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LAKE WALES HIGHLANDERS •4

BARTOW YELLOW JACKETS •6

FORT MEADE MINERS •8

FROSTPROOF BULLDOGS •10


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Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Time for QB’s to shine in the Heartland

PHOTO BY RAY LYNN DEASE

Quarterback Railond Garrett is part of a talented Lake Wales backfield. By BRIAN ACKLEY

BACKLEY@HEARTLANDNEWSPAPERS.COM

If the quarterback is indeed the heart of a football team, Heartland football fans are in for a real treat this fall. In fact, all four teams in our area — Lake Wales, Bartow, Frostproof and Fort Meade — all have experienced and talented signal callers that should provide lots of Friday fun and fireworks many times over. In Lake Wales, rangy Railond Garrett spearheads a talented group of skill

PHOTO BY RAY LYNN DEASE

PHOTOS BY K.M. THORNTON SR.

Quarterback Jay Smith has started for the Miners since 10th grade.

Frostproof’s Xavier Gaines is only a sophmore, but is a secondyear starter.

position players that will look to reverse the disappointment of a district runner-up finish a year ago. Bartow has a new coach, but Dimitri Leverett is back after throwing for over 1,100 last season, and has some receivers who should be able to help him out. Fort Meade Coach Jemalle Cornelius has the luxury of a third year starter at the offensive helm in Jay Smith, and the best of the bunch might just be sophomore Xavier Gaines in Frostproof, who has the size and tools to make major colleges drool.

Of course, it takes more than just a good quarterback to create a winning season. As Frostproof Coach Price Harris noted, “There’s an old saying that the 11 best will get beat by the best 11 any day.” So we welcome you all to what might just shape up as one of the most exciting Heartland high school football seasons in many years. The following pages are filled with names and pictures of all the players who will make up each team’s respective “11 best”, and beyond.

P H OTO BY MIKE CREECH

Dimitri Leverett is back to lead the Yellow Jackets. All four of our teams are in district flooded with talent from the top of the league to the bottom, so there will be few easy wins. Frostproof and Fort Meade, given the size of their schools, might be in one of the most talentladen districts in the state. As always, we will cover it all, with Friday night game coverage in our special Saturday sports section in Lake Wales and Bartow, and additional coverage in all our Wednesday editions. Enjoy the ride, and the quarterbacking show.

New helmet rules designed to improve safety In an effort to continue minimizing the risk of injury in high school football, three additional rules will take effect in the 2013 season to address helmets coming off players’ heads during games. These three risk-minimization additions were among 10 rules changes approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Football Rules Committee earlier this year in Indianapolis. All rules changes were subsequently approved by the NFHS Board of Directors. As a follow-up to last year’s rules change that requires players to sit out one play if their helmet comes off while the ball is live, the committee approved three additional rules that are extensions of last year’s change. An illegal personal contact foul was added to Rule 9-4-3 to state that “no player or nonplayer shall initiate contact with an opposing player whose helmet has come completely off.” In addition, a new listing in Rule 9-6-4 will state that it is illegal participation “for a player whose helmet comes completely off during a down to continue to participate beyond the

immediate action in which the player is engaged.” “With its continued focus on risk minimization, the committee determined that a helmet-less player shall not block, tackle or otherwise participate beyond the immediate action in which the player is engaged when the helmet came completely off,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS director of sports and sports medicine. “The penalty would be a live-ball, basicspot foul.” The committee also added language to Rule 3-5-10 to clarify that if the helmet comes completely off during the down or subsequent deadball action related to the down – and is not directly attributable to a foul by the opponent – the player must leave the game for at least one down, with the exception of halftime or overtime intermission. When this occurs, an official’s time-out shall be called. “Player safety has been and will continue to be the top priority for members of the NFHS Football Rules Committee,” said Brad Garrett, chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and assistant executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association. “These rules changes regarding helmetless players are more examples of the group’s commitment to minimize risk within the game.” Perhaps the most significant rules change this coming season will be one that reduces the penalty for pass interference. While the 15-yard penalty will

remain for both offensive and defensive pass interference, the loss of down has been removed for offensive pass interference and the automatic first down has been eliminated for defensive pass interference. “Offensive and defensive pass interference and the penalty structure related to these fouls has been debated many times in recent years,” Garrett said. “Proposals that either deleted the loss of down or the automatic first down – but not both – failed to gain support among committee members. The proposal to eliminate both components, thus not upsetting the balance between offense and defense, was the key factor in the adoption of the new rule.” Another change at high school football games in 2013 will be the expanded use of communication devices. In specific situations, coaches, players and nonplayers will be allowed to use any form of communication technology. This expansion of the rule allows the use of communication devices during authorized conferences outside the nine-yard marks, on the sidelines and during the halftime intermission. Use of communication devices by players except conferences outside the nine-yard mark continues to be prohibited. In Rule 2-4-1, the committee clarified the rule approved last year regarding the definition of a catch, which stated that a receiver is required to establish possession of the ball and contact the

ground inbounds while maintaining possession – regardless of the opponent’s action. “The committee clarified the definition of a catch such that an airborne player who has forward progress stopped inbounds and is carried out of bounds by an opponent before contacting the ground is awarded a catch at the spot of forward progress,” Colgate said. In Rule 9-3-8, the committee added another provision to the rule enacted last year regarding contact by the kicking team against members of the receiving team. The new provision stipulates that the kicking team may initiate contact once the receiving team has initiated a block within the neutral zone. The committee also approved the addition of a 15-yard penalty to the existing option of accepting an awarded fair catch for kick-catch interference. Finally, in Rule 8-3-3, the committee clarified that the touchdown scoring team is the only team that can score on a try, and in Rule 1-5-3 the committee modified the rule regarding the wearing of towels. Football is the No. 1 participatory sport for boys at the high school level with 1,121,744 participants in the 201112 school year, according to the High School Athletics Participation Survey conducted by the NFHS through its member state associations. In addition, the survey indicated there were 1,805 girls who played football in 2011-12.


Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

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Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

‘Young’ Highlanders have tough schedule Six of 10 opponents were in playoffs last season

By DENNIS LATTA CORRESPONDENT Being an ambitious man, Rod Shafer has a simple goal this year. As the head football coach of the Lake Wales Highlanders, it is the same goal all of the coaches and players will have. “I have never won a state title,” Shafer notes. “We’ve been to the finals three times, but we’ve never won it. Every year, Lake Wales has a chance.” The Highlanders had a chance last season when they finished but lost in the regional finals to Immakolee after opening the playoffs with a 17-14 win over Palmetto. Immakolee and Lake Wales had also tangled in the regular season last fall, with the Highlanders winning 19-14 in that one. But when you ask about the 2013 season, Shafer breaks into a smile. It isn’t a broad, ear-to-ear smile or even a smirk. It’s more like an all-knowing little Mona Lisa smile. Lake Wales is in the five-team District 10 of Class 5A this season. That means it has only four conference games, leaving it six non-district games on the schedule. The district games are against Mulberry and Tenoroc at home and Poinciana and Auburndale on the road. “They like to realign things every two years,” Shafer explains. “We used to have 10 in the district and then it was down to four. Now it is back to five.” Polk County officials urged all of the schools in the county to play other schools in the county. Shafer tried to comply. The Highlanders have games against Ridge, Jenkins and Winter Haven at home and play Haines City and Bartow away. The only outside game is against Mainland High in Daytona Beach. “Lakeland didn’t want to play us,” Shafer says. “We never schedule for an undefeated season. Our schedule is tough. Of our 10 games, six of the teams we’re playing were in the playoffs last year,” Shafer points out.

Like every coach, Shafer isn’t going to create expectations that are too high. “Our team is still young. We graduated all of our linebackers. We have only four or five senior who will contribute.” The Highlanders will be good on defense. The heart of that defense will include junior Marcus Walker at defensive back, senior linebacker Shaka McGriff, senior defensive back Cedric Brinson and defensive tackle Devonte Prioleau. “We have good team speed. Our secondary is all back. We’ve got talented people who can play manto-man,” Shafer says. If Shafer trusts his D backs to play man, that leaves him with eight players to stop the run and put pressure on the quarterback. That’s a real luxury. On offense, the Highlanders are loaded. It’ll start with two good junior running backs. Shafer describes junior Justin Henderson as “a bigtime tailback. He’s a good one.” And he refers to junior Earnest Hamilton as “a great track kid who has lots of speed.” The quarterback spot runneth over for LWHS. Senior Railond Garrett is the returning starter from last year’s team. But he is being pushed by senior Ryan Marell. “We’re pretty solid at that position. Railond possibly could play some wide receiver.”

Highlanders Schedule Aug. 23 Aug. 30 Sept. 6 Sept. 13 Sept. 20 Sept. 27 Oct. 4 Oct. 11

at Kathleen vs. Ridge Community vs. George Jenkins at Mainland vs. Mulberry * at Haines City at Poinciana * vs. Winter Haven

Garrett was the starter as a junior last year, and rolled up just 45 yards short of 1,000 on offense, including 769 through the air. That performance included 14 touchdowns and just five picks for the strong-armed thrower, who at 6-4, gets a good look at the field. The most highly recruited player on the team is 6-foot-3, 285-pound junior lineman Luke Heirs. But even he is moving this season. “He was our center last year, but we’re moving him over to guard. He was a sophomore All-American. He can go to any college he wants.” As evidence of his talent, he was the first offensive lineman to ever start for Shafer as a freshman.

Oct. 18 Oct. 25 Nov. 1 Nov. 8

Bye Week at Auburndale * vs. Tenoroc * at Bartow All games at 7 p.m.

* Denotes district games

Another mainstay on offense will be senior tight end Davi’on Riley, who at 6-3, 210, will also see time in other positions including libebacker. There won’t be in big changes in the offensive scheme for the Highlanders. “We’ve run the veer for a few hundred years,” Shafer points out. “We’ll also run a one-back offense. We might run fewer plays and we’re looking at using a no-huddle at times. “We aren’t deep enough to twoplatoon. Some of our players have to go both ways. I’d say we use 1½ platoons,” Shafer states. “We started 10 sophomores last year. Our first four games were ungodly. We might have three sophomores starting this year. Generally, we’re small and fast, but the last few years we’ve been pretty big,” Shafer says.


Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

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Highlanders at a glance COACH: Rod Shafer ASSISTANT COACHES: Sam Billante defensive line, Richard Turner offensive line, Chad Alexander linebackers, Bob Urwin defensive coordinator, Terrell Davis linebackers, Matt Teague quarterbacks, Kendrick Williams wide receivers, Tavaris Johnson defensive backs, Brett Biggs running backs, Scott York kicking. HOME FIELD: Legion Field DISTRICT: Class 5A, District 10 (with Auburndale, Mulberry, Tenoroc and Poinciana) WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON OFFENSE: Quarterback Railond Garrett has the size you like in a passer, and is experienced too. There is a lot of speed throughout the lineup. Luke Hiers at guard is one of the most highly regarded Highlanders, but overall there isn’t as much experience on the offensive line as there is in other spots. Earnest Hamilton and Justin Henderson will be two of the featured running backs, and Da’Vion Riley has a chance to be really good as a wide receiver. WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON DEFENSE: Speed in the secondary, and experience, gives Lake Wales the chance to have some defensive flexibility, although leaders must emerge at the linebacking position. Among the talents group in the secondary are Marcus Walker, Dedric Brinson, and Marcus Walker. KEY GAMES: No coach or team ever likes to look too far ahead,

Lake Wales wide receivers Marcus Walker (4) and Dedric Brinson (11) will help power the Highlander offense.

FILE PHOTO

Luke Hiers is one of the area’s premier offensive linemen.

but revenge will surely be on the Highlanders minds Oct. 25 when they go on the road to play Auburndale who upset Lake Wales last year to claim the district title. Poinciana and Tenoroc are still on the build (a combined 2-18 last year) so Mulberry is the other team in the district that can be pesky, although they are young. Non-league games are juicy ones including Winter Haven and the traditional season-ender at Bartow. THE SKINNY: Auburndale and Lake Wales again are the clear favorite to earn playoff spots out of the district, but the Highlanders would love to turn the tables on the Bloodhounds this year to earn a top spot. Auburndale bowed out in the first round of the playoffs last year in the regional quarterfinals, while Lake Wales made it all the way to the regional finals. As usual, there are lots of playmakers, with both experience and athleticism at many of the skill positions. Luke Hiers is a monster on the line, and will be playing big time football on Saturday’s once his Lake Wales career comes to an end. In many ways, the non-district games will be the true test of just how good the Highlanders can become this year. As always, Shafer will look for his team to have leaders emerge and take “ownership� of the team’s ultimate success or failure. Figure on success, but just how much and how far the Highlanders can go this year is always a questions best answered on the field.

Justin Henderson (33) is one of several talented skill position players in the Lake Wales backfield this fall.

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Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Butler looks to turn fortunes of Yellow Jackets

Bartow grad comes from vaunted Lakeland Dreadnaughts program By LARRY JEWETT

SPORTS CORRESPONDENT So much has happened in the past three months in the Bartow High School football program that the uncertainty created by events of that previous time have become distant memories. Changes have been implemented as the program moves forward in anticipation of the season ahead. It started with the resignation of head coach Brett Biggs, who had led the program for three years. Within a short time, the position was offered to Jason Butler, a BHS grad who was serving as the defensive coordinator for Lakeland High School. Butler accepted the position and quickly met with students to gauge their interest and involvement in the upcoming year. In a matter of a few weeks, Butler had to assess coaching candidates, look at potential players and prepare for the annual spring game against Mulberry. The work was seemingly non-stop and some vindication came with a win over the Panthers at their home field. But coming out on top on the scoreboard didn’t signal an end to the journey. The game only served to provide the coaching staff with a real-life situation to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the team. The end of the school year would reduce practice time and the get acquainted period needed. Whenever possible, though, players and coaches showed their commitment to the program. Lifting and strength training sessions were well attended as 29 players did not miss one full day of these sessions. This wasn’t a case of walking from a classroom to another part of the school. The summer action required that players show up and show up they did. Butler was asked about the difference in the team between the time of the spring game and the last week of practice before the Kickoff Classic game with Frostproof. “I would have to say our strength,” he said. “We have gotten stronger. Hopefully, that pays off. We want

to be faster and stronger than our opponents.” Though Butler’s experience points to being a defensive disciple, he has stepped into the role of being more involved with the offense. One question commonly heard is what type of offense and what type of defense the fans will see in 2013. “We want our defense to be physical,” said Butler. “We’re looking for our guys to run to the ball, to help with the tackle if they can. We want to punish the ball carriers and make them think when they try to run against us. We are developing a physical defense. When the Yellow Jackets have the ball, Butler said they are trying to keep things fairly simple. “On the offense, we’re getting the players to learn football. They have to realize that it is a process,” the new head coach offered. “Not every play is going to be a 90-yard touchdown play, but that’s okay because some plays are setting up for the next play, which might be the one that breaks for the touchdown. If we win the toss, we’re going to defer so that we can get the ball in the third quarter, put together an eight-minute scoring drive and leave the other team with only a little time on the clock to answer. If we can hold them to three-and-out, we can get the ball back and carry the play into the fourth quarter.” Bartow’s look will depend on the personnel package that has been inserted into the lineup. “We want to establish our run game, but want to have other weapons that we can

Yellow Jacket Schedule Aug. 23 Aug. 30 Sept. 6 Sept. 13 Sept. 20 Sept. 27 Oct. 4 Oct. 11

at Frostproof at Auburndale at Lake Gibson vs. Lake Region vs. George Jenkins * at Fort Meade vs. Kathleen * BYE WEEK

use,” said Butler. “If the other team is stopping the run, we can resort to other means of moving the ball.” That job will be up to senior quarterback Dimitri Leverett, who accounted for four touchdowns (one throwing, three running) in the team’s 35-27 win over Mulberry in May. The Yellow Jackets were 4-6 in 2012, following seasons of 3-7 in 2011 and 4-6 in 2010. By nature, football, as a team game, requires each person to complete an assignment. Players need to have the confidence that their teammates will do their part. Butler and the coaching staff have watched as players are coming together. “We are seeing some good

Oct. 18 Oct. 25 Nov. 1 Nov. 8

vs. Lakeland * at Haines City * at Ridge Community * vs. Lake Wales

All games start at 7 p.m. * Denotes district games

camaraderie,” he added. “They seem to be growing tighter as we get on with the year.” Butler is a 1997 graduate of Bartow High, and went on to star at the University of South Florida at linebacker. He joined the Lakeland coaching staff in 2005, and for the last seven years has been the Dreadnaughts defensive coordinator. You might hear the word “transition” a lot in the description of the team. No one is immune from it. Even the head coach has to deal with it, coming from the role as assistant. The transition has its challenges. “There are a lot more demands and you have to try to accommodate and make things work on a bigger scale. There are plenty of demands on your time,” he said. At a recent practice, more than 40 players were running through position drills with another group of

BARTOW | 7


Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

BARTOW FROM PAGE 6 30 representing the junior varsity team nearby. The commitment of the coaching staff is obvious as the group spends as many as six hours a day in working with the varsity and JV squads. Soon, those periods of practice will manifest themselves into the application of the Friday night games. This year, every Bartow High School football game will be played within the confines of Polk County, a fact that makes road trips enticing for Yellow Jacket fans. There is also a new district alignment. “It only matters because it is a bigger district now,� said Butler. “It was like this when I played with more teams in the district. Now, only two teams out of six will move on, where last year it was two out of four.� The year starts with three road games which can become a test of character.

FILE PHOTO

Dwayne Daughtry is one of the receiver targets this year for the Bartow Yellow Jackets.

Walter

“It’s better to win these games,� said Butler, “because it shows what the teams are about, to be able to go into someone’s field and win can build confidence.� Through the past three months, there has been a consistent message that takes the game of football away from between the lines. Bartow has earned the distinction as “Home of Champions�, a record that has been carried on by other sports within the school. It is the express goal of the coaching staff and the players to align the football program as a winning effort. In doing so, the team is working to instill community pride and support. The response to date has been positive. There is more of a “buzz� about the team, the program and Friday nights. Community involvement includes weekly sessions (Mondays at 7 p.m.) at Beef O’Brady’s where the previous game will be reviewed and the upcoming game will be discussed. The events are open to the public and will serve as a fundraiser to assist the team. After two years of the same schedule (just different locations), the new schedule invites plenty of opportunity. Home games will be played against Lake Region, George Jenkins, Kathleen, Lakeland and Lake Wales. For the first time in three years, the game against George Jenkins “counts� (they were pre-season opponents in the past) and has the distinction of being a district game. Kathleen and Lakeland provide the other home games with district implications. Road games at Haines City and Ridge near the end of the season conclude district play. The season starts with familiar foes. Bartow opens at Auburndale, then travels to former district opponent Lake Gibson. The home opener against Lake Region happens on Sept. 13 with the George Jenkins contest in Bartow the following week. The Yellow Jackets return to the road to meet up with the Miners of Fort Meade to close off September. Homecoming will be on October 4 as the team plays Kathleen. The team’s bye week is scheduled for October 11 before hosting the Dreadnaughts of Lakeland on October 18. The road games with Haines City and Ridge lead into Senior Night against Lake Wales in the traditional season ending game.

Yellow Jackets at a glance COACH: Jason Butler ASSISTANT COACHES: Kenny Strong assistant head coach and defensive backs, Carl Howell defensive coordinator and linebackers, Bernard Stephens wide receivers, Jesse Marion offensive line, Gary Cagiano defensive line, Kevin Whitaker running backs and head JV coach, Jeff Ruiz, Anthony Cohen, J.D. Dodd, David Floyd. HOME FIELD: Bartow Memorial Stadium DISTRICT: Class 7A, District 5 (with Ridge Community, Lakeland, Kathleen, George Jenkins and Haines City). KEY GAMES: The Yellowjackets will get a good read on where they are fairly early. Auburndale (Aug. 30) is a district champ and Lake Gibson (Sept. 6) are two of several difficult non-district matchups (Fort Meade, Lake Wales). Lakeland will visit Bartow on Oct. 18. WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON OFFENSE: It’s always a little under wraps when a new coach takes over, but one thing we know for sure is a lot should revolve around quarterback Dimitri Leverett who last season tossed nine touchdown passes in accumulating over 1,100 yards. One of his targets should be



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Dwayne Daughtry. Tyreese Cruz has good speed out of the backfield too, and Devin McCoy has shown promise as has Tre Jordan. But the Yellow Jackets will likely try to keep it simple to avoid too many mistakes. WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON DEFENSE: Linebacking should be a strength for Bartow, and they will need all the skill they can find back there in such an uber difficult district. John Kilpatrick is one of those linebackers who will need to shine. THE SKINNY: After a 4-6 finish last year, Bartow was “rewarded� by being put in the same district as powers Ridge Community, Lakeland and Kathleen. The Yellow Jackets are not alone in having a new man at the helm, however, as four of the six district teams have new head coaches this year. There are sure to be some growing pains, but Butler is a Bartow grad and knows of the Yellow Jacket tradition during better days, and he knows what a successful program looks like having spent the last seven years as defensive coordinator in Lakeland. The measure of success in 2013 might not be totally measured in wins and losses


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Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Another district title will be tall task for Miners Talent abounds in newer, six-school league

BY BRIAN ACKLEY

BACKLEY@HEARTLANDNEWSPAPERS.COM

Fort Meade assistant football coach Bryan Bailey takes the Miners’ current consecutive streak of district titles — up to 14 after defeating Cardinal Mooney early last November — a little personally. Bailey, you see, was a member of the Miner team in 1998 that started the streak. Just as memorable, as if to define what being a Miner is all about, is the disappointment that the number isn’t actually 16. Bailey and his teammates won the district crown in 1996 when he was a sophomore, but didn’t win it his junior year, before being part of the streak starters when he was a senior. Getting to 15 will be a very tough task in 2013. Should the Miners keep the streak alive, it will likely be among their best during the last decade and a half. “There’s a lot of good teams in the district. You can’t take a break on any of them,” Bailey said. Local rivals Frostproof and Lakeland Christian remain in the newly configured Class 3A, District 4 line up, joined by Bay area private schools Tampa Catholic, Berkeley Prep and Bishop McLaughlin (located in Spring Hill in Pasco County). Five of the six teams finished their 2012 campaign with better than .500 records — only Bishop McLaughlin fell short of that mark at 4-7. And Miner fans don’t have to think very hard or long about the last time they saw Tampa Catholic. For those with short memories, it was Nov. 9 at Frank S. Battle field, in the first-round of the 2012 state playoffs. The host Miners held a 17-7 lead just seconds into the second half after Chris Morris raced almost 100 yards with the kickoff for a touchdown. But ultimately the Crusaders battled back — despite both D.J. Clark and Ryan Fulse each running for over 100 yards on the night — to take a 24-17 lead.

But two key Miners back for 2013, quarterback Jay Smith and wideout Tobias Culpepper, hooked up on a 33yard scoring strike with just sixty-six seconds to go. However, the tying PAT kick was botched, and Fort Meade had all winter to think about the one-point loss, and the lesson that Head Coach Jemalle Smith constantly preaches: Little things matter. For those who want to get an early start on such things, circle Sept. 20 on the calendar. That’s the date of the regular season rematch, this time at Tampa Catholic. Smith threw for over 1,100 yards last season, but likely will be called upon a little bit more this year since one of his main workhorse running backs, Clark (239 regular season carries), graduated this spring. Smith threw for 12 touchdowns during the regular season last fall, but did have 10 interceptions, a number that he will likely need to cut down a bit this season. “He’s grown tremendously over the last three years,” Head Coach Jemalle Cornelius said. “He’s doing a good job in the huddle, good huddle management, and he’s doing a better job reading defenses. We always practice not turning the ball over, and he’s doing an excellent job at that.” Cornelius says being a starter the last two years will hopefully pay even bigger dividends this year. “He’s got experience and plays with a lot of confidence,” the coach said, noting his signal caller can be a threat running too. “He can do a little bit of everything. He’s got a strong arm and he can run the ball a little bit.” Fulse, a junior, will also be called upon more often this year at tailback, after collecting more than 600 yards rushing last year on less than 100 carries. He’ll be joined in the backfield by fullback Trey Porter, a senior. As usual, though, the Miners will call on a stable of backs, and expect Tyler King, Isham Alexander and

Miners Schedule Aug. 23 Aug. 30 Sept. 6 Sept. 13 Sept. 20 Sept. 27 Oct. 4 Oct. 11

at Lake Region vs. Mulberry at Hardee vs. Avon Park at Tampa Catholic * vs. Bartow vs. Berkley Prep * Bye Week

Malik Bighems to get carries as well. “Ryan is a tough runner, he just runs the ball hard, and Tyler is more of a speed guy,” Cornelius said. “We just mix it up, whatever works. It’s a game by game thing. My big thing is take what the defense gives you.” Up front, the line shapes up with expected starters Clayton Monroe at center, Lavarius Wilson and Bryce Nelson at guard with Nate Music and Doug Angle at tackle.

Oct. 18 Oct. 25 Nov. 1 Nov. 8

at Bishop McLaughlin * at Frostproof * vs. Lakeland Christian* at Tenoroc

All games start at 7 p.m. * Denotes district game

“We’ve got a mixture of experience,” Cornelius said about his trench players. “Clayton and Lavarius have been around for a while. It’s a pretty strong group. They can move, and we keep the schemes simple for them.” The Miner’s receiving corps will be highlighted by Tobias Culpepper, a speedster who turned in a 4.47 40 during a college combine in April, Malik Brown who’s got the best hands and Malik Neals who provides the size. “We’ve got real good skill position players this year, a lot of speed, a lot of explosiveness,” Cornelius added. Fort Meade’s defense doesn’t always give a lot, and this year, will employ more of a 4-2-5 look to take advantage of what talents are on its roster, Bailey said, getting away from some of the

FORT MEADE | 9


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Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

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Miners at a glance • COACH: Jemalle Cornelius • ASSISTANT COACHES: Assistant Head Coach Bryan Bailey, co-defensive coordinator John O’Neil, co-defensive coordinator Gilbert Castillo, running backs Andre Camp, kicking Jesse Cortez, PC Cornelius, Lorenzo McCutchen, Henry Grace, Victor Martin, Vince Parker, Cedric Simmons, Marcus Castillo. • HOME FIELD: Frank S. Battle Stadium • DISTRICT: Class 3A, District 4 (with Frostproof, Lakeland Christian, Tampa Catholic, Berkeley Prep and Bishop McLaughlin). • KEY GAMES: Where to begin? They are all key in the district this year. Sept. 20 at Tampa Catholic is a pretty good place to start. Oct. 25 at Frostproof, alot more may be on the line than bragging rites, as will be the case Nov. 1 at home against Lakeland Christian. • WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON OFFENSE: The Miners have the nice luxury of having a three-year starting quarterback in Jay Smith. He also has quality backs like Ryan Fulse, Isham Alexander and Trey Porter. Replacing the production and leadership of D.J. Clark will be a challenge. Smith must cut down on his interceptions a bit. Tobias Culpepper is a potential emerging star at the wide receiver spot. The offense was impressive at this summer’s Old Rugged Cross 7-on-7 tournament. The Miners won the title over 19 other teams who attended. Culpepper had five touchdowns in three playoff round

Quarterback Jay Smith is now a three-year starter for the Miners.

FORT MEADE FROM PAGE 8 five-man fronts of 2012. Seniors Wilson and Tyler Shanley will be anchors on the defensive fronts as both return from last year’s team. Joining them up front will be Stephan Jones and Arvyn Whitehurst. Porter and Bighems will be the primary linebackers and the secondary will be manned by Hewitt Grant, Smith, Fulse, Ladarius Clark, Culpepper, Alexander and Brown depending on the situation and game and injuries. Bailey said the switch to a new defensive formation made sense given the type of players on the Miner roster this fall. “Just the amount of speed and speciality players that we have,� he noted. “We’ve been stacking a lot of people inside the last couple of years, but with the athleticism we feel like we have coming in, it kind of fits us a little better.� But just because there is speed, doesn’t mean their isn’t some size, and as always, a lot of one other very important intangible.

wins, and King had four. • WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON DEFENSE: There is so much talent in the district this year that the Miners, like all defenses in the league, will give up some points. Fort Meade will go to more of a four-man front this year, after working much of last season with a five-man up front look. Lavarius Wilson and Tyler Shanley will anchor up front. Ladarius Clark is only a freshman, but will likely get plenty of snaps in the defensive secondary. • THE SKINNY: Fort Meade’s district title streak is almost as legendary as it is remarkable, and in some ways, an albatross. Still, it’s obviously something to be proud of. Getting to 15 will be a huge challenge, but the Miners if nothing else are admired both locally and in area football circles for their toughness and never-say-die mentality. Win, lose or draw, opponents always know that Fort Meade will leave it all on the field week in and week out. Whether that’s enough in a district that has two small public schools (Frostproof and Fort Meade) and four private schools with much broader athletic resources from which to pull remains to be seen. But don’t best against the Miner’s either, there is both experience and talent on both sides of the ball. Staying relatively healthy is always a key too. Should be a very fun and entertaining year, with lots of nail-biting moments along the way.

“One thing we try to teach these kids years in and year out is to play with a lot of heart. Bailey noted one of Polk County’s top head coaches, Richie Marsh who is now the defensive coordinator for Southeastern University which will start football next fall, paid the Miners just that compliment. “He came up to me and was watching some of the highlight film on some of our guys and said ‘There’s always one thing your Fort Meade kids do, they play full out all the time. I go around to some of these other schools and just don’t see it. You all seem to find a way to get everything out of those guys you possible can.’ That’s kind of what we pride ourselves on,� Bailey added. “We work a lot on mental toughness.� There was a time when Fort Meade was considered almost a shoo-in for a district title. No longer, not especially with the move to 3A a few years back. Bailey said there is almost a “fear factor� with Miner teams now that they don’t want to be the ones to stop the streak. “They don’t want to be that team that brings it to an end,� he noted. “I tell them all the time I take a lot of pride in that because it started my senior year. Fort Meade’s Tobias Culpepper has the potential to be one of the area’s top wide receivers. We all take a lot of pride in it.�

   

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Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Page 10

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Frostproof has talent in talent-laden district Harris: ‘We’re trying to be the best 11 we can be’ By BRIAN ACKLEY

BACKLEY@HEARTLANDNEWSPAPERS.COM

Whoever grabs one of the two playoff spots in Class 3A, District 4 football play this fall will surely have earned them. In addition to local rival Fort Meade, who comes into the fall having won 14 consecutive district football titles, the newly created district includes four private schools, three from the bay area including usual powerhouse Tampa Catholic along with Berkley Prep and Bishop McLaughlin along with continually improving Lakeland Christian. Of the six teams in the district, only Pasco County based Bishop McLaughlin failed to be better than .500 last year, and they were 4-7. And, despite thoughts from outsiders that Frostproof might finish near the back of the pack, the Bulldogs aren’t thinking that way at all. A quick look at their roster indicates why. There is experience and talent all up and down the lineup. Eight offensive starters returns, nine on defense. There are juniors and seniors in places where in past years there have been freshmen and sophomores. And there are several new players who have transfered into Frostproof who figure to have important roles to play this fall as well. Head Coach Price Harris doesn’t shy away from the fact he has some top-notch athletes. What he is hoping is the talented group of individuals molds itself into a talented team. “The key for us is we play together as one unit. There’s an old saying that the 11 best will get beat by the best 11 any day.” Harris said. “So we’re trying to be the best 11 we can be.” The Bulldogs offense has experienced playmakers and a starting with quarterback Xavier Gaines who is just a sophomore, but has played on the varsity for the past two years. With size, speed and arm strength, Harris said he has seen his signal caller grow in the past couple of years, especially over the summer. “We sat down and set up some

goals,” Harris said during the preseason. “He’s been working really hard towards those goals. Getting the ball out of his hands in a hurry has been one of his goals, and he’s really starting to improve on that, getting the ball out on time, and being a anticipatory thrower instead of a reactionary thrower, and I feel like he’s come a long way there too.” Harris said Gaines (6-3, 210) is still working on his reads, both in the passing and running game, but they too are “coming,” especially on the passing side. “He’ll get better and better as we go along.” Joining him in the backfield will be senior Trevis Herrington (5-10, 170) will be the starting tailback, and will be spelled by Jaylan McKinney (6-1, 190) who moved back into the district. For the most part, Frostproof is expecting to play out of a spread formation on offense, but when there a “tough” yardage situations, look for hard-hitting linebacker Cecil Cherry (6-2, 240) to get he rock as a fullback. The receiving corps has some nice speed and reasonable size for Xavier Gaines to find as targets, starting with Kijana Gaines (6-1, 165) and Kaleel Gaines (6-1, 168), Jarviel Hart (5-11, 163) a speedster who transferred from Avon Park and another flyer in Marcus Bobb (5-8, 155). The Bulldogs traditionally use their receivers as runners in certain formations as well. While a couple of key lineman have graduated, it is still a very solid group up fron, starting with the tackles positions. Senior Mike MacFarlane is a rock at 6-4, 265, starting at left tackle, while Harrison Johnson (6-3, 272) will start on the right side. Guards will be Sam Hamilton (6-1, 220) on the left and two Bulldogs have looked good in preseason on the right side,

Bulldogs Schedule Aug. 23 Aug. 30 Sept 6. Sept. 13 Sept. 20 Sept. 27 Oct. 4 Oct. 11

vs. Kathleen vs. Avon Park vs Tenoroc at Mulberry at Bishop McLaughlin* at Hardee vs. Tampa Catholic * at DeSoto

Lake Gibson transfer Mike Smith (6-1, 225) and Nick Bayles (6-3, 240). Josh Romero (5-8, 190) will hold down the center spot, and Richard Cobb (6-4, 185) gets the nod at tight end. Others on offense who

Oct. 18 Oct. 25 Nov. 1 Nov. 8

vs. Lakeland Christian * vs. Fort Meade * vs. Berkley Prep * Bye week

All games start at 7 p.m. * Denotes district game

should see the field plenty include wide receiver Jamarius Larkin (5-10, 170), receiver Ja’darius Hawthorne (5-8, 188) and running back Deonte Perry (5-8, 160). Kicker Lamar Bobb will head into his third year in that spot. After spending 2012 using a 3-4 alignment, Frostproof will go back to more of a 4-3 look on defense this season. MacFarlane and Hamilton will work at tackle and Johnson, Cobb and Avon Park transfer Travis Lawton (6-1, 205) will see a bulk of the work at end. Cecil Cherry has already given a verbal committment to Tennessee, and Volunteer fans will want to come out to see the junior’s hardhitting style. At 6-2, 240, he’s a force. Expect Cherry to be flanked by Kijana Gaines and Kendrick Hinson (6-0, 170). McKinney and Perry should see snaps at

FROSTPROOF | 11


Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Page 11

Bulldogs at a glance

Looking for some positive “gaines,” you might say, as Xavier Gaines puts the ball in the bread basket of Kaleel Gaines on this running play.

FROSTPROOF

• COACH: Price Harris • ASSISTANT COACHES: Defensive Coordinator Craig Merson, line coach Michael Claypool, running back and linebackers Greg Bell, wide receivers and defensive backs Brian Schmitt. • HOME FIELD: Faris Brannen Stadium • DISTRICT: Class 3A, District 4 (with Fort Meade, Lakeland Christian, Tampa Catholic, Bishop McLaughlin and Berkeley Prep). • KEY GAMES: Any district game could be on this list, but two of the biggest league tilts are both in Frostproof, Oct. 20 against rival Fort Meade, and Oct. 4 against Tampa Catholic which many consider the odds on favorite in the district. • WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON OFFENSE: Xavier Gaines has the physical tools to be an elite quarterback, and he’s only a sophomore. Intangibles will ultimately decide just how good he becomes. Kaleel Gaines and Kijana Gaines are threats, as is newcomer Jarviel Hart who should be able to get behind most defenses. The Bulldogs will operate primarily from a spread offense, and should have big-play, quick strike ability. • WHAT TO LOOK FOR ON DEFENSE: Offenses must always account for Cecil Cherry, a junior, who continues to blossom into a premier linebacker. At 6-2, 240, he is a punishing hitter as the Bulldogs move primarily to a 4-3 defensive looks this season, after

spots. Finding the right mix is going to be key for us, how we can optimize the talent that we have.” FROM PAGE 10 As for the new district, Harris noted there are no nights off. linebacker as well. “You’ve got to bring it with you week In the secondary, corners will include in an week out,” Harris said. “I don’t Bobb, Herrington, Hawthorne and Hart, think there’s any clear cut favorite, while Kaleel Gaines, Derrick Mitchell somebody way above anyone else. Most (6-1, 173) and Larkin will spend time at any team will be able to beat you any safety. night.” “We’ve never had this much experiLast year, the Bulldogs finished 6-5, ence coming back, at least since I’ve and earned a playoff spot in what was been here,” Harris noted. “The kids are then just a four-team division. It was really working their butts off, trying to Frostproof’s second straight trip to make sure we put them all in the right the playoffs, although they have lost in the first round each time. One of the division losses last fall was a heartbreaker, 17-16, on the road at Fort Meade, which is part of the new district this year. The Miners have won 14 straight district titles. “Fort Meade is definitely the favorite, until somebody knocks them off they’re the district champs,” Harris said. “To me, they’re the favorites, and a lot of people are picking Tampa Catholic. We’re just going to try to win as many games as we can, and see where it Cecil Cherry can get some tough yards on offense. On defense, Cherry (3) is a ferocious hitter. falls out.”

MC’s GUNSMITHING

WALLACE O. MCLLEROY • ANNA MARIE MCLEROY

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using more of a 3-4 alignment in 2012. Harrison Johnson (6-3, 272) helps anchor the defensive front along with Mike MacFarlane (6-4, 265) who is one of the area’s best two-way linemen, holding down the all-important left tackle position when the Bulldogs have the ball. Derrick Mitchell, whose mother is a new guidance counselor at the high school, has been a nice find in the secondary. THE SKINNY: Wow, what a district. There’s talent all over the place, so there should be a lot of entertaining, close, physical, fun games this fall. Five of the six teams in the newly created district had better than .500 records last year. On paper, Frostproof doesn’t need to take a back seat to anyone, but there are always variables on the high school level, some beyond a program’s control, that can easily dictate where the Bulldogs will be come November. Oddly, the team’s bye week is Nov. 8, the final day of the regular season. If Frostproof manages to make it through the district gauntlet with a playoff position secured, it could be a blessing to have a week before the playoffs start, not only from a physical recovery standpoint, but from a planning and practicing standpoint as well. Bulldogs should get off to a good start, which will build a little confidence, before things really get tough. If Xavier Gaines and most of his weapons stay relatively healthy, no reason Frostproof can’t seriously contend.

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Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Page 12

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Gators on hunt for offensive playmakers By EDGAR THOMPSON ORLANDO SENTINEL GAINESVILLE, Fla. — David Pollack, a highly decorated defender in his day at Georgia, knows a playmaking wide receiver when he sees one. Pollack certainly faced his share when he lined up against the Florida Gators. These days, though, he cannot find a proven gamebreaker on his former rival’s roster. It’s a shocking development for Pollack, who arrived in Athens in 2001 when Florida was a wide receiver factory. “Where’s the talent? Where’s the offensive talent?� Pollack, now an ESPN college football analyst, pondered at last month’s SEC Media Days. “I can name three receivers from Alabama and three receivers from Georgia off the top of my head that would be the No. 1 guy for Florida.� The last time Florida had a 1,000yard wide receiver (Taylor Jacobs, 2002) Pollack was a sophomore defensive end in his first of three All-American seasons. A season earlier, the Gators had two 1,000-yard pass catchers, Jabar Gaffney and Reche Caldwell. In the coming years, several Gators would approach 1,000 yards, including former great Percy Harvin, who had 858 receiving yards in 2007. (Harvin also rushed for 764 yards that year, proving to be one of the most-dynamic players to ever touch a football at Florida.) Since then, the Gators have searched in vain for a star pass catcher. “Since Percy, with all due respect

to David Nelson and other guys, they haven’t had one of those guys where you look over there and worry,� CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson said. “They haven’t had that electric, must-stop receiver.� The Gators enter 2013 without a proven go-to guy, much less a game changer. Of Florida’s returning wide receivers, redshirt junior Quinton Dunbar was the most reliable last season, and he managed just 383 yards on 36 catches (10.6 yard average). Gators’ wide receivers rarely challenged defenses downfield, finishing 2012 with nine receptions of 20 yards or longer in 13 games. Dunbar vows this season will be different. “Everybody’s got a chip on their shoulder,� he said. “We know what we can do. We don’t feed into what people have to say.� Familiarity with quarterback Jeff Driskel and second-year offensive coordinator Brent Pease should help. With Driskel in his first season as a starter, he and Florida’s wide receivers rarely looked on the same page running a new scheme. Senior Trey Burton recalled many times when two receivers ended up in the same spot, rather than creating the proper spacing to get open. “Knowing what to do, where to go is definitely going to help,� said Burton, a former quarterback who will line up at slot receiver this season. “If you have one guy running to one spot and someone running to the spot he is

supposed to go, it’s going to be better for Jeff to read it.� Some of Florida’s problems in the passing game clearly fell on Driskel, too. At times the former Hagerty High standout held onto the ball too long, suffered too many sacks and took off running before plays developed. Coaches and teammates see a different Driskel these days. “He understands the offense totally,� Dunbar said. “He got a lot better.� But at some point, talent at wide receiver has to take over. Receivers must win one-on-one matchups, get open and make tough catches. Florida has gone a long stretch without finding someone who fits the profile. The Gators signed 14 wide receivers from 2008 to 2012. Five have transferred, while Dunbar, a three-star recruit out of Miami, is the only one with more than 30 catches or 350 receiving yards in a season. Doubts about Florida’s wide receiving talent reached the point where coaches experimented in the spring with cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy, who has 4.3-second speed in the 40 and a knack for big plays. Questions at wide receiver once were inconceivable in Gainesville. Florida had at least one receiver make the Associated Press or coaches’ All-SEC first or second team in all but one season (2003) from 1990-2009. Yet, some reason for optimism exists on the horizon. The 6-foot-2 Dunbar has bulked up to 194 pounds and is having a strong

UF

camp. Five freshmen wide receivers also have made a strong impression. The headliner of the 2013 class is Demarcus Robinson, a 6-2, 201-pound early enrollee from Georgia. Jacksonville’s 6-foot-5 Ahmad Fulwood has impressed teammates with his deceptive speed and smooth route running. “As far as running and catching and their abilities, they are a very, very talented group,� Pease said. But counting on first-year freshmen wide receivers is risky business. The Gators have signed 61 receivers from 1990-2012, but only 20 played as true freshmen, with 19 of them catching passes. Among those 19, four caught had more than seven receptions: future first-round draft picks Reidel Anthony, Ike Hilliard and Harvin, and eventual third-rounder Andre Caldwell. Pease, a longtime receivers coach, said freshmen struggle to recognize coverage, adjust to the speed of the game and handle the emotions of playing before large crowds. “If you haven’t been in that situation, it’s a lot different than what you played in in high school,� Pease said. “The energy level is high, the expectations are higher, the game is much faster.� Burton, though, hopes fans and media are not too quick to judge Florida’s receivers. He thinks they’ll be surprised what they see. “They should expect touchdowns. Big plays,� he said. “Just better than last year.�

Wilder Jr. to run with a purpose this year

F SU

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — What do Simba from “The Lion King� and the Pitt Panthers’ defensive line have in common? More than you think. All this summer, as he prepared for the upcoming season, Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. turned into a movie-watching, film-watching buff. When he wasn’t in the gym, he was at home. When he was at home, typically, he was watching one of two things: highlights of the teams he will face this season or the 19-year-old Disney classic that still makes grown men cry. “It was Lion King, then film; Lion King then film,� said Wilder, laughing at the unusual contrast. The game tape was for him. The movie, primarily, was for 8-month-old Nala, his daughter. FSU opens the season at Pitt on Sept. 2.

During his first two seasons at Florida State, Wilder earned the rather dubious distinction of being one of the Seminoles’ more reckless young players. Since Nala’s birth, the junior appears to be turning into one of the more disciplined athletes on the team. “He’s coming around,� coach Jimbo Fisher said. “He’s getting better at that; understanding things that are important and (having a) knowledge about how to do things. He’s getting better every day.� For an offense that will rely heavily this season on the veteran back, it will be critical that Wilder’s off-field persona continue to match his relentless and spirited on-field work ethic. Once upon a time, though, the two personalities didn’t seem like they may ever meet. Two months after running 35 times for 160 yards as a freshman, Wilder was arrested in Tallahassee for assaulting a police officer. Wilder and his attorney later said the arrest was the product of an exchange that included a simple

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misunderstanding and accidental contact between the 230-pound running back and the cop. The arrest was followed by a probation-induced, work-camp punishment. That was followed by a weeklong stint in Leon County Jail after he violated probation terms. Six months after that jail visit, he was arrested again when he turned himself in after a missed court date that stemmed from driving with a suspended license. Some FSU fans had shouted for Fisher to run Wilder, as talented as he was, off the team. The third arrest in 11 months was a wake-up call. It probably helped that 41 days earlier, on Nov. 28, Nala was born. “Ever since I had my daughter, I was forced to mature up,� Wilder said. “I’m a father now. I have somebody that’s going to look up to me and I can’t just talk. I have to lead by example for my daughter.� Wilder contends that since January, he has evolved. Gone is the urge to spend consecutive nights partying with

friends. The mere suggestion of going to a bar makes him uncomfortable. He only wants to see one particular young lady when the sun goes down. “She’s my main thing,� Wilder said of his daughter, who shares a name with the deuteragonist of “The Lion King.� “Here’s the thing: I used to be a little more selfish when I was younger and I used to be like, ‘I just want to do it for me. Hurry up and go to the NFL and just get this money.’ But now, it’s actually about her.� Before the Seminoles went on their widely publicized social media boycott, Wilder constantly made Nala a prime subject in his photos on Twitter and Instagram. He often proclaimed how anxious he is to get to the next level to more adequately provide for her. “I know it all sounds crazy, like this is what you’re supposed to say for an interview, but I mean, when you have somebody who you actually do it for and you’re really focused, it’s really simple like that,� Wilder said.

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Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

UCF Knights need offense to click By KYLE HIGHTOWER ASSOCIATED PRESS ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — With two double-digit win seasons over the past three years, Central Florida coach George O’Leary has had plenty to celebrate recently. The Knights are no longer jumping to the Big East Conference they thought they were entering, but a new American Athletic Conference with one remaining year of Bowl Championship Series automatic qualifying status is something. O’Leary isn’t satisfied just having an opportunity to make a splash in 2013 with a schedule that also includes Penn State and South Carolina, though. He wants to finally see UCF realize all the potential he’s been trumpeting. “I think you’re judged on your out of conference wins,� O’Leary said. “I think the perception, with any conference, is

you’re going to have competitive teams. I think out of conference is where the nation judges you...You gotta win those games. If you want to sit there and play that way, you’ve gotta beat those people. That’s what the nature of the game is.� To make that next step, UCF will rely heavily on junior quarterback Blake Bortles, who is moving into his second year as the starter and is on several national award watch lists. He’ll anchor an offense that returns six starters, compared to just five for the defense. From his perspective, Bortles said he’s ready for the challenge of leading this team. “I think being able to play and perform has to do with earning everybody on the team’s respect,� Bortles said. “So I think this year there’s definitely a little more of that and a little more trust. I’ve been able to do that by the guys I’m surrounded by.�

Page 13

5 Things You Should Know 1. BORTLES PROGRESSION: UCF coach George O’Leary has been hard on quarterbacks during his tenure, but he had little to quibble with Bortles’ performances last season. Though O’Leary poked at his decision making at times, with 25 touchdowns to only seven interceptions, Bortles had a steady progression and wasn’t afraid to take chances in the passing attack when it was needed. Bortles should get a boost again from a mostly intact and veteran corps of receivers. He’s also on both the Davey O’Brien and Maxwell Award Watch Lists, so dealing with expectations appears to be his biggest challenge in his second season as the Knights’ leader on offense. 2. STORM BREWS: The Knights lost a 1,000-yard rusher and 15 touchdowns from 2012 with the graduation of Latavius Murray. Now, former University Miami transfer and junior Storm Johnson looks to be the guy to anchor the Knights’ rushing attack. Johnson rushed for 507 yards and four scores a year ago and has shown explosiveness. With very young understudies behind him, his durability could be paramount to UCF’s overall offensive effectiveness. 3. FILLING GAPS ON OFFENSIVE LINE: Neither Bortles nor Johnson will be able to do anything if the Knights don’t firm up their offensive line

following the graduation of Jordan Rae and Theo Goins. Senior twin brothers Jordan and Justin McCray will provide leadership at the guard spots, and Joey Grant switched from defensive line to center this spring and is a capable replacement for Rae. The question is whether new projected starters Chris Martin, a redshirt senior, and redshirt junior Torrian Wilson will produce as well. 4. SEIZING BIG OPPORTUNITIES: Nearby rival and new conferencemate South Florida has enjoyed some national success with big wins over top BCS programs. But minus former Conference USA teams joining them in the AAC, the Knights are just 4-49 against schools from automatic BCS qualifying conferences. The last of those wins came in 2011 against Boston College. The Knights have several opportunities to grab those marquee wins this season with a trip to Penn State and home matchup with South Carolina. They also have conference matchups with USF, Louisville and Rutgers. 5. QUIRKY SCHEDULE: The Knights have three bye weeks in 2013, the most of O’Leary’s tenure at UCF. Also mixed in is a Thursday matchup against Akron, and three Friday dates, including the renewal of the Knights’ matchup with USF on Nov. 29.

Is Taggart right choice to reverse USF fortunes? By FRED GOODALL

AP SPORTS WRITER TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Willie Taggart knows what he’s in for at South Florida. The Bulls once were widely regarded as one of the fastest rising college football programs in the nation, but they’ve mostly been viewed as underachievers the past five seasons. Taggart is determined to change that perception. The first-year coach comes to Tampa after turning around a struggling program at Western Kentucky, his alma mater. Before that he was an assistant at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl last season. Part of the lure was a chance to lead a BCS program. But Taggart also grew up in the Tampa Bay Area and found it difficult resist an opportunity to return home to continue his career. He expects to be successful right away. “We have some players on our football team that are pretty good, and obviously we’ve got to do a great job recruiting and adding on to it,� Taggart said.

“But we’re a program that really hadn’t live up to our potential. But it’s on us,� Taggart added. “And a big reason why I’m the head coach now is to try to get our guys to live up to the potential.� Florida is one of the most fertile recruiting grounds in the country, and USF’s inability to win the Big East over the past eight seasons was never considered an issue of talent. The defection-weakened league has been replaced by the 10-team American Athletic Conference, and Taggart believes the Bulls — 3-9 a year ago — are good enough to win the title this season. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us,� the coach said. “You look at our schedule, and I think every game we have ... is winnable,� the coach said. “But we gotta go out and and take care of business ourselves.� The Bulls have preseason conference favorite Louisville, as well as three other teams projected to be in the mix for the title — Cincinnati, Rutgers and Central Florida — on the schedule. The nonconference slate includes dates against Michigan State and Miami in September. “You hear a lot ... our program is a sleeping giant. But we can’t rely on

5 Things You Should Know 1. WHO’S UNDER CENTER: Holdovers Bobby Eveld and Matt Floyd shared playing time after four-year starter B.J. Daniels suffered a seasonending injury last fall. The player to watch here is Steven Bench, a sophomore transfer from Penn State, who’s eligible immediately. 2. TAGGART STYLE: Taggart likes a tough running game, smart quarterback, utilizing tight ends, much like Harbaugh did at Stanford and now with the 49ers. Tight end Jack Doyle was Western Kentucky’s leading receiver each of past 2 seasons. The Bulls have an inexperienced group of running back and may have to rely on freshmen to carry the load. 3. CAN THEY STOP ANYBODY? The defense was a liability last season, finishing with nine takeaways. Taggart hired Chuck Bresnahan, who has eight years experience as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. The defensive line in a strength with tackle Ryne Giddins trying

to rebound from a season in which he was hampered by a shoulder injury and sophomore end Aaron Lynch, a transfer from Notre Dame who already is being mentioned as a potential high firstround draft pick set to make his debut. 4. SCHEDULE: Taggart wants USF to be big-time, so he welcomes nonconference dates on the road at Michigan State and Miami in September. Winning either one of those would provide a huge lift heading into conference play. 5. NO MORE BIG EAST: The newlynamed 10 team American Athletic Conference still has a BCS automatic qualifying berth. Louisville (ACC in 2014) is the heavy favorite. USF never finished better than 4-3 in eight years in the Big East. Now the Bulls must wonder if they’re even the best Florida team in the league. Many believe Central Florida is better. USF at UCF on Friday after Thanksgiving in Orlando could mark the beginning on a real rivalry. So far, USF is 4-0 vs UCF all time.

anybody else to say that for us. It’s on us or blaming anyone else. ... I’m excited to go out and do it,� Taggart said. about it. Our players are excited about “We’ve got to stop making excuses it.�

 

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Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Page 14

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

‘Right guys on the train’ for Hurricanes By TIM REYNOLDS

AP SPORTS WRITER CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson are heading into this season as perhaps one of the nation’s top quarterback-running back duos, and the biggest reasons why Miami is a popular pick to contend for the Atlantic Coast Conference title. Unless the Hurricanes’ defense is much improved, Morris and Johnson might have to be great for their team to have a chance. Morris passed for 3,345 yards with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, then got a good amount of attention this summer by excelling at the Manning camp, winning the skills competition there. And Johnson’s freshman year saw him pile up 2,070 all-purpose yards, mostly on rushes and kickoff returns, where his big-play ability was regularly

displayed. “These guys have the makeup to be pretty good,� said new Miami offensive coordinator James Coley, who was at Florida State last season. So the Hurricanes can run, catch and return the ball. There isn’t much question there. There’s huge questions, however, on whether Miami can stop anyone. Miami’s defense set a slew of records a year ago, all of them bad. By wide margins, the Hurricanes gave up more points and more yards last season than any team in Miami history, and those numbers — 366 points, 5,837 yards allowed — surely would have been higher if the school hadn’t declined chances to play in the ACC title game and a bowl. Miami sat out its second straight postseason, self-imposing another ban because of the ongoing NCAA investigation. “Last year we had a lot of new guys

PHOTO BY AL DIAZ / MIAMI HERALD / MCT

Miami’s Stephen Moris is one of the “right guys on the train� acccording to third-year coach Al Golden.

5 Things You Should Know 1. SCHEDULE: Miami doesn’t leave the Sunshine State until Oct. 17, plays seven of its 12 regular-season games at home and hosts Virginia Tech for the second straight year, a quirky gift that came because of how the schedules had to be configured in the expanded ACC. So in that regard, the Hurricanes seem to have a favorable schedule. But they’re also the only presumed Coastal contender that will meet Florida State this season. 2. STATE BATTLES: The mythical-butstill-brag-worthy state championship should be on Miami’s radar this season. The Hurricanes open at home against Florida Atlantic (Aug. 30), play host to Florida on Sept. 7, make the quick trip to face a rebuilding South Florida team three weeks later and then visit Florida State on Nov. 2. Miami has lost four of its last six games against in-state opponents from major conferences. 3. OFFENSIVE LINE: Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson are good on their own, but Miami’s fortunes are tied to the group who’ll block for them.

Offensive line play should be a strength for the Hurricanes, with plenty of size and experience. Brandon Linder and Shane McDermott might be two of the smarter Hurricanes in years, and Seantrel Henderson says his last season will be played with purpose. If this group stays healthy, Miami will score plenty. 4. DEFENSE PAYOFF: A year ago, the Hurricanes went young on defense, out of sheer necessity in some areas and partly because Miami realized that getting players on the field more in 2012 could pay dividends in 2013. The defensive line has gotten bigger and deeper, so there’s reason to think Miami might be considerably better on that side of the ball. 5. IS THIS THE YEAR?: Miami is entering its 10th ACC season and still hasn’t won a single conference title. And the last time the Hurricanes so much as won a bowl game was in 2006. Another seven-win season won’t be enough for a success.

and guys at different spots,� defensive lineman Olsen Pierre said. “This year I feel like we are a better group. ... We all got bigger together so we could go allout and attack and make that wall for no running backs, fullbacks or anything to get past us.� Optimism seems higher than it has been around Miami in either of coach Al Golden’s first two seasons with the Hurricanes, and his team — with most of its starters back from the club that would have been declared Coastal

Division champions last year if not for the postseason ban — should be poised to win more than seven games for the first time since 2009. “We have the right guys on the train,� Golden said. “I think the guys that are on the train have excellent leadership and, if they’re not the leader, they’re being really good teammates. I keep saying it, I have some trepidation no matter what because we have a long way to go as an organization, but we’re moving in the right direction.�

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Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

Page 15

Lake Caloosa Clash has Heartland flavor When Webber International and Warner University meet Sept. 7, the historic Polk County football showdown will have a decidedly local feel. Now dubbed the Lake Caloosa Clash, thanks to a winning contest entry from 1984 Webber grad Juan Cruz, it will be the first collegiate football game to be played between two county schools. (A third, Southeastern University in Lakeland, is planning to add football in 2014.) When the two teams line up at Legion Field in Lake Wales that evening, there will be a strong presence of county players, many from some of the larger programs like Lakeland and Haines City. But several Heartland players are also part of the two local programs, including Frostproof’s Cody Stephens, a 6-0,

245 defensive lineman and David Dyer, a 6-0, 175 pound receiver. Frostproof’s Jeannot St. Louis (5-10, 170) is also a wideout for the Royals, who will play their first ever collegiate game the week prior. Lake Wales has a Warner presence as well in defensive back Lamar Welch (60, 170). Webber has Bartow graduate Jeremy Manning, a 6-0, 175 pound defensive back on its roster. Warner will play only two home games this season, at All Saints Acts Academy in Winter Haven. The Royals’ 2013 home opener comes on Sept. 28 against Ave Maria University at 1 p.m. This will also serve as Homecoming 2013 for Warner University and include special recognition of the 2013 Sports Hall of Fame

Induction Class. The Royals’ second and final home game of the 2013 season is on Oct. 19 against Alderson-Broaddus College (W. Va.). Kick-off for senior day will be at 11 a.m. The Warner University ticket office is now accepting online presale ticket orders for both games. Fans can access the ticket order form by clicking on the link below to receive a special discounted ticket price of $8 per ticket. All tickets purchased on game day will be $10. All seating for Warner University football games at Jahna Field will be general admission. Children 14 and under will receive free admission and high school students who present proper school ID

will receive free admission also. Fans can also purchase a pre-sale parking pass for $4 through the online ticket office. All ticket orders received by Monday of game week (Sept. 23 & Oct. 14) will be mailed to the address provided during purchasing. If a different address is desired, fans can submit address change requests within 24 hours to tickets@warner.edu Be sure to include the name of the ticket buyer and the authorization code listed on the receipt. The Sept. 7 game is considered a home game for Webber, and ticket information for it had not been released as of press time for the football preview edition.

PHOTOS PROVIDED

Webber has had football at its university since 2002, and will welcome Warner to the local gridiron family Sept. 7 with the Lake Caloosa Clash Sept. 7 at Legion Field.

Webber 2013 Schedule

Warner is anxious to line up and hit somone other than a teammate when they open the season Aug. 31.

Warner 2013 Schedule

Aug. 31

at Faulkner University (Ala.)

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

Warner University

7 p.m.

Sept. 14 at Louisiana College

12 noon

Sept. 21 at Union College (Ky.)

12 noon

Aug. 31

at Stetson (Deland)

7 p.m.

Sept. 7

at Webber

7 p.m.

Sept. 14

at Mercer (Ga.)

6 p.m.

Sept. 21

at Jacksonville Univ. (Fla.)

1 p.m.

Sept. 24

Ave Maria

1 p.m.

Oct. 5

at Alcorn State (Miss.)

2 p.m.

Oct. 12

at Southern Virginia

1 p.m.

Oct. 19

Alderson-Broaddus College

11 a.m.

Oct. 26

at Florida Tech (Melbourne) 1 p.m.

Sept. 28 Mississippi College

3 p.m.

Oct. 12

Edward Waters College

6 p.m.

Oct. 19

Point University

1 p.m.

Oct. 26

at Ave Marie College (Naples)

1 p.m.

Nov. 9

at Newport News Apprentice School (Va.)1 p.m.

Nov. 2

at Gardner-Webb (S.C.)

1:30 p.m.

Nov. 16

at Florida Tech (Melbourne)

Nov. 16

at Concordia College (Ala.)

2 p.m.

2 p.m.

All home games at Legion Field in Lake Wales

Home games at All Saints Academy in Winter Haven


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Friday Night Football — LWN•PCD•FPN•FML

Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013

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