PLAYdeEr,RTrinitySChPrsitiOanTAcLademIGy HT Victor Alexan t H.S. De’Andre Johnson, First Coas s, Orange Park H.S. Devon Brooks & Frank Water
$4.00 March/April 2014 Northeast Florida Edition
Kourtney Benson, Pablo Creek Saints
1 on ONE
INSIDE High School Football Recruiting
In This Issue:
09 On The Cover Trinity Christian Academy
18 Player Spotlight Victor Alexander Trinity Christian Academy 22 Academic Athlete
Sandalwood High School
24 Player Spotlight
De’Andre Johnson First Coast High School
26 Sophmore Standouts
24 26 28
Jacksonville’s Football Talent Pool 17 20
What to Expect as a High School Recruit 35 Basketball Recruiting
Dynasty Afoot, Ribault Girls Repeat at State
Joshua and Jaquan Bailey
Raines High School Football
28 Rising Star
Creeks Outlaw Football
30 Wrestler Spotlight
The Mystique of Glades Central High School 12
McKenna DeBever, Bishop Kenny High School Joshe Wolfe, Samuel W. Wolfson High School
14 War of the Border Florida vs. Georgia High Schools
In the Stands
13 1 on One With a High School Football Recruiter Lance McFarland
Devon Brooks & Frank Waters
Orange Park High School
36 Up Close & Personal
West Nassau High School
38 Coach’s Corner Kourtney Benson Pablo Creek Saints
36 Read. Subscribe. Share.
Mark Dykes Shawn Smaok
Mark Dykes Kaitlynn Passmore
Jennifer Alexander Ryan Adams Ryan Adams Design
Cover Photography Sarah Hedden
Don Ashton Pat Crawford Heather Vallier Kelly Helm Jennifer Carter Johnson Photography Scott Russell Photography
Feature Writer Joey Lopes
Contributing Writers Allen Young Brandon Ibarra Robert Preston, Jr. John Wood
Crystal Hubbard Ashley Dailey
Mark Dykes firstname.lastname@example.org Shawn Smoak email@example.com
Website Manager Kaitlynn Passmore
From The Publisher Dykes Publishing is excited to bring In the Game High School Sports Magazine to the Northeast Florida region. For the last eight years, In the Game, with its home offices in Valdosta, Georgia, has featured the very best and brightest high school student-athletes in its five editions spread throughout Georgia. In the Game covers all sports, male and female, from football to lacrosse, triathlons, and even auto racing. The goal of the Dykes Publishing is to highlight what these young men and women do on a daily basis both on the field of play and in the classroom. Our stories are always positive, always uplifting, and provide the general public with a glimpse of the incredible work these young adults do each and every day. We are looking forward to serving the Northeast Florida community. Typically, In the Game has four main features each month: a Player Spotlight, Rising Star, Academic Athlete, and Coach’s Corner. In addition, we publish several special features a month, which could be anything from more athlete features that may not fit into the aforementioned four categories, community events related to athletics, or games/teams/coaches from the past. It’s also not uncommon for us to have multiple athletes in each feature, which is what we have this month in our Player Spotlight. The Player Spotlight athletes for this edition are Trinity Christian Academy’s Victor Alexander and First Coast High’s De’Andre Johnson. Alexander, a middle linebacker with a state championship under his belt, has committed to playing football at UCLA. Johnson, a quarterback, will play his college football at Florida State. The Rising Star feature for March is Griffin Helm, a quarterback who has already won a Pop Warner national title. A true student-athlete, Helm maintains a 3.8 grade point average and is as passionate about his schoolwork as he is football. A set of twins occupies the Sophomore Standout column this month – Joshua and Jaquan Bailey – both of whom are fierce competitors who love football almost as much as they love each other. Sierra Vallier of Sandalwood High is the Academic Athlete. A cheerleader from the time she was five years old, she is a strong leader, brilliant performer, community advocate, and a scholar. The Coach’s Corner feature also covers cheerleading. Kourtney Benson loves the sport of cheerleading and the lessons it teaches young women. As much as she loves cheerleading, she loves teaching those life lessons even more.
Mark Dykes, Publisher
Shawn Smoak, Publisher
Kaitlynn Passmore, Editor
Jennifer Alexander, Graphic Designer
In addition to these articles, we have plenty of other content covering high school athletics and athletes in the area. There is no shortage of talent in the Northeast Florida region, and we look forward to exploring these stories in the coming weeks and months. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you again in May.
For distribution or subscription information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org For advertising information call: 888-715-4263 Dykes Publishing Group, Inc. P.O. Box 812 Valdosta, GA 31603
In the Game High School Sports Magazine is published monthly excluding July. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in part or in full without written consent from the publisher. Dykes Publishing Group, Inc. makes no representation or warranty of any kind for accuracy of content. All advertisements are assumed by the publisher to be correct. Copyright 2014 Dykes Publishing Group, Inc. All rights reserved. ISSN 1945-1458.
On the Cover
Trinity Conquers State Title by Allen Young
acksonville, Florida, is home to many elite high school football programs. If you ask any collegiate coach about the talent in Jacksonville, that conversation would include Trinity Christian Academy. Trinity Christian Academy (TCA) is home to the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) 2013 Class 3A state champions. The
photography by Sarah Hedden
Conquerors of TCA, coached by Verlon Dorminey, had a remarkable season with an overall record of 12-1. Ranked 10th in Florida and 174th nationally, the Conquerors showed themselves worthy of their position. “We have great team chemistry; my players work hard and my staff is amazing,” says Dorminey. Two current TCA coaching staff
members played collegiate football and are former Conquerors. “They are great with the guys and on one page,” says Dorminey. With the players and staff on one accord, it’s no wonder the Conquerors were unstoppable. Their offense averaged 34.7 points per game with a total of 3,461 yards rushing (266 per game) and 1,437 yards passing (110.5 per game). Their defense forced
try; “We have great team chemis my d n a rd a h rk o w s er y la p y m staff is amazing.” 9
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19 interceptions (1.5 per game) and 18 fumbles, tallying up a total of 44 sacks (3.4 per game) and 604 tackles total (46.5 per game). The Conquerors had several key contributors: senior quarterback Jaquez Riles threw for a total of 1,092 yards (99.3 per game) with a total of 16 touchdowns, sophomore running back Jalin Buie rushed for a total of 1,527 yards (8.53 yards per carry) with a total of 12 touchdowns, and junior linebacker Andre Smith averaged three and a half sacks and 4.6 tackles per game (60 tackles total). “Isaiah Ford is a leader and great football player,” says Dorminey. Ford had a total of 717 yards receiving with 12 touchdowns and rushed for a total of 201 yards, scoring four times. Kevin Tolliver rushed for 502 yards, scoring
seven times, and totaled 36 tackles; Victor Alexander had 70 tackles. Jeffrey Holland tallied 45 tackles, and both T.J. Jackson and Deontai Williams totaled 43 tackles. Ben Edwards had 37 tackles. Defense wins games and this unit proved it. From looking at the box scores, one most likely would assume that TCA’s schedule was easy. That assumption would be entirely false. The road to the 3A title was no walk in the park. The Conquerors faced tough opponents such as the (8-4) Celtics of Trinity Catholic, who averaged 178.9 yards receiving per game and 208.2 yards rushing per game; the (10-3) Crusaders of Tampa Catholic, who averaged 174.6 yards receiving and 140.3 yards rushing per game; and the (11-3) Marauders of Clearwater
Central, who totaled 114.9 yards receiving and 252 yards rushing. Colleges from the ACC, SEC, PAC-10
The final score of the FHSAA championship game was 34-7, which demonstrates how talented the Trinity Christian team is. and Big East are paying them a visit. With attention like this, no one would question why Trinity Christian is ranked number one for small schools. ITG
no The road to the 3A title was erors walk in the park. The conqu faced tough opponents... 11
The Mystique of Glades Central High School by Robert Preston, Jr.
hile my duties writing here at In the Game sometimes feel like a full-time job, I am in fact a parttime writer for this publication. My full-time job requires me to travel quite a bit, and I often find myself in and around Belle Glade, Florida. When I’m down there, I always pass by Glades Central High School. The first time I went by the school, the name struck me as oddly familiar. I began doing some research on the school and the community of Belle Glade. I was quite surprised at what I found. The following information has been gleaned from several sources, with a majority of it coming from Wikipedia (I apologize to the academics out there who are cringing at the mention of everybody’s favorite probably-true-but-we’renot-entirely-sure website). The city of Belle Glade sits at the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee, which is the largest lake in the continental U.S. that rests entirely within one state. (In case you’re keeping score, Lake Michigan is the largest lake in the lower 48, but it crosses state lines.) Belle Glade was built in the 1920s after a portion of Lake Okeechobee was drained. As a result, the land in and around Belle Glade is extremely fertile. Agriculture is the main industry in Belle Glade, with sugarcane being the major cash crop in the area. A significant portion of America’s sugarcane comes from the Belle Glade/ Clewiston region. Belle Glade is known as Muck City because of the rich, black soil found in the area. That soil is the key to Belle Glade’s thriving agriculture industry. It may also hold the key to Belle Glade’s other significant export: professional football players. These kinds of things are difficult to track, but it is believed that Glades Central High School has produced more NFL players than any other high school in the country. What’s even more interesting is that Belle Glade is a small, economically depressed, and violent community. When I was coaching cross country at South
Georgia State College, one of my runners from southwest Florida told me that her church often sent missionary teams to Belle Glade for instate mission trips. With a population of less than 18,000, a high incidence of AIDS, and a propensity for violence, Belle Glade is an unlikely candidate for the most athletically gifted high school in the United States. A quick glance reveals that Glades Central has produced at least 23 NFL players and four Canadian Football players. Nearby Pahokee High School, which is Glades Central’s chief rival, has produced nine more NFL players (and Mel Tillis, if you’re curious). Anquan Boldin, who was raised in Canal Point, attended Pahokee. Florida State wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, who caught the game-winning pass in the BCS National Championship, hails from Glades Central and will be a likely first-round selection himself. I looked up a couple of schools in our area that are known for football. I checked seven schools and came up with 36 NFL players: 11 from Valdosta, eight from Thomasville, five from Lowndes, four from Camden and Tift, and two from Colquitt and Thomas County Central (these numbers came from the Georgia High School Football Historians Association). Two small schools in South Florida have produced the same number of professional football players (counting NFL and CFL players) as has seven of the best South Georgia schools. What is the key to Glades Central’s gridiron success? Some people believe it can be found in that black soil. There is something in there that creates fast, athletic kids - the kind of kids who win state championships (six at Glades Central) and go on to play Division I and professional sports. Exactly what it is hasn’t been identified just yet, but the dirt holds the answers. When we talk about things such as this, we often say, “Well, there must be something in the water.” Belle Glade is surrounded by water, but that’s not where the secret is. It’s in the dirt of Muck City. ITG
Goin’ 1 on One
with High School Football Recruiter Lance McFarland by Joey Lopes
photography by Don Ashton
The Chosen Few1213 is a recruiting service that provides exposure for the student athlete to various levels of colleges and teaches them the word of God through the techniques and discipline of football. hen Lance McFarland left football, he was satisfied with his legacy on the field. He stepped away from coaching high school football to assume an even bigger role in a young athlete’s life, one that doesn’t focus so much on being a better athlete but evolving into a young man both mentally and physically. Unlike some recruiting services that focus on the numbers, McFarland focuses on the athlete’s character and integrity through his thorough interviewing process. McFarland began playing flag football in the P.A.L. (Police Athletic League), then Pop Warner and then Highlands Middle
School, where he received an award for Most Improved Player. He played high school football at Mandarin High, where he was awarded All-Conference and All-City honors with a college offer, but he decided to go into trade school and become a Merchant Mariner. He found out about Minor League football and decided to continue playing. He played for four years, and in all four years made the AllStar teams. In 2010 he was awarded FFA Offensive Lineman of the Year. After his last season he was offered a tryout by the Miami Dolphins but turned it down to start his coaching career. In 2010, McFarland began coaching high
...if you have the academic ability, vision to succeed, and talent, there is a college for you. school football and soon realized that there were a lot of young men in need of a mentor as well a recruiting coach at many different area schools. “That’s when I was led to walk away from coaching at one main
Spending time with his family keeps him grounded.
school and put myself in position to share my recruiting knowledge and coaching techniques with many others no matter what school the young men attended. Many young men and their parents feel that if they do not get the top Division I college and university scholarships that their chances at a good education and football career are over. But this is not the case, as there are so many colleges and universities with football programs on various division levels that are looking for good student athletes,” he says. The purpose of The Chosen Few1213 is to give young men the best opportunity to take their football talents to the collegiate level. He truly believes that if you have the academic ability, vision to succeed, and talent, that there is a college for you. “Many times in coaching high school football, we leave the young men at the most critical time of their lives:when they leave for college. It’s the transitioning point for most young men into manhood and the first encounter of being away from familiarity,” he says. The Chosen Few1213 strives to stay in contact with the students through college because they are not interested in just having clients but in building relationships. “Sometimes a phone call or an email knowing that somebody cares about your development can make a big difference in a person’s life” he says. McFarland still finds time to balance family, and spending time with his newborn son keeps him grounded. He instills the same values in his student athletes that he does with his son. Encouraging young men to do the right thing at all times will create great habits not just for their present situation but also for their future. “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5),” he says. ITG
Second Half Surge Gives Florida Third War of the Border Victory by John Wood
photography by Jennifer Carter Johnson
lorida scored 22 unanswered points to defeat Georgia, 22-12, for the third time in four years at the “Swamp,” the home stadium of the Class A runner up Charlton County Indians. All four games have been played in Folkston because of its proiximty to the North Florida border and the city of Jacksonville. The goal of War of the Border is to hopefully help a senior football player have a chance to be seen by a collegiate scout and gain a special memory as he finishes up his high school football career. “I think the game is a great opportunity for unsigned players to get that last chance to impress some college scouts. I think our players for the most part did well in the game. Of course you would always like to see your own players get more playing time, but as with all All-Star games each player has to get his opportunity to play,” Liberty County Panthers Head Coach Kirk Warner says. Warner, who has been on the staffs of the prestigous US Army All-American Game and last month’s Under Armor All-American game, had four of his Panther players playing for the Georgia squad in the War of the Border game.
Charlton County quarterback Trae Harrington hit teammate Julian Roberts for a 41-yard gain but Georgia did not punch the ball in. Appling County kicker Israel Jaramillo’s field goal put the home team up 3-0. Appling defensive back Devontae Wilkerson scored Georgia’s first touchdown late in the first quarter, picking off a Florida pass from 20 yards out. Georgia held a 9-0 lead until late in the first half. Fernandina Beach’s Anthony Duclos picks off a Georgia pass returning the ball to the Georgia 24-yard line. Fletcher’s Codan Breckenridge added a 32-yard field goal for Florida’s first
score cutting the Georgia lead to 9-3. Florida grabbed a loose fumble from Georgia’s special teams. Bacon County’s Antonio Mason put a bone-jarring hit on the Florida quarterback, knocking him out of the game. However, once Georgia got the ball back, the offense fumbled again. In the final seconds of the half, Florida got a 38-yard touchdown pass from Atlantic Coast’s Ryan McFarlin to Mandarin’s Willie Burgos, giving them their first lead of the game, 10-9. Coming out of halftime the rest of the game would be controlled by the visiting team. Menendez’s Trevon Bryant scored a rushing touchdown on Florida’s opening possession. Georgia’s special teams mishandled another kick, and Florida was able to hit the ball carrier near the one yard line. On the next snap Yulee’s Gary Deveaux recorded a safety. On the ensuing free kick, Breckrenridge added another field goal from 42 yards. Despite its struggling offense and special teams woes, Georgia did add one more field goal in the second half. Florida drove the length of the field in the final minutes of the game and were in the red zone about to score as time expired giving them a
War of the Border gives senior football players that haven’t signed scholarships an opportunity to get noticed and also gives those that may not play college ball one last high school football game.
22-12 victory. Roberts was the offensive MVP player of the game for Georgia. First Coast running back Jaha McCray took offensive MVP honors for Florida after finishing with 125 yards from scrimmage, and Stanton safety Collin Conner took the defensive honors home after a pair of interceptions. “This has been one of our best years to date. In the three games that we have had since January 10,” Georgia Florida War of the Border organizer Mike Gammons. Gammons, a veteran football official that helps the Georgia High School Association train officials, started putting together this series that features three different games. The
first game was held January 10 at BazemoreHyder Stadium in Valdosta. The other games were January 17 in Moultrie, and the final game was played at the Swamp in Charlton County, February 15 in Folkston. According to Gammons, the colleges have had one of their best years signing players that played in one of the three War of the Border games. “We have had 10 players sign with Valdosta State. Some of the schools that we have work with us are Lenoir-Rhyne in North Carolina, Reinhardt, Kennesaw State, and several state schools in both states. We just added Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida,:” Gammons says. The official’s crew was provided by Flowers Baking Company of Jacksonville. According to reports, game is expected to move to First Coast in Jacksonville next year after four years at Charlton County High School. “We are certainly excited with the prospect of moving the game to Jacksonville at First Coast. I really think this is going to be a great move for us,” Gammons says. ITG
Talent Pool acksonville has always been a place where programs have gone to restock the cupboard. Football talent here, like in many areas of Florida, matches up with any other region in the country and is better than most. 2015 is no different. One school, though, sticks out. Trinity Christian has one of the most impressive accumulations of talent of any school in the nation. Here are some of the headliners.
Defensive back -
Kevin Toliver II At 6’2,” 185 pounds, Toliver is a five-star defensive back recruit. He’s up for the top prospect overall in the entire class, but that could fluctuate as time goes on. Right now, Toliver is committed to LSU, but every SEC program, and some other national recruiters like Florida State, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and Southern California are after him as well. Toliver has been well-known for a while now after dominating on the camp circuit last summer.
Linebacker - Jeffery Holland Holland is built like a brick house at 223 pounds. He’s regarded as a four-star prospect and could play either inside or outside at the linebacker spot. He’s being pursued by Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, and Ohio State heavily. The Gators are considered the early favorite. Defensive back -
Ben Edwards Being a four-star prospect usually means you’re the top player at the position on your high school team, but Edwards is in the unique position of being an elite recruit that sometimes gets overlooked by Kevin Toliver. Edwards shouldn’t worry about that much, though. He’s already accepted a scholarship to Ohio State to play for the Buckeyes.
- Kendrick Norton At 292 pounds, the 6’2” defensive tackle is already on his way to having the right size to play at the next level. A four-star recruit, Norton is held in high regard by many. Odell Haggins and Florida State look to be the lucky recipients of his talents as Norton is already committed to the reigning national champions. Norton was recruited by Alabama, Auburn, Florida, LSU, Notre Dame, and Tennessee
Linebacker - Andre Smith Teaming up with Holland, Smith is a part of a very talented linebacking corps at Trinity Christian. The 225-pounder is heading to North Carolina having already accepted a scholarship from the Tar Heels.
Linebacker - Victor Alexander UCLA didn’t care that Alexander was on the opposite coast. They targeted the 5’10,” 220-pound linebacker and captured a commitment from him. Alexander was also recruited by Florida, Miami, North Carolina, and USF.
NORTHEAST FLORIDA FITNESS
By Corey Dowlar
Photos Courtesy of 247Sports.com
Defensive back -
Deontai Williams 6’1,” 185-pound safety Deontai Williams has garnered a three-star rating by most, with potential to improve on that this summer and fall. Williams has been heavily recruited but has already made a decision. Williams committed to Florida over Auburn, LSU, and Notre Dame. He’s been a part of the Gators’ recruiting class since January.
Trinity Christian Academy
Sport you wish you could play: Golf Favorite athlete: Ray Lewis Favorite NFL team: Seattle Seahawks Last movie: Comedy Favorite super power: Superior Strength Favorite person to meet: Terry Crews Favorite place to travel: California 18
AGAINST ALL ODDS
Trinity Christian Academy Middle Linebacker, Lets His Game do the Talking by Joey Lopes
f you live in Jacksonville, Florida, you have likely heard of the Trinity Christian Academy Conquerors, the 2013 class 3A state champions. You’ve also likely heard they have quite a few Division I college prospects, most of them juniors playing on defense. Any coach will tell you it takes more than a lot of talent on a team to win championships - you also need a field general on both sides of the ball to impact the game. Victor Alexander has been that general for the last two seasons for the Conquerors defense. Alexander, a 5’10”, 217-pound junior middle linebacker, is a Jacksonville native who has been a nightmare for opposing offenses. Ever since he stepped on TCA’s campus, coaches knew he would be an impact player. As the leader of one of the top-ranked defenses in the state, he still finds time to get the job done in the classroom with a 3.3 GPA. This hardhitting linebacker has wowed scouts with his physical play, abilities to play in space,
photography by Don Ashton and Sarah Hedden
blitz, cover ground on the pass, and his explosive hits. Alexander has rewritten the rules for the prototypical linebacker, stating, “Size doesn’t matter during the play when it’s just you and the guy in front of you. It’s about being the alpha dog between the whistle.” He models his game after his older brother Ruben Foster and Ray Lewis. He says what separates him from other linebackers is that, “You can’t coach instinct.” He finished the season leading his team with 70 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one interception that came in the second half of the state championship game and changed the game’s momentum. He earned the honors of making first team defense on the All-First Coast team for the 2013 season. But stats don’t speak for the impact he has made in games. Not many players can impact games with his backbreaking hits. During the state championship game, the biggest game of any high school athlete, he recorded seven tackles and an interception
he took inside the opponents’ red zone to set up a scoring touchdown on the assuming offensive play. TCA went on to win its fourth state title in school history,
Alexander, a 5’10”, 217-pound junior middle linebacker, is a Jacksonville native who has been a nightmare for opposing offenses. 34-7, over Clearwater Central Catholic. Alexander says, “I played every game with a chip on my shoulder this season to prove to scouts I belong on the radar.” That moxie has gotten him offers from Florida, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and other Division I programs. “I committed to UCLA in November because of the engineering program along with the experienced coaching staff that can take me far in my endeavors,” he says. ITG
photography by Sarah Hedden Photography, Russell Davis, Heather Vallier
e up and players lin Cheerleaders g in ad he before in the end zone to the sideline.
Gilbert D lines up to take on Twin Lakes offense for the city title.
Cheer moms and dads prepare their vehicles to support the Pablo Creek Saint â€™s jr. pee wee cheer squad at nationals.
TCA fans support their foot ball team during breast cancer awareness mon th as they go into the locker room at half time.
Fans beat the
heat during at
The color gu the prega ard stands at atte ntion duri me cerem ng on school cit y champio y of the middle nship. . the Citrus Bowl
Dedicated TCA fans beat the heat with shades provided by Brighthouse Network.
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Trinity fans watch the visiting teamâ€™s halftime show.
11 Parents and kid s team up to su pport each other during th e annual Girls on the Run ev ent.
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Trinity fans prepare to cheer on their football team in the class 3A state championship.
Sandalwood High School
Junior scholar cheerleader impacts her community through volunteering and mentoring by Joey Lopes
ost high school juniors look forward to their senior year as one step closer to getting out of school. Sandalwood High School’s Sierra Vallier is enjoying her time in high school, balancing school, cheerleading, volunteering, and friends. Vallier prides herself on being smart, focused, and a determined leader who puts school above all other hobbies and interests.
Sierra is an amazing role model, not only for the young girls she coaches but adults and peers alike. Vallier started like most young girls - at the age of three participating in various activities such as gymnastics, ballet and tap. At five she became a cheer mascot for Pablo Creek, and by age seven she became a cheerleader. Vallier cheered for the Pablo Creek Saints until she was 15, after which she took a year off from cheering to be an assistant to coach
photography by Don Ashton, Rhonda Adamo and Scott Russell of Scott Russell Photography
Christen Hurse for the Baymeadows Youth Athletic Association. She helped take the Peewee division girls to nationals, where they placed sixth in the intermediate level. Vallier’s determination can be seen in the girls she has coached. “Sierra is an amazing role model, not only for the young girls she coaches but adults and peers alike. She takes time out of her busy high school schedule to volunteer her time to give back to our community. She has taught her cheerleaders leadership, self worth, sportsmanship and team work - all tools that will last the girls a lifetime. It amazes me the amount of maturity she has at such an early age. It has been a pleasure to know and work with her. There is no doubt in my mind she will do great things for our community, youth, and city as she continues on her journey through life!” says Hurse. In 2013, Vallier decided to try out for the Sandalwood Saints cheer squad. Through hard work, persistence, and determination she made the squad. “What separates me from other girls is that I understand
concepts better,” Vallier says. Vallier stands with the other back spots, the “Giraffe Crew.” They got their nickname because Vallier stands at 6,’ and she is the tallest of the crew. Vallier has a 4.3 weighted grade point average and is ranked 30th in a class of over 700. Vallier plans to attend college in Florida and is working diligently towards a bright future scholarship with the help of her AVID (Advanced Via Individual Determination) teacher. When Sierra is not on the field, she is busy with her studies. She is currently taking four college credit courses. Vallier has personal goals of mastering her back handspring, which she works hard at every week with tumbling classes and the help of her coach, Rhonda Adamo. That goal will hopefully lead Vallier to a spot on the varsity squad next year. Vallier plans to graduate high school next year as a sophmore in college. She is undecided on her major, but she plans to possibly choose between nursing, accounting, or physical therapy. ITG
First Coast High School
Sport you wish you could play: Basketball Favorite athlete: Peyton Manning Favorite NFL team: New York Jets Last movie: Remember the Titans Favorite super power: Super Strong Favorite person to meet: Fitness Guru Todd Durkin Favorite place to travel: New York
Talented First Coast Quarterback, would like to Finish His Career with a State Title by Joey Lopes
he First Coast Buccaneers entered the 2013 season with high expectations of making a deep playoff run. They had depth, talent, and an excellent head coach in Marty Lee, who has turned the program around. They also had De’Andre Johnson, the talented 6’1”, 175-pounds junior from New York, who has been one of the best quarterbacks in Northeast Florida since his freshman year. Since Johnson arrived at First Coast, the Buccaneers have been one of the best teams in Jacksonville, Florida. Johnson has done what few freshman quarterbacks have and that’s take his team to the state championship game in his first year and afterwards committing to Division I powerhouse FSU, all in the same year. “Head Coach Jimbo Fisher is a genius and will use me to the best of my ability and prepare me for the next level. Also football only lasts six months. FSU has a lot of positive functions for the students to take part in around the campus. Believe it or not, I am really excited about going to watch the other student athletes compete,
photography by Don Ashton
but not all of them have what it takes to be out there on Friday nights,” Lee says. “My goal is to master the art of quarterbacking,” Johnson says.
Through studying film and extensive strength and conditioning training, Johnson is making strides toward becoming one of the most elite quarterbacks of his class.
2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. And this past season, he threw for more than 3,000 yards, 31 passing touchdowns, and rushed for nine touchdowns. At this pace, he will be recognized as one of Florida’s elite high school quarterbacks for the Class of 2015. Going into the 2014 season, the Buccaneers’ goal is to win the District 8A championship and then win the district 8A state championship. In addition to his team goals, Johnson has set even the bigger personal goal of “continuing to grow mentally and physically into a college quarterback,” he says. ITG
He put up monster numbers as a freshman by throwing for nearly 3,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. In his sophomore year, he threw for nearly
Johnson has done what few freshman quarterbacks have, and that’s take his team to the state championship game in his first year. at track meets. ACC Basketball is going to be incredible. Gymnastics, tennis, softball, baseball--you will see me at any sporting event we have at FSU,” Johnson says. Fisher has compared Johnson to Charlie Ward while other scouts have compared him to Russell Wilson. Johnson has already committed to playing in the Under Armor All-American game in 2015. While other high school students spend their summer having fun, Johnson spends his working on becoming a better quarterback. Johnson also finds time to get the job done in the classroom, maintaining a 3.71 grade point average. Lee refers to Johnson as the ideal student athlete you would want as a son. “There’s a ton of athletes walking around our school
Joshua and Jaquan Bailey William M. Raines High School
6’3” 250lbs Offensive & Defensive Line
6’3” 220lbs Defensive End & Linebacker 26
Raines High School Produces Double Impact Standouts by Joey Lopes
photography by Don Ashton
William M. Raines High School has been a public school factory for producing professional caliber talent in football, Terry LeCount, Brian Dawkins, Lito Sheppard, and Derrick and Jabar Gaffney to name a few. wins Joshua and Jaquan Bailey of Jacksonville, Florida, hope to join that list going into their junior season. When they first set foot on the campus of Raines High School, they were followed by a history of academic and discipline issues from middle school. After joining Coach Deran Wiley and the Vikings, those issues are gone. Joshua and Jaquan Bailey are dual sophomore threats. Joshua, 6’3” and 250 pounds, plays on the offensive and defensive line. Jaquan,
Their hard work and dedication to football earned them a chance to play at the varsity level in ninth grade.
their 2013 season 4-0 in the district and 9-3 overall. Every game is a big game for the brothers playing their first full season on the highest level of high school sports. Joshua has the stature of the prototypical Division 1 offensive lineman. With his size alone, scouts who have seen his film are amazed by his footwork, hips, strength, and speed. “You don’t see coordination from most kids with that kind of size this early,” a scout says. Jaquan is a raw talent that causes disruptions in the run and the pass game. He has good hand placement, power, strength, and speed. Scouts have compared him to Jevon Kearse. The Bailey brothers put in a lot of hard work on the
mental aspect of the game by watching film to correct their mistakes as they continue to grow and learn the complex systems run at Raines. ITG
“Each day is a day to get better, to learn and grow as a better player,” Joshua says.
6’3” and 220 pounds, plays defensive end and linebacker. The brothers came to the Raines High School football program determined to make names for themselves. Playing on opposite sides of the ball and living together, there is no way these two young men can avoid each other on or off the field. They compete every day in practice to make it known that there’s no such thing as brotherly love between the whistles in practice. “We save that for home,” Jaquan says. They’re very well-mannered and show tremendous respect to others off the field. Joshua is a two-sport athlete who also competes as a swimmer to stay competitive during the offseason. Jaquan works on perfecting his craft as a defensive end/linebacker by training year-round for football. As an offensive lineman, there’s no clear cut way to show dominance without a couple thousandyard rushers on your team. Joshua prides himself on how many times he puts his man on his back, and as a sophomore, he’s building a pretty big list. Jaquan has racked up 13 sacks as a sophomore while playing at Raines High School. These two fierce competitors love the big stages. The Vikings finished
Leaders come in many shapes, sizes and ages... by Allen Young
photography by Don Ashton and Kelly Helm
Quarterback Griffin Helm and the Creeks Outlaws take the field for practice in Plantation Park, Florida, approximately 15 miles southeast of Interstate 295. or months, they prepared to bring the 2013 Pop Warner National Championship trophy back to St. Johns County, a goal that they fell short of last season. On December 13, 2013, that goal was achieved. The Creeks Outlaws feature a roster of talented sixth- and seventh-grade boys competing in the PeeWee division. The PeeWee division typically consists of children aged nine12 and weighing 75-120 pounds. The Creeks Outlaws finished their season undefeated with an overall record of 17-0. Coach Mike Hughes and the fans equally contributed to the success of the team. “Coach Hughes is really good. He conditioned us, and prepared us for games. Our fans are very supportive,” says Helm. Helm is the defensive coach’s nightmare. He’s the teammate who doesn’t care what position he plays as long as he’s on the field contributing, a characteristic that explains why he plays both sides of the ball. At 5’5” and 105 pounds, Helm clocks 4.8 seconds in the 40. His decisionmaking skills are far advanced for his
age. His ability to read the middle linebacker, deciding if it’s best to run versus throw, is a skill Griffin has attained at only age 12.
has an e H e. g a ck a p te le p m co e th Helm is et, ck o p e th in ce en ti a p , rm a incredible se. en ff o n o ti p o e th in t en ll ce and he’s ex
Swiss Point Middle School 28
Helm’s hobbies include basketball, football and volleyball. In the offseason, he spends his time perfecting his craft with speed and agility coach Jerrian Sanders. The youngest of four children, Helm receives a lot of advice from older brothers Jacob, Jordan, and Grant. Balancing school with athletics is no problem for Helm. “As soon as I get home I do my homework,” he says. He has an overall grade point average of 3.8, which landed him on the Dean’s List at Swiss Point Middle School. The Creek Outlaws got payback against the Tacolcy Red Raiders, winning 6-2,
in Osceola, Florida, for the Division II Southeast regional championship, beating the team that defeated them last season in the same round. “The field seemed smaller than it actually was,” says Helm. In Lake Buena Vista, Florida, on December 7, 2013, the Creek Outlaws faced the Michigan City Wolves from Indiana. Down six points after being stopped on their first drive, the Creek Outlaws were faced with adversity. This was the first time all season an opposing team scored on them. Many questioned how they would respond. “We have to score next drive,” Helm says. And they did. The
Creek Outlaws scored 38 points for a final score of 38-6. Helm is only in middle school, but his future is bright. His ultimate goal is to play professional football in the National Football League. With Helm’s character, determination, and work ethic, his dream is very attainable. ITG
“Amazing” was one word that summed up Helm’s feeling after winning the Pop Warner National Championship.
Jacksonville Jaguars Florida Gators
Powerade or Gatorade
Place to travel California
Person to meet Cam Newton
Wrestler Spotlight Strong Senior Class Leads Orange Park Wrestling Devon Brooks and Frank Waters by Brandon Ibrra
range Park High School wrestlers are expected to follow three rules: be respectful, be a student athlete, be on time. Head Coach Chad Parker implemented these standards when he accepted the position in 2006. They are simplistic, but that was intentional. “Too many rules, too many chances to
photography by Pat Crawford
fail,” says Parker, now in his eighth year back with the Raiders (Parker graduated from Orange Park in 1998). The rules are applicable to all areas of student life, whether in the classroom or the wrestling room, the latter being a secondstory space above the ROTC building where the music is loud and the humidity
greets you at the bottom of the stairs. Parker’s philosophy has its merits, the most recent being last season’s 2A District Championship. But the ultimate goal of his program is to “create an environment that molds young men into gentlemen, scholars, and athletes.” It is an admirable mission statement embodied by a strong senior
“...I had to step up. And I have Frank with me, and we all push the younger guys.”
- Devon Brooks
class led by Devon Brooks, who currently competes at 225 pounds, and Frank Waters, now at 170 pounds. Last year, Brooks won both the conference and regional championships at 285 pounds while tallying a 2-2 record at the state tournament. Waters placed third and second at 152 pounds, respectively, and went 2-1 at state. Most of the 2014 class came up together through the Kids’ Club, Orange Park’s youth team. The program is offered to elementary-age children and acts as a feeder system to the high school. Waters is a product of the Kids’ Club and owes a great deal of his success to assistant coach William Saunders, also an Orange Park graduate. “I feed off Coach Saunders a lot,” says Waters. “He was my first wrestling coach ever. When he first started coaching, he started at Lakeside Junior High, where I went. The first year he was there was the first year I ever wrestled. I’ve been wrestling with him my entire career.” Brooks and Waters are proof the rules work. But the energy surrounding the team is far less tense than it would seem. During
his tenure, Parker has revised his coaching methods from that of a drill sergeant to more of a caring father figure, or at the very least, a cool uncle. He once approached each athlete the same way, conveying his thoughts and criticisms at high volumes from close distances. But experience has taught him to cater to the individual needs of his players, and his relationships have improved. Mike Miller quit the team before his senior season because of his inability to get along with Parker. The two have since mended fences, and Miller is currently an assistant coach. Parker’s intensity is balanced by Saunders’ more laidback temperament. Parker is the storm. Saunders is the quiet before and immediately after. Parker doubles as the strength coach. Saunders is the tactician, focused more on technique and savvy. Their combined efforts have translated to Raider wins. Last season, along with the success experienced by Brooks and Waters, Cory Van Dorn finished his 2013 campaign undefeated with a record of 45-0,
capturing the 182-pound state title. Van Dorn was primed for another dominant season before tearing his ACL during the fifth game of the football season. His injury shook team morale and changed the chemistry in the locker room. “Van Dorn was the leader,” says Brooks. “When he got hurt, I had to step up. And I have Frank with me, and we all push the younger guys.” They have their differences. Waters has an iPhone. Brooks prefers the Android operating system. Waters drinks Gatorade. Brooks just changed to Powerade after he learned in anatomy class it contains more electrolytes. But they’ve created a balance similar to that of Parker and Saunders, which is crucial in carrying the rest of their team into the postseason. They draw inspiration from each other and the rest of the team. “My teammates are the reason I do this,” says Brooks. “They’ve given me the love for it, and they’re the reason I keep going and getting better. I want to impress them, make them proud.” ITG
“...I feed off of Coach Sander s a lot...I’ve been wrestling with him my entire career” - Frank Waters
Swimmer Spotlight Pair of Swimmers Make the Cut McKenna DeBever and Joshe Wolfe by Brandon Ibarra
cKenna DeBever is a senior at Bishop Kenny High School, but swims for the Bolles School Sharks. Bolles is known throughout Florida as the premier swimming high school program, boasting 55 total state championships (32 male, 23 female) since its first in 1951. DeBever
competes in multiple events, including the backstroke, freestyle, and individual medley. She’s earned All-American accolades since she was a freshman while being named to the academic honor roll all four years, both of which helped her earn a scholarship to the University of Auburn.
A full ride to an SEC powerhouse certainly merits a bit of celebration, and DeBever loves to dance. If it’s any indication of her enthusiasm, she rearranges the furniture around her beforehand.
Lifetime (because of Dance Moms)
Place to Trave Bora Bora
To succeed in all aspects of life, inside and outside of the pool and to ha ve a family when I’m older - Mc Kenna DeBever
Inspired by Muhammad Ali
Powerade or Gatorade
oshe Wolfe is a senior at Wolfson High School and swims for the Episcopal AmberJax club team. He was a captain as a junior and senior and made the All-Conference team both years. He placed sixth at state in the 100M freestyle and tenth in the 100M backstroke. Heâ€™s made two junior national cuts and was thirdteam All-First Coast this year. These
accomplishments have caught the attention of at least 13 Division I and Division II colleges, though he remains undecided at the time of publication. Wolfe keeps a jovial, energetic disposition and lives by his favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13. He also loves listening to music and has been known to sing along out loud.
To be the best that I can be everyday, and get physically, mentally, and emotionally stronger in every aspect of life, so when I am older I can teach the next generation the proper ways of life. - Joshe Wolfe
Macaroni and cheese
TV Network ESPN
Place to Travel Spain
Michael Jordan, because he started at the bottom and fought hard for his dream.
Powerade or Gatorade
ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE
What Division 1 Recruits Should Expect After Signing by Joey Lopes
very year, Division 1A scholarships are awarded, giving each recipient celebrity status in his/her community. All the hard work student athletes put in over four years in classrooms, doing community service, participating in training camps and offseason conditioning pays off with the acceptance of an athletic scholarship. They have the opportunity to receive an education while doing what they love: playing collegiate sports. The sad aspect of this reality is that most student athletes don’t take advantage of their opportunities. With all the hype coming out of high school and not much guidance throughout the process, student athletes enter college with dreams of making it to the NFL as soon as they become eligible. Most of these five-star recruits go into college with such high expectations, that without a solid foundation they don’t transition well at the collegiate Division 1A level. This causes a lot of student athletes to transfer to other programs or even drop out of college. Once a student athlete enters college as a recruited football player, his career starts
all over again, but it’s the athlete’s job to remain eligible, to go to practice, and to attend offseason workouts according to the requirements of the scholarship. Everything that was done in high school becomes a memory, and student athletes must make names for themselves all over again. Only the mentally strong will survive. Athletic ability plays a small role in college success, but everyone in any recruiting class was the best athlete at their position on their high school teams. In college, former high school standouts compete against veterans - upperclassmen who’ve been in the system longer, other five-star recruits coming in every year, and odds are the new kids haven’t even hit the field on Saturday yet. Freshmen still have to go to class and maintain grades in order to stay eligible to play a game where they’re now number three or lower in the depth chart, where in high school, they were number one. These are just a few of the adversities that recruits are faced with their freshman years, along with the stresses of being away from home for the first time.
Once a student athlete enters college as a recruited football player, his career starts all over again, but it’s the athlete’s job to remain eligible, to go to practice, and to attend offseason workouts according to the requirements of the scholarship. Everything that was done in high school becomes a memory... Sound advice for recruits is to think beyond football, to think about what to do in life once playing football is over. College football scholarships should be used to build a solid foundation to fall back on once playing days are over. NFL dreams can and should be pursued along with a business plan, not necessarily a backup plan, enabled by a free education. Gamble with the odds in your favor. ITG
“Coach Fleming said I was over-angry at everythi ng I did. I was just too concerned about be ing perfect in an imperfect game. Basically, baseball sucks. You can’t let it get to you.” - Wyatt Petrey
West Nassau High School
West Nassau Senior Cools Down Temper,
Heats Up Bat by Brandon Ibarra
here’s nothing special about West Nassau High School’s baseball clubhouse. It has benches and lockers, helmets, and gloves. Metal spikes track in wet clay from the infield, which looks more like orange beach sand on the floor now that it’s dry. The far side of the room looks empty amongst the clutter. There used to be a couch there against the wall, until Wyatt Petrey destroyed it with a bat. “I broke both the arms off,” Petrey says with a mix of remorse and humor. The senior pitcher/ corner infielder struggled to keep his temper in check last season, and his play suffered for it. So too did the furniture. Another, separate incident last year saw him kick the clubhouse door down like a SWAT team entering a hostage situation. He can’t even remember what made him so upset; the game hadn’t started yet. “He’s learning to control his emotions,” says Head Coach Kyle Fleming. “He would get to where he’d have a bad at-bat, and he’d be furious for an hour, and it would take another atbat away. Then he’d make an error in the field, and it would rise, and rise and rise.” Petrey adds, “Last year it started to hit home, because at the beginning of the season, I didn’t have a really good batting average. I wasn’t hitting as well as I should have. I should’ve been carrying the team, in my mind. Toward the end, [Fleming] told me to calm down, told me not to care. When I stopped caring, I started hitting a lot better and just improved all-around.” Fleming, 27, is entering his second season as head coach. His youth makes him relatable to his players, and his connection with Petrey has
helped him turn his attitude around. “Fleming straight-up told me I was an idiot,” Petrey says with a laugh. It’s more endearing than insulting, the same way Johnny Damon’s 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox were idiots. “He said I was over-angry at everything I did. I was just too concerned about being perfect in an imperfect game. Basically, baseball sucks. You can’t let it get to you.” Petrey used the summer to retool his approach at the plate and is confident last year’s bloopers are behind him now. His goals for the season are intentionally simplistic: “Hit the ball as hard as I can every time I go to bat, cut down on strikeouts and swing at my pitch,” he says. Despite his self-proclaimed subpar 2013 season, Petrey has garnered interest from Fleming’s old stomping grounds, South Georgia State College at Douglas, and has already signed with the Hawks to continue playing after he graduates. He’s interested in pursuing an education in nursing and physical therapy. As he embarks toward a new plateau in his baseball career, he reflects on his start as a four-year-old T-baller. “Originally, I don’t think I wanted to play… it seemed like a lot of work,” he admits. “But I was always active, so I thought I’d give it a try. After I hit my first inside-the-park homerun I was like, ‘This is cool’ [laughs]. I decided to stick with it and ended up loving it.” Petrey is one of nine seniors on the 2014 roster poised to make a deep run into the postseason. This is also Fleming’s fourth year with the Warriors. When he was hired as an assistant in 2011, it was under the guise that the head coaching position would eventually be his. He credits previous Head Coach Richard Pearce, now the school’s athletic director, for setting him up for early success. “I just added to growth that was already occurring, “ Fleming says. “It wasn’t a job where I was coming in having to fix a bunch of stuff. There was a strong foundation with a good coach who just wanted to step down. I just got to add my ideas.” Some of Fleming’s ideas are liberal in regard to traditional baseball convention. At the same time, they are the antithesis to Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane’s Moneyball philosophy: Everyone has the green light to swing on a 3-0 count or steal second if they’ve detected the opposing pitcher’s pickoff move.
“Originally, I don’t think I wanted to play… it seemed like a lot of work,” he admits. “But I was always active, so I thought I’d give it a try. After I hit my first inside-the-park homerun I was like, ‘This is cool’ [laughs]. I decided to stick with it and ended up loving it.” They run an unorthodox first-and-third play and employ a simple bunt defense. There are no specialists on the pitching staff. And much like Petrey, Fleming is also known for his aggressive enthusiasm during practice and games. “I’m going to be the most energetic person out here one way or another, whether it’s positive or negative,” he says. “When [the team] does something right, I’m the first one acting like an idiot and getting excited. When things don’t go right, I’m not pleasant. I’m either going to be subdued both ways or excited both ways. I think they prefer excited.” Petrey claims he’s never bore the brunt of Fleming’s zeal (“He’s yelled at everybody, but he’s never yelled directly at me,” he says) and hopes he can continue to avoid it. As long as he hustles and keeps a level head, he should have nothing to worry about. ITG
The New Yorker Finds Success in Jacksonville by Joey Lopes
photography by Don Ashton and Heather Vallier
Most people would consider New York a land of opportunity and a place for pursuing dreams. For coach Kourtney Benson, of the Pablo Creek Saints, it was only the beginning of a journey that started when she was a seventh-grade cheerleader.
Kourtney Benson Pablo Creek Saints 38
enson was born and raised in Queens, New York, before she moved to Lexington, North Carolina, and attended Lexington Senior High School, where she made varsity as a freshman and was an All -Star cheerleader for four years. As a senior, she was voted captain of her squad and MVP by her peers because of her hard work and leadership qualities. Benson attended North Carolina A&T State University, where her cheerleading squad won three national titles before she graduated. Three years ago she moved to Jacksonville, Florida, in pursuit of a bigger dream to become a lawyer. With the help of her father and his empty vacation home she was one step closer to her personal goal. During that time Benson decided to inspire girls to learn to love themselves and others regardless of their cultural and physical differences through cheerleading.
The three-time college national champion helped Mandarin Athletic Association’s Jr Midget division place second in regionals and seventh at nationals in 2011. In 2012, she helped Mandarin Athletic Association
“Everything we go through as a team will make us stronger and stand taller than the rest.” - says Benson to fourth place at nationals. In her first year as a head coach, she took the Pablo Creek Saints Jr Peewee team to first place at regionals out of 16 squads and sixth place at nationals. Benson says she shows youth that it takes teamwork to make the dream work. What she enjoys most about coaching is
watching the young girls grow and develop in cheerleading and experience what it is to be a team. With the help of her of assistant coaches, Benson is molding young girls by teaching them values and teamwork through the spirit of competition. Her first year as head coach she had her work cut out for her, with the youngest squad she has ever coached. Most of the girls have been together for three years, and for several girls, it was their first year. Benson found out that it’s not easy getting a young group of girls ready for competition level, but she defied those odds with her accomplishments this year. “Bringing the best out of each and every child and touching their lives keeps me coming back each year,” Benson says. ITG
Coach Meghan Miller, Alyanna Gongora, Jessenia Roggio, Inagaini Vincent, Daujha Bellamy, Head Coach Kourtney Benson, Kaitlyn Simmons, Lauren Jones, Destinee Hodapp, Mia Vallier, Jamyria Lopes, Bailee Rossman, Madison Jefferies, Tara Smallwood
Girls Basketball Recruiting Northeast Florida
When it comes to high school hoops, the northeast region of Florida is overlooked. A region that is the birthplace of basketball greats such as Artis Gillmore, Dee Brown, Erica White, and Otis Smith can’t possibly be talentless. The 10 athletes that follow are just a handful of the talent in the northeast region. by Allen Young
photography by Don Ashton, Menzel Images, Julie
Traneesheia Brown High school: Edward White
One of the best combo guards in the region. When you see Brown, you are guaranteed to spot a basketball in her hand. Averaging 20 points per game, shooting 71 percent at the free throw line, and grabbing four rebounds per game, the 5’5” junior guard has a record of 16-4 for the 2013-14 season. In the offseason, you can catch her playing volleyball, flag football, and running track. She competes in the 200 meter and high jump in track. Brown’s goals are to help improve her team’s chemistry and maintain a killer instinct on both offense and defense. She plans to major in criminal justice in college. She has garnered interest from colleges and has received an offer from Clark University. As a junior, she has plenty of time to attract the attention of other Division I and II programs. Hobbies: Hanging out with friends and anything energetic Movie: Coach Carter Food: Mac & cheese Place to travel: Las Vegas Powerade or Gatorade: Gatorade
Jasmine Burkett High school: Bolles
Burkett is another great combo guard who deserves more attention. She’s 5’7” and weighs 125 pounds. Burkett is currently second in the region in scoring, averaging 23 points per game for a program that’s currently 21-2. Her uptempo style of play allows her to tire the defense. On the defensive end, she uses her speed to lock down offensive players. She loves to score she’s the first at Bolles to reach 1,200 points in a three-year span. Burkett’s team goals include winning district, regional, and state championships. Her individual goals include becoming state scoring leader and becoming the first female basketball player to make All-First Coast team in both basketball and track. This is quite possible; she has broken seven track records and is the 400-meter regional champ. She participates in the 100- and 800-meter events. The sky is the limit for this senior guard. Wherever she ends up next fall, her choice of study will be pre-med, as she aspires to be a surgeon.
Hobbies: Track and fencing Movie: Love and Basketball Food: Chinese food, specifically Orange Chicken Place to travel: Egypt Powerade or Gatorade: Gatorade
Ashle Muse High school: University Christian
Muse is the last of the combo guards on our list, and she’s a great one. The 5’8” senior is the sixth leading scorer in the region, averaging 18 points per game, second in free throw percentage (shooting 87 percent), sixth in three pointers (39 percent), and 12th in rebounds, grabbing eight per game. She is also a stellar athlete on the track, winning a district championship in high jump two years in a row and placing fourth in the state. Muse’s goals are to win state in both basketball and track and to continue playing basketball on the collegiate and professional level. She plans on retiring to become a criminal psychologist and youth minister. As for college recruitment, she’s gained interest from several Division II and III schools. Hobbies: Drawing and Writing Movie: The Wolf of Wall Street Food: Chicken Alfredo Place to travel: Anywhere there is a beach Powerade or Gatorade: Frost Glacier Freeze flavored Gatorade
Sierra Shepherd High school: Jean Ribault
Shepherd is arguably the best point guard in Florida. A McDonalds All-American Nominee for the 2014 class and the 2013 4A State MVP and champion, Shepherd was a member of last year’s Trojan team, which had a perfect season of 31-0 and finished 3A runner-up the previous season. This 5’6” guard does it all. Her vision is excellent, she controls the tempo of the game, she handles the rock, and she is a solid defender. Shepherd averages eight points per game with four assists. The Trojans are 22-5 (ranked ninth in Florida) so far on the year with a district record of 6-0. She will attend the University of North Florida in the fall. Her goals are to simply have a good life and to become a physical therapist. Hobbies: Sports and Shopping Movie: Madea Goes to Jail Food: Pizza Place to travel: Los Angeles Powerade or Gatorade: Gatorade
Tierra Shepherd High school: Jean Ribault
Tierra, the 5’4” twin sister of Sierra Shepherd, is the second threat the Ribault Trojans have on the wing. Her stat line does not reflect her overall game. Recovering from a torn ACL and MCL, she’s trying to get her groove back. Even with a serious injury, she still dives on the floor for loose balls and locks down the opposing team’s best player. That’s her game: aggressive, in your face, up-tempo basketball. And with Gateway Conference player of the year selections three years in row, All-State, rookie of the year and player of the week honors, spectators are appreciative. She averages three points, two assists, and two steals per game. Shepherd is undecided as to which school she will attend next fall. She plans to join the Air Force eventually. Hobbies: Reading and watching television and movies Movie: Avatar Food: Pizza Place to travel: Paris Powerade or Gatorade: Gatorade
Boys Basketball Recruiting Northeast Florida Grayson Allen High School: Providence
Allen is a 6’4” shooting guard weighing 185 pounds. He is ranked 34th in the nation according to rivals.com and is a 2014 McDonalds All-American nominee. The Stallions are 19-3, (3-0 in their district) ranked second in the state of Florida, 10th in the nation (maxpreps.com), and are 2013 class 3A state champions. The four-star recruit will attend Duke University next fall. Allen averages 22 points and seven rebounds per game, and shoots 49 percent from the three-point line and 81 percent from the foul line. He is the third-leading scorer in Northeast Florida. Allen has a complete overall game. His athleticism allows him to finish strong at the rim. With Allen’s size he can also post up smaller defenders. As a solid defender, ball handler, and rebounder, Allen will do great at the next level.
Isaiah Ford High School: Trinity
Ford is the leading scorer in Northeast Florida. He averages 30 points per game, shooting 40 percent from the three-point line. He stands at 6’3”, which helps him score over smaller defenders. On January 9, 2014, Ford scored 44 points, shot 90 percent from the foul line, 50 percent from the three-point line, and grabbed nine rebounds. It’s no wonder the Conquerors have an overall record of 14-5. Next fall, Ford will attend the University of Louisville on a football scholarship. Ford is ranked in the top 200 in his class as a wide receiver.
Brandone Francis High School: Arlington Country Day
Francis’s current stat line is unavailable, but he is ranked the 26th player in the country for a program whose current overall record is 18-3 (5-0 in district), ranked fifth in the state of Florida, and is a 2014 McDonald All-American nominee. This four-star recruit is one of the toughest, most aggressive wings in his class. The 6’5”, 200-pound shooting guard uses his ball handling skills to break down defenders and his body to out muscle them to the cup. Francis will fit in well next year at the University of Florida.
Reginald Kissoonlal High School: William M. Raines
Kissoonlal is a long 6’9” forward. He can post, alter shots, stretch the defense with his range, and handle the rock some. He currently averages 13 points per game, shooting an impressive 86 percent from the foul line (fourth in area). The Vikings are 15-5 and are the first team to defeat the Trojans of Ribault, snapping a 12-game win streak. The Vikings later won the Holiday Tournament at Andrew Jackson High School. Kissoonlal received All-Tournament and MVP honors. He will attend Northwestern State University next fall.
Daishon Smith High School: Jean Ribault
Smith is a quick, aggressive guard who controls the tempo. At 6’0” he still manages to play above the rim, forcing post players to help and eventually getting into foul trouble. Smith averages 12 points and four assists per game for the Trojans. He shoots 88 percent from the line (second in area). The Trojans are currently 20-2 (6-0 in district) and ranked 22nd in Florida. Smith is trying to stir the interest of more Division I and II programs. 42
Ribault Girls Repeat at State by Brandon Ibarra
ongratulations to the Ribault High School Girls Basketball team on winning their second-straight 4A State Championship. The Lady Trojans never trailed in the contest, defeating rival Fort Myers Dunbar 72-53 in Lakeland last month. The victory capped a 30-win season for Ribault and is the tenth girls basketball title in school history, extending its own state record. Dunbar was no match for Head Coach Shelia Seymore-Pennick’s aggressive, up-tempo style, as Ribault’s lead never dropped below eight points in the second half. Dunbar’s last stand, a 9-2 run near the end of the third quarter, was quickly silenced by a 14-0 Ribault run, effectively removing any doubt of the game’s outcome.
Expectations will be set even higher next season. The Lady Trojans will return all but four seniors to their 2014-15 squad. The team’s top-four scorers this season were all underclassmen, led by freshman Rennia Davis (12.3 points per game). Talk of a three-peat is more than warranted and should sound familiar amongst Ribault supporters who remember back to 1999, when the Lady Trojans won the first of fivestraight state championships. Next year they have the opportunity to become only the eighth team in state history to win more than two consecutive titles. But Coach Seymore-Pennick’s vision surpasses even that: a national ranking. With the talent and youth on her roster right now, it all seems well within their grasp.
The victory capped a 30-win season for Ribault and is the tenth girls basketball title in school history, extending its own state record.
In the Game High School Sports Magazine