including Bruce Irvin and Chris Clemons. And they have CB Richard Sherman, above. He was named NFC defensive player of the week last week after an interception, sack and forced fumble.

Seahawks 23, Dolphins 17

North Suncoast: Sunday morning quarterback


By Matt Baker, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012

Three thoughts on Pasco-Gainesville Eastside

1. A week after having one of the best all-around games of his career (two touchdown rushes, two passes broken up and two tackles for a loss), Pasco RB David Emmanuel had another strong showing. He rushed for a season-high 164 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries in the Pirates' 52-0 win over Eastside. The monster showing gives him 287 yards and four touchdowns in this season's playoffs and puts him at eight 100-yard games this season. His season total grew to 1,311 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns.

"I don't know how he could play better," Pirates coach Tom McHugh said. "The whole season he's been like that."

2. Pasco's defensive line stole the show with a dominant performance against QB Sir Jackson, but the Pirates offensive line wasn't too shabby, either. The Rams mustered only one sack, and Pasco's starters had only four negative plays. Those numbers are even more surprising considering how Eastside held Anclote to negative rushing yards the previous week. Pasco tallied 318 Friday night.

3. The 52-0 blowout victory set several area records. The North Suncoast had never had a team score that many points in the playoffs, and the 52-point victory margin was the highest ever for the area in the postseason. The game was Pasco's third postseason shutout and the first since a 50-0 win over Gulf in 2008.

Pasco's unsung heroes

Brandon Ray: He continued a breakout sophomore season with big plays in all three phases of the game. Ray had an interception on Eastside's first possession, booted a 50-yard punt, drilled a 42-yard field goal and caught a 46-yard pass.

J.D. Edwards: The junior receiver/linebacker saved the shutout with an interception in the end zone in the final minutes. He also caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Ben Chandler.

Three thoughts on Pasco-Robinson

1. Although Pasco exorcised some Tampa demons with last year's 31-7 win over Jesuit in the region finals, the Pirates have struggled against Hillsborough County teams. Pasco is 2-4 against teams from Tampa, including a 41-14 loss to Jefferson in 2010.

2. Don't be surprised by defensive scores. Pasco has scored 20 nonoffensive TDs, and Robinson set a state record with 13 defensive TDs.

3. Pasco's line has dominated the last two games, but the Knights are loaded up front. Former Gulf lineman Bruce Hector and 6-foot-4, 275-pound senior Conner Rafferty have both committed to USF.

Three tangents

1. Springstead fans can be happy that the team that knocked the Eagles out of the playoffs didn't last long. Ocala Vanguard's season ended with a 21-10 loss to Gainesville, the team that defeated Hernando.

2. Hernando coaches weren't joking when they talked about the Leopards' brutal schedule. Hernando's spring opponent (CCC) is in the Class 3A state semifinals. Its preseason opponent (Pasco) is in the region finals. One nondistrict loss came to a South Sumter team that barely lost to Jacksonville Bolles on Friday, and the team that ousted the Leopards in the playoffs, Gainesville, will face Armwood in the Class 6A region finals.

3. The Crawfordville Wakulla team that ousted Pasco in last year's state semifinals had a much shorter postseason this fall. Tallahassee Godby edged Wakulla 14-7 in the second round. The winner of this week's Godby-Jacksonville Bishop Kenny showdown faces the winner of the Pasco-Robinson game in the state semifinals.

Rays' decisions on which contracts to tender could determine offseason direction


By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012

In theory, the Rays are looking for up to five frontline position players.

Two are absolute necessities, as there are no in-house candidates to play first base or DH, leaving the Rays to explore pretty much every trade and free agent option. (And thus creating plenty of rumor-mill fodder.)

Three others would be welcome additions: an outfielder, to replace B.J. Upton in either center or left with Desmond Jennings sliding over; a second baseman or shortstop (or both), depending on what they do with Ben Zobrist; and a catcher, allowing Jose Molina to return to the backup role for which he is better suited.

And though it's still relatively early in the offseason, decisions made by Friday's deadline to tender contracts could dictate some of the Rays' direction.

For example, they could cover second base (and narrow Zobrist's options to short or outfield) by keeping Ryan Roberts. But his projected salary of around $3 million through arbitration seems too expensive, and he could be one of their several potential nontenders. Another option at second is some combo of Sean Rodriguez (who requires some thought at about $1 million as well), Reid Brignac, Elliot Johnson and even Tim Beckham.

For another, they could fill leftfield by platooning arb-eligible Ben Francisco and Sam Fuld, but Francisco could approach $2 million, making him another possible nontender.

And players nontendered elsewhere — Baltimore's Mark Reynolds? — could be fits.

MAKING A PITCH: LHP David Price used his always entertaining @DAVIDprice14 Twitter account to send Thanksgiving wishes to OF Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins' last untraded star, with this message: "stay in fla … just come play for the rays please!!! We would love to have you." Stanton responded: "that means I wouldn't have to face u … Tempting Ha!"

FREE-FOR-ALL: The Rays could have interest in INF/OF Chone Figgins, the Brandon High product designated for assignment by Seattle who has a successful history with manager Joe Maddon in Anaheim. … Also potentially, in INF/OF Ryan Raburn, a Durant High product designated by Detroit. … 1B/DH Lance Berkman told the Houston Chronicle the Rays are one of four teams to express "tire-kicking" interest; he may be more interested in the Astros. … RHP Matt Buschmann, a Vanderbilt mate of Price, re-signed after going 7-8, 3.98 at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham. … C Nevin Ashley, a Rays farmhand for six years, signed a minor-league deal with the Reds. … Upton is looking to make a decision this week, with both the Braves (who brought in former manager Bobby Cox to impress during his visit) and Phillies considering him their top choice. … The D'backs and Yankees are interested in INF Jeff Keppinger.

RAYS RUMBLINGS: Of the two young lefty pitchers added to the 40-man roster, Felipe Rivero is considered more polished while Enny Romero (their No. 6 prospect per Baseball America) has better stuff, including a 92-97 mph fastball. … The Royals' stock of position players and quest for another starter makes them a logical trade partner. … Condolences to farm director Mitch Lukevics on the passing of his wife, Karen, who lost a lengthy battle with cancer. … INF Leonardo Reginatto, the first signee from the team's Brazilian program, was a key player in the World Baseball Classic upset run past Panama; he spent 2012 at short-season Class A Hudson Valley. … Maddon will announce Friday that his Hazleton Integration Project has reached an initial goal, buying a building to serve as a community center in his Pennsylvania hometown. His second annual fund-/awareness-raising event is Dec. 14-16.

Tom Jones' Two Cents: The NFL's seven sorriest franchises


By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012

Arizona Cardinals

This franchise, which hasn't won an NFL title since they were the Chicago Cardinals in 1947, moved to Arizona in 1988. Since then, they have had only three playoff appearances. In fact, they have just three winning records in their 24 seasons in Arizona. They have appeared in a Super Bowl, losing a close contest to the Steelers here in Tampa after the 2008 season. That's about the only real highlight over the past 60-some years.

Atlanta Falcons

The regular-season success the Falcons have had over the past several seasons hasn't translated to the postseason. Quarterback Matt Ryan still hasn't won a playoff game. The Falcons have lost three straight postseason games by a combined scored of 102-47. This franchise has only one Super Bowl appearance in its history, and it was a rather forgettable 34-19 loss to the Broncos after the 1998 season.

Buffalo Bills

Bills fans are a proud bunch, and they will point to just how rare it is to make it to four straight Super Bowls. That's what the Bills did back in the 1990s, and they remain the only team to do it. But, come on, wouldn't you rather win one Super Bowl and miss the playoffs entirely in the other three seasons than lose four straight? And it was how the Bills lost those Super Bowls: three blowouts and an absolute gut-wrenching loss to the Giants when Scott Norwood missed a last-play field goal at Tampa Stadium. Recent history has been awful: no playoff appearances since 1999 — the longest drought in the NFL. And it doesn't look like it will end this season.

Cincinnati Bengals

Certainly on the short list of the worst-run franchises in all of sports over the past 30 years because of its owner, Mike Brown. The Bengals had strong teams off and on in the 1970s and 1980s. But they've had just three postseason appearances over the past 21 seasons and haven't won a playoff game since 1990 — the longest drought in the NFL.

Cleveland Browns

Poor Cleveland. The Browns' history in the Super Bowl era ranges from pathetic (no Super Bowl appearances) to heartbreaking (those awful losses to John Elway’s Broncos in the playoffs in the 1980s) to devastating (the team moved to Baltimore in 1995). Football has "returned'' to Cleveland in name only. The Browns have had only one playoff appearance in the past 14 seasons and haven't won a playoff game since Bill Belichick was coach in 1994. That won't change this season, either. Unless you're old enough to go back to the Jim Brown days, football in Cleveland has been a bummer.

Detroit Lions

The Lions never have been to a Super Bowl. They've made the playoffs only once in the past 12 seasons. They are 1-10 in the playoffs in the Super Bowl era, and that lone win was back in 1991. They are the only franchise in NFL history to have an 0-16 season. And, lately, even Thanksgiving, the day we all think of the Lions, has been a nightmare: Detroit has lost nine in a row on Turkey Day.

Minnesota Vikings

Bitterness about this franchise goes back to the 1960s and 1970s when the Vikings lost four Super Bowls. This historic franchise hasn't even appeared in a Super Bowl since then and has never won the Big Game. In recent seasons, playoff failures have been especially difficult to swallow for Minnesotans. It includes the Brett Favre Vikings losing in overtime in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual Super Bowl-winning Saints three seasons ago. It includes an embarrassing 41-0 loss the Giants in the 2000 NFC title game. And it includes a shocking OT loss in the 1998 NFC Championship Game after the reliable Gary Anderson missed an easy field goal.


The Texans and Jaguars have never appeared in a Super Bowl, although both haven't been around that many seasons and the Texas could be a Super Bowl team this season. Other teams that haven't won a Super Bowl include the Eagles, Chargers, Titans, Panthers and Seahawks .

The Chiefs haven't won a playoff game in 19 seasons. And, one more mention: the Jets. They haven't appeared in a Super Bowl since Joe Namath's guarantee. Believe it or not, that was 44 seasons ago.

tom jones' two cents

Today, the Atlanta Falcons come to town to take on the Bucs. And, when you think about it, the Falcons are in a pretty good spot. They're 9-1 and headed to the playoffs for a third straight season. They've already assured themselves of a winning record for the fifth consecutive season, the longest streak in franchise history. • But, when you really think about it, you wouldn't want to be a fan of this franchise, not over its history. There are plenty of reasons. • In the Super Bowl era there have been great franchises: the Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, Patriots and 49ers. But other franchises have been hard on fans, because of futility or heartbreak or both. That list includes the Falcons. Here's my pick of the top seven teams — let's call them the "Sorry Seven'' — that I wouldn't want to be a fan of.

Hillsborough: Sunday morning quarterback


By Joel Anderson and Joey Knight, Times Staff Writers
Saturday, November 24, 2012

By the numbers

1 Playoff victories in Newsome's first nine seasons of existence.

2 Playoff victories for Newsome this season.

14 Yards, the longest run for Tampa Catholic in its 10-7 loss to Clearwater Central Catholic. By comparison, CCC had seven runs longer than 14 yards.

40 Playoff victories (including those later forfeited) for Armwood in the Sean Callahan era. Callahan made a point to tell reporters that defensive coordinator Matt Thompson has been on his coaching staff for all 40.

1,027 Yards rushing, unofficially, Robinson RB Martin Ruiz has for the season after his 152-yard effort in a 22-19 win over Lakewood.

5,576 Career yards rushing, unofficially, for Carrollwood Day's Robert Davis after he totaled 101 yards in a 56-28 loss to Naples First Baptist. Davis broke Hillsborough County's career rushing mark last week, a record once held by Riverview's Avious Steadman.

Did you know?

Newsome senior QB/MLB/P Will Worth has had two games this year in which he has amassed at least 100 rushing and passing yards. Both were against Durant.


"They're playing beyond the expectations of us." — Matt Thompson, Armwood defensive coordinator, on his unit, which had already lost CB Aaron Covington (broken arm) and lost MLB Marcus Jacobs (ankle) early in Friday's 9-7 win at Hillsborough

"The first loss against CCC was a tough pill to swallow. We felt if we scored three touchdowns this time we could win. We were able to hold them on defense. We just couldn't finish drives." — Bob Henriquez, Tampa Catholic coach, after the Crusaders' 10-7 loss to Clearwater Central Catholic

"They spied two players on our quarterback, which is smart. They did a nice coaching job, they really did." — Earl Garcia, Hillsborough coach, on Armwood's defensive scheme against Terriers QB Dwayne Lawson

On those days of practice when Plant's defense would get the better of the offense, players rushed to claim ownership of a bricklike trophy topped by an upright mallet.

The slab served as a mocking testament to their dominance of coach Robert Weiner's vaunted offense.

"RIP Weiner Ball, 2004-2012," read a banner across the front of the trophy last week. "Here lies the (remnants) of Robert Weiner's offense buried by the Plant defense."

Orlando Dr. Phillips' defense took its turn Friday against the visiting Panthers.

In their earliest playoff exit since 2005, the Panthers were held scoreless on offense and limited to 91 yards — their worst performance in at least a half-dozen years — in a 24-7 loss in the regional semifinals.

"We couldn't find anything that worked," Weiner said after the game. "We tried every scheme that we had, but they were a little more physical than we were and a little faster."

Plant's offensive futility was never more evident than during a particularly ugly stretch in the second half, when Dr. Phillips held a 14-0 lead.

Plant failed to pick up a first down on four straight possessions, three of them ending with sacks of quarterback Aaron Banks. The third takedown led to a fumble recovered by Dr. Phillips.

By the time the Panthers finally moved the chains, there was little more than a minute left in the game and Dr. Phillips had inserted a number of reserves.

"That was the greatest defensive effort I've seen in 20 years at Dr. Phillips," said coach Rodney Wells, an alum and former Syracuse linebacker who took over the program two years ago after being an assistant there for many years.

While nothing pointed to this sort of end for Plant, there had been signs of slippage in Weiner's offense this year.

The Panthers averaged 29.2 points, their lowest since scoring 24.2 per game in 2005, Weiner's second year at Plant and the junior year of then-quarterback Robert Marve. Perhaps not so coincidentally, that was also the last time Plant was knocked out before the region finals.

This was also the first year the Panthers didn't have a three-star college recruit at one of the skill positions. Quarterback Aaron Banks, running back Wesley Bullock and receiver Tristan Cooper are all expected to continue their playing careers in college but none brought in recruiters like Marve, Aaron Murray or James Wilder Jr.

Additionally, the Panthers lost top lineman Richy Klepal, a four-star prospect and FSU commitment, to a career-ending head injury after the second week.

So just a year after averaging 36.9 points — a touchdown more than this fall's team — en route to the 8A title, Plant was ill-equipped to handle a relentless and talented foe it had beaten 49-13 the previous season.

"They've been through a lot of adversity," Weiner said. "We had a lot of guys who got injured and couldn't play, but our kids kept fighting up until the last minute."

No, the Dr. Phillips Panthers won't get a mallet-topped trophy to prove its dominance of Plant. Instead, and most important, they get to play another game for the really big trophy Plant denied them in 2011.

Florida Gators top Florida State Seminoles 37-26


By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012

TALLAHASSEE — After coach Will Muschamp walked off the field last season following Florida's regular-season finale — a double-digit home loss to archrival Florida State — he publicly questioned the toughness of his team and the direction his program had taken.

On Saturday afternoon, facing the Seminoles for the second time, Muschamp had no questions about the Gators' toughness — or where the program is headed.

No. 6 Florida forced a season-high five turnovers and rallied in the fourth quarter for a 37-26 victory over the No. 10 Seminoles in front of 83,429 at Doak Campbell Stadium. The Gators entered No. 4 in the BCS and will play in a BCS game if they remain among the top four.

Florida (11-1) ended a two-game losing streak to FSU (10-2), won 11 regular-season games for just the fifth time and moved to 1-5-1 at Doak Campbell when both were ranked in the Top 10.

Florida struggled offensively all season but scored 24 fourth-quarter points against a defense that entered No. 1 overall in Division I-A for its eighth come-from-behind win of the season.

"Our guys understand it's about 60 minutes and it's about how you continue to play and perform," said Muschamp, whose team went 7-6 last season. "We've really challenged our football team on winning the fourth quarter; getting in those games and those situations and performing well when the game is on the line."

There was a point when it appeared the Seminoles would be boasting of a comeback. Down 13-3 after getting Dustin Hopkins' 50-yard field goal on the first half's final play, they outscored the Gators 20-0 to take a 20-13 lead at the end of the third quarter.

"That game was all momentum," said FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, whose team faces Georgia Tech this Saturday at the ACC title game in Charlotte, N.C.

"They started off good, and they controlled the first downs. And we got that little drive before the half to get us three points, and we have a little momentum. In the third quarter, we changed it, and they got the momentum back in the fourth quarter."

The fourth quarter was all Florida. Caleb Sturgis hit a 32-yard field goal to make it 20-16. On the ensuing possession, linebacker Antonio Morrison forced a fumble by quarterback EJ Manuel, which was recovered by end Dominique Easley. One play later, senior Mike Gillislee ran 37 yards to give the Gators a 23-20 lead.

"My offensive line did a great job at blocking, and all I needed was a little seam," said Gillislee, who became just the eighth Gator to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. "I saw it. I just mashed the gas, and I hit it."

Manuel (18-of-33 for 182 yards, three interceptions) sustained an abdominal injury on the fumble and missed a series.

The Gators did not trail again. Gillislee sustained a rib injury with 9:07 left, but former Armwood High standout Matt Jones took over and ran for 81 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown.

FSU entered as the No. 1 rushing defense in I-A at 70.6 yards per game. But UF had 244, the fourth team this season to rush for more than 100 against FSU.

"We weren't expecting that to happen," defensive tackle Everett Dawkins said. "I don't know what happened. But we're going to get it fixed. There's no way that Florida State's defense is going to let that happen again."

Florida's Jeff Driskel, returning after spraining his right ankle Nov. 10, was 15-of-23 for 147 yards and one touchdown.

"In a game like this, the little ankle injury can't be an issue," Driskel said. "You have to be able to play through that. A little ankle sprain wasn't going to hold me out of a game like this."

Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

Cutler reportedly set to start


Saturday, November 24, 2012

CHICAGO — Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was medically cleared and will start today, cbssports.com reported Saturday.

Cutler sustained a concussion Nov. 11 and did not play in Monday's 32-7 loss to the 49ers. He was scheduled to see an independent neurologist Saturday to get final clearance.

The team did not reveal the results of the exam, but it practiced Thursday and Friday as if Cutler would start.

No white flags: After several days of criticism, the Browns canceled a promotion to hand out white flags, white symbolizes surrender, to fans today. The team said it did so "in the best interests of everyone. It is something that was intended to be fun for our fans and that they could rally around. And we regret that some didn't perceive it that way."

Chiefs: Receiver Jamar Newsome, a graduate of Gulfport's Boca Ciega High, was promoted from the practice squad.

Eagles: Tailback LeSean McCoy will sit out Monday because of a concussion sustained last week.

Vikings: The team confirmed Thursday's report by nfl.com that former Gator receiver Percy Harvin won't play because of a sprained left ankle.

Gaffney suspended: The league suspended receiver Jabar Gaffney, released by the Dolphins last week, for two games. In February, the former Gator was detained for resisting arrest without violence. He recently completed a pretrial diversion program.

North Suncoast wrestling preview


By Derek J. LaRiviere, Times Correspondent
Saturday, November 24, 2012

Preseason top five

1. Springstead

The two-time defending Class 2A state champions are coming off of a turmoil-filled offseason. Coach Eric Swensen, who led the team for eight seasons, resigned to spend more time with his family and moved back to Minnesota. The team was left to longtime assistant and Springstead alum Sal Basile. The change should be seamless with most of the wrestlers familiar with Basile's coaching style and mannerisms. While all three individual state champions (Cody Ross, Sean Redman and John Dreggors) from last year have graduated and freshman state finalist Josh Herrera moved away, there is still plenty of talent. Six of the 14 competitors on the team have experience wrestling at state, including three who placed on the podium.

2. Fivay

Heading into only its third season, the Falcons have already won district and region titles. Coach Andy Medders returns much of the lineup from last season. Much like Springstead, Fivay has had to deal with graduation (two-time state finalist Mike Hahn) and an unexpected move (state placer Sean Speer). However, five state qualifiers return, including placer Troy Reed.

3. Gulf

With Swensen's departure and Bill Combs' retirement at Hernando, Travis DeWalt is now the dean of coaches on the North Suncoast. His 12-year tenure as the head man continues to impress as the program reloads season after season. This season the team will feature four state qualifiers (Kenny Hayes and Anthony Agazarm) and two state placers (Forrest Swartsel and Spencer Baxter), who both have a legitimate chance to win a title. The deep lineup is continually being developed, so there's no telling which wrestler could become a force by season's end.

4. Nature Coast

No team made more of an impact as last season wound down than the Sharks, but so many of the wrestlers in that lineup were seniors. Coach Mike Lastra lost Cameron Tull, Mitch Lambert and Carlos Carrasquillo to graduation. All were somewhat unexpected state placers after meteoric postseason rises. If the coaching staff can work with their inexperienced lineup in a similar fashion this year, the Sharks could make waves again.

5. Pasco

Coach Mark DeAugustino will have his most experienced and talented team in years with three state qualifiers returning and two other talented seniors also in the lineup that should also make a run at state. Niko DeAugustino, Skyler White and Zack Jordan should provide the experience and leadership after making it to state last year. Kevin Tipton, competing at 113 pounds, and John Brown, wrestling at 170, could be the next two to join them.

Notable tournaments

• Dec. 7-8, Kiwanis Invitational at Hernando

• Dec. 15, Springstead Duals

• Dec. 21-22, Gulf Holiday Duals

• Jan. 4-5, Springstead Invitational

• Jan. 11-12, Combs Duals at Nature Coast

• Jan. 19, Anclote Challenge Duals

• Jan. 26, Suncoast Athletic Conference Championships at Hudson

• Feb. 1, District tournaments

• Feb. 8-9, Region tournaments (A-2 at Tenoroc in Lakeland, A-3 at Berkeley Prep, 2A-2 at St. Cloud, 3A-2 at Osceola in Kissimmee)

• Feb. 15-16, state finals at the Lakeland Center

Wrestlers to watch

Dakota Arends, Sr., River Ridge, 106 pounds: The lightweight flew somewhat under the radar last season even though he went 38-5. He fell to Gulf's Anthony Agazarm at the Sunshine Athletic Conference tournament and ran into Nature Coast's Sean Nguyen at region and state, but he did capture a district title.

Spencer Baxter, Sr., Gulf, 170: Baxter has had an up-and-down high school career, but he capped his 50-4 junior year with a bronze medal at the state meet in Lakeland. With one last shot, he wants gold in a weight class that seems ripe for the picking.

Matt Landgraff, So., Springstead, 106: During his 33-12 freshman campaign, Landgraff, the younger brother of former state champion Shawn Landgraff, never could solve his rival from Nature Coast, Sean Nguyen. Even at state, where he placed fourth, he lost to Nguyen in the round before his consolation final.

Sean Nguyen, Sr., Nature Coast, 106: When last season began, Nguyen was coming off a summer full of training and competing in USA tournaments. The hard work paid off as the strong, lanky wrestler went 52-8 and ended up at the state meet in Lakeland. He was part of a North Suncoast-dominated podium, taking third.

Jordan Rivera, Jr., Springstead, 132: In Rivera's first two seasons, he earned two third-place medals at the state finals in Lakeland. He was disappointed in last year's 36-6 finish, which tells you just how much drive he has. If the Eagles are going to be state contenders again as a team, he will have to be a major leader.

Conor Ross, So., Springstead, 182: Coming off of a stellar football campaign, Ross will shift his focus to wrestling, where he's just as good, if not better. As a freshman, he went 35-9 and made the state finals, the first Eagles wrestler to make it that far since his brother Cody. Now he wants what Cody achieved three times: an individual state title.

Pinellas: Sunday morning quarterback


By Bob Putnam and Rodney Page, Times Staff Writers
Saturday, November 24, 2012

They started off by playing one another in one of the most anticipated matchups of the season. • Now, Clearwater Central Catholic and East Lake are the only county teams left standing in the playoffs. • The Marauders (11-1) are in the state semifinals for the second time in school history by relying on a devastating running game and suffocating defense. The Eagles (11-1) are in the region finals for the second straight season thanks to a high-powered passing game and a bend-but-don't-break defense. • This week comes the hard part. Both play teams ranked No. 1 in their classifications. CCC hosts Fort Lauderdale University School, which beat defending Class 3A state champion Delray American Heritage in the region finals. East Lake travels to play Orlando Dr. Phillips, which knocked off defending Class 8A state champion Plant in the region semifinals.

Offensive player of the week

Trey Larry, CCC: The senior, who has a knack for producing big plays, had another against Tampa Catholic. Trailing 7-0 in the third quarter, Larry took a pitch and raced 54 yards for a score. He finished with 105 yards on six carries.

Defensive player of the week

George Campbell, East Lake: Known more as a receiver, Campbell had game-turning plays on defense, scoring on two fumble recoveries. In the third quarter, he scooped a fumble and raced 95 yards for a touchdown and a 22-7 lead against Vero Beach.

Breakout player

Jake Shade, CCC: A former starting quarterback, Shade has made significant contributions on defense. He had an interception and broke up two passes in the second half against Tampa Catholic.

Injury report

CCC coach John Davis said it appears FB Domenic James' knee injury could be a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

"We won't know for sure until Domenic sees a doctor on Monday," Davis said. "But it doesn't look good. I don't think there's any way we'll get him for this week."

James' first-half injury against Tampa Catholic was a blow considering the Marauders relied on James heavily in the running game and on play-action passes.

"We struggled for a while because we had to make a lot of adjustments with Domenic not being in there," Davis said. "I thought Ethan Thompson really did a great job filling in at fullback and playing on both sides of the ball."

Davis said he expects DB Michael Stevenson to return from a concussion this week.

By the numbers

0 Number of times East Lake QB Pete DiNovo had not run or passed for a touchdown in a game before this past week's game against Vero Beach.

0 Number of state semifinal games played at Clearwater Central Catholic before this Friday. The Marauders will host Fort Lauderdale University School in the first state semifinal ever played at CCC.

2 Consecutive years East Lake has played in the Class 8A region final. The Eagles lost to Plant last year in overtime.

14 Combined point deficit in Lakewood's two losses to Robinson (18-7 in the regular season and 22-19 in the Class 5A region semifinals).

124 Total yards allowed by Orlando Dr. Phillips in its 24-7 win over Plant. Dr. Phillips hosts East Lake this week.


"The guys played well, but I hated it went down to a spot. If (Robinson) didn't jump, I was going to call timeout. (The officials) didn't give me timeout, and it was a horrible spot." — Cory Moore, Lakewood coach, after Tracy Johnson's sneak was stopped on fourth and 1 from its own 40 with 2:41 left and leading 19-14 at Robinson. Moore claimed he called timeout after trying to get Robinson to jump offside, but it wasn't granted.

"I was nervous for sure, but the snap and hold were perfect. All that was left was for me to do my job. Once the kick went in, it was the most amazing feeling ever." — Matt Fosnacht, CCC kicker, on his 32-yard winning field goal to beat Tampa Catholic 10-7.

Spartan superlatives

Although Lakewood failed to reach the third round of the playoffs, it is worth noting how much the Spartans accomplished. Lakewood beat Jesuit for the first time in school history to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2009. The Spartans also beat rival St. Petersburg for the first time in five years.

Pinellas wrestling preview


By Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer
Saturday, November 24, 2012

Palm Harbor University

The Hurricanes have a loaded lineup and could qualify as many as seven wrestlers for the state tournament, including four who have legitimate shots at top two finishes. The strength of the lineup is in the lower weights. Besides Jared Prince (120), Connor Prince (126) and Aaron Hartman (145), there also is Tim Sakow (106), a junior who cracked the starting lineup and is nationally ranked. With so much star power, the Hurricanes are easily the overwhelming favorite to repeat as conference champion and should place in the top two as a team at district and region meets.


Despite graduating a state champion in Kyle Goodnow and a state qualifier in R.J. Luth, the Falcons can have a solid performance at the state meet. Dunedin will rely heavily on its lower weights, such as Clarence Arrington (126), Marc Allison (132) and Alex Lebhar (138).


After struggling for the past few years, the Cougars should make a turnaround because of their lower weights, led by Matt Collora, who won his weight class (106) at the East Lake Invitational last season and qualified for the state tournament.

Dixie Hollins

Sure, the Rebels numbers took a hit due to graduation and transfers. But Dixie Hollins still is regarded as one of the better teams in the south county and will be stronger in the upper weights with Andre Matthews (285) returning as perhaps the county's top heavyweight.

Indian Rocks Christian

After placing third in their district last season, the Golden Eagles are poised to make a significant leap thanks to a lineup that was bolstered by a few key transfers. Jared Wolfenbarger, a two-time district champion, came over from Dixie Hollins and is wrestling at 106 pounds. Jay Dugmore, a district runnerup, transferred from Osceola to wrestle at 143 pounds.

Key tournaments

• Friday-Dec. 1, East Lake Invitational

• Dec. 7-8, Jerry Mita Invitational (Pinellas Park)

• Dec. 21-22, Southside Duals (Boca Ciega)

Teams to watch

Wrestlers to watch

Clarence Arrington, Sr., Dunedin, 126 pounds: A former folkstyle champion in Texas who moved here two summers ago, Arrington established himself as one of the county's top wrestlers last season when he won a Class 2A state title last year at 126. He and teammate Kyle Goodnow (now graduated) became the first state champions from Dunedin in 37 years. Arrington is wrestling in the same weight class and recently won an individual title at the Peter Parker tournament.

Derrick Doss, Sr., Largo, 195: A two-sport star, Doss has been a leader at linebacker the past three seasons. He also is a solid wrestler who qualified for state last season at 195 pounds and just missed placing. With no offers yet, Doss is contemplating skipping his senior season to concentrate on playing football in college. He most likely will not wrestle until after the winter break.

Aaron Hartman, Jr., Palm Harbor University, 145: Last season, Hartman entered the Class 3A state tournament undefeated and ranked No. 1 in his class. He lost in the semifinals and finished fifth. Two years ago, he was a state runnerup. He will be ranked among the favorites as he chases that elusive state title.

Connor Prince, Soph., Palm Harbor University, 126: He advanced to the Class 3A state finals as a freshman and lost when he gave up an escape in the final minute. But he teams with his twin brother, Jared, to give the Hurricanes the best pair of lower weight wrestlers in the county.

Jared Prince, Soph., Palm Harbor University, 120: Much like his brother, Jared also had a chance at a state title in the final minute. But he has bounced back to become one of the top wrestlers in the nation. At the Super 32 Challenge last month, Jared finished fifth in his weight class to earn All-America status. He went 7-2 with one of his wins coming against the No. 13 ranked wrestler in the country.

Hillsborough County wrestling preview


By Steve Lee, Times Correspondent
Saturday, November 24, 2012

RUSKIN — Lennard's Ron Buffano said receiving the 2012 Joel Medgebow Award as the county's coach of the year gave him an opportunity to boast about his wrestlers.

"It meant a lot," said Buffano, a former Bloomingdale standout who got the Lennard program off the ground in 2009. "To me, that means that they were the team of the year."

While he might get an argument from anyone associated with the Brandon program that owns 12 straight state titles and 23 overall, Buffano listed a trio of Longhorn wrestlers with state potential: seniors Herminio Camacho (132 pounds) and Tyler Sierra (138 or 145), along with junior Darrian Mills, who placed sixth at 120 in last year's state meet but will move up to 126 this season.

"I think Lennard is going to be really tough," Hillsborough coach Mike Patrick said. "(The Longhorns) graduated two key seniors, but they're returning a lot."

As for Patrick's team that placed 15th in last year's state meet, he has two returning state qualifiers in senior Demetrius Hill, who finished fifth at 195, and Jacob West, a junior who wrestles at 113. And 160-pounder Kyle Knauer had 35 wins last year and was one match from making state.

King has three seniors to watch: Jacob Wasserman, a 2012 state runnerup at 106 who bumps up to 120, 138-pounder Joseph Affronti and Andre Accomando at 113.

Armwood's Donoven Hough won a state title at 106 and moves up to 113 as a sophomore. And count Durant's Richard Woods, Jesuit's Wyatt Roop and Robinson's Luis Peguero among the candidates aiming to return to state.

Then there is Brandon with the usual handful of state champion candidates. This year's group includes the Norstrem brothers in senior Kevin (138), a four-time state champion, and freshman Kyle (113), a state champion at Tampa Bay Christian; defending 106-pound state champ Dylan Lucas, a sophomore; junior 120-pounder James Flint, a three-time state champ; and 160-pounder Jacob Haydock, who seeks his second straight state title.

Other Eagles to keep an eye on: Travis Berridge (170, fourth at state) and Devan Berrian (132, fifth at state).

Up next on the wrestling docket is the Cougar Invitational, which returns to Plant City after a one-year stint at the Tampa Convention Center due to a remodeling and expansion of the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds' Expo Hall.

The prestigious tournament, which began with eight teams in 1996, now annually lists 32 teams. The event begins Friday and ends Dec. 1 with teams slated to compete on eight mats in a 25,000-square-foot venue that seats 1,200.

"I'm real curious to see how big the event is," said Patrick, adding, "I really liked it at the convention center last year. It was run well."

Ranked Knights, Cards both upset


Times wires
Saturday, November 24, 2012

PITTSBURGH — Rutgers officially isn't swapping the Big East for the Big Ten for two years.

The No. 21 Scarlet Knights sure looked ready to check out early, though, in a lifeless 27-6 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Though Rutgers still clinched a share of its first conference title after No. 19 Louisville was stunned at home by Connecticut, the Scarlet Knights head into Thursday's showdown with the Cardinals reeling.

"It (stinks) to lose, but we still have something to play for," Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova said.

Even if the Panthers performed more like the team with everything on the line.

Nova completed just 18 of 37 passes for 157 yards with a touchdown and an interception and left briefly in first half after getting slammed to the ground on his right (throwing) shoulder.

The Scarlet Knights came in the Big East's biggest surprise, rising to the cusp of the school's first BCS berth despite losing program architect Greg Schiano to the Bucs last winter.

Rutgers announced last week that it was heading to the Big Ten in 2014.

The Panthers, meanwhile, stayed alive for a chance at bowl eligibility. Pitt would qualify with a win Saturday against USF at Raymond James Stadium.

CONNECTICUT 23, NO. 19 LOUISVILLE 20, 3OT: Blidi Wreh-Wilson knew the ball would eventually come his way. The Connecticut cornerback just wanted to be in the right position.

Wilson's first interception this season came in the third overtime and helped the visiting Huskies pull off the upset and keep bowl hopes alive.

On third and goal from Connecticut's 5, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked for DeVante Parker in the end zone. But the pass was slightly behind him and Wreh-Wilson read it perfectly to make the pickoff. Four plays later Chad Christen kicked a 30-yard field goal.

"I just know in the red zone they like to go back-shoulder on the fade ball and I had the guy across from me," Wreh-Wilson said.

Bridgewater sustained a broken left (non-throwing) wrist on a second-quarter sack, sat out most of the third quarter and returned to lead a fourth-quarter rally, capped by a 6-yard TD to Parker with 21 seconds left in regulation.

Former Armwood standout Matt Jones shows promise in Florida Gators' win


By Josh Jurnovoy, Times Correspondent
Saturday, November 24, 2012

TALLAHASSEE — Matt Jones simply needed a chance and a dose of confidence.

Through the season's first 11 games, the Florida freshman running back had just 178 yards on 41 carries, an average of 4.3 yards per rush.

When starter Mike Gillislee went down late in the fourth quarter Saturday against No. 10 Florida State with a rib injury, Jones took over on the sixth-ranked Gators' final offensive series and made sure the drive was a quick one.

"He ran hard," quarterback Jeff Driskel said of Jones, a former Armwood High standout. "He ran really hard. No one wanted to really tackle him."

After consecutive 14- and 13-yard runs by Jones to begin the series that started on the UF 44, Driskel lost 3 yards on a run. But Jones broke through the line on the following play for a 32-yard touchdown run to put the Gators up by three scores, en route to a 37-26 win.

"Matt Jones played fantastically," said coach Will Muschamp, who has a policy of not allowing freshmen to talk to the media.

For the game, Jones rushed for a career-high 81 yards on just eight carries. Early in the season, he struggled to run a north-south style despite being 6 feet 2 and 226 pounds. Muschamp said Jones has figured out how to be more effective running up the middle.

"You've got to learn the counter and the counter steps and learn to trust instead of trying to bounce it," Muschamp said. "In high school, he's probably going to outrun most guys. In this league, you're not going to outrun everybody. You've got to learn to trust your blocks and have a feel for the run game, and that's what he's been able to mature and do."

Since getting 10 carries against Kentucky on Sept. 22, Jones had carried the ball 10 times in six games before the Nov. 17 win over Jacksonville State. Center Jonotthan Harrison said that despite not playing for such a significant portion of the season, Jones had been getting more comfortable in the offense each week.

"With experience, with practice, comes confidence," Harrison said. "That happens to all younger players. You get in your first couple games, you're nervous. You got the jitters. As soon as you get used to it, you're just like, 'Let's just play football. Let's just go out there and have fun. Do what I do.' "

Harrison said the team was confident in Jones' ability to close out the game in the absence of Gillislee, who ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries before his injury. He added that what Jones showed Saturday was a sign of things to come.

"He has a great future," Harrison said. "I can already tell because he's willing to work hard and do whatever it takes."

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