With Hurricane Irma wiping out athletic events for schools in Hillsborough and Pasco counties for the week of Sept. 11, many anticipated Friday night football contests already have been rescheduled, or played, in some cases.
In Pasco, a few local schools didn’t waste much time agreeing to make up games on Sept. 18, including the Zephyrhills High squad, which traveled to Ridgewood High, and Wesley Chapel High’s team, which hosted Fivay High. Zephyrhills Christian Academy was set to host St. John’s Lutheran, but the latter forfeited the game.
High school football contests seldom are played on Mondays, but Florida High School Athletic Association permitted practices on Sept. 17 with the approval of each individual school and/or school district, giving coaches an additional day to work with players.
Other Pasco County schools in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area scheduled to play on Sept. 15 have since pushed contests back a week to Sept. 22:
- Land O’ Lakes at Sunlake (7:30 p.m.)
- Bishop McLaughlin at Ocala Christian (7 p.m.)
- Cypress Creek at Pasco (7:30 p.m.)
Public schools in Hillsborough, meanwhile, will make up the Sept. 15 slate of games beginning Oct. 2. It marked the second straight week public schools in Hillsborough cancelled games.
The county’s public schools were closed all last week due to Hurricane Irma, and the district did not permit teams to resume practice until Sept. 18.
The following games scheduled for Sept. 15 in our coverage area that will have to be made up on a Monday in October include:
- Steinbrenner at Manatee
- Freedom at Gaither
- Wharton at Leto
- Wiregrass Ranch at Sickles
With regard to the FHSAA’s new playoff point system for football, as originally planned, total points will be determined by dividing points earned by games. If a school somehow falls below the eight-game minimum requirements, FHSAA executive director George Tomyn may waive the minimum game requirement on a case-by-case basis.
The new system, passed last September, bases football postseason berths on a points system in Class A-4A. The new format, beginning this season, is designed to reward teams for winning records and strength of schedule.
In the FHSAA’s biggest four classes (5A-8A), the district champion still automatically qualifies for regionals, with the remaining 16 spots decided by points.
Wiregrass Ranch High is one program hoping to keep its momentum in between a two-week layoff from football games.
Under third-year head coach Mark Kantor, the Bulls are off to its first 3-0 start in school history.
Coincidentally, Kantor — who previously coached three seasons at Hudson High and compiled a 15-13 mark — now has the most wins in Wiregrass Ranch history, with 12; the school’s football program was launched in 2007.
Just one other public school in Pasco remains undefeated — Mitchell High (3-0).
The Bulls have been tested early on, battling to one-possession victories over Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel and Sunlake high schools. And, despite several key departures in the offseason, the Bulls may be stronger than last year’s 7-3 District 8-7A runner-up squad. Junior quarterback Grant Sessums, the leading passer in the county (504 yards, four touchdowns, one interception, 57 percent completion rate), has lived up to preseason billing, as has senior cornerback/Penn State University commit Jordan Miner (13 tackles, two interceptions). The Bulls have also received breakout contributions from a pair of sophomore linebackers in Dylan Ridolph (31 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks) and Nick Gaziano (30 tackles, three tackles for loss, forced fumble).
Prior to the 2017-2018 school year, Wiregrass Ranch saw three of its top players — cornerback Shamaur McDowell, athlete Raymond Woodie III, tailback Da Da McGee — transfer elsewhere.
The Bulls host Wharton (1-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
In the wake of Hurricane Irma’s impact on Florida, the University of South Florida (USF) provided complimentary admission to last Friday’s football game vs. Illinois to first responders and their families, as well as to Florida high school football teams, many of which have had their games cancelled as a result of the storm.
Eighty-seven high school teams, such as Steinbrenner and Sunlake, took up the offer. Even schools as far as Orlando, Lakeland and Vero Beach showed up.
“It’s all about us giving back,” USF head coach Charlie Strong said, during a press conference last week. “We want to make sure that everyone is working to give back and get their life (together). It’s going to take a while, we know that. When things happen, we just want to make sure people understand that we do understand. We’re not going through what they’re going through, but we can help them get through what they’re going through.”
Another offer for local standout
Cameron Smith, arguably one of the top defensive players in Pasco County, recently picked up a scholarship offer from Ursinus College, a Division III program in Collegeville, Pennsylvania. The latest offer is one of several for the Pasco High senior linebacker, who also holds offers from Albright College (Reading, Pennsylvania), Warner University (Lake Wales), Webber international (Babson Park) and West Virginia State University (Institute, West Virginia).
Smith, a 2016 SAC First-Team All-Conference selection, currently leads the Pirates in tackles with 12.
Here’s a running list of other known players from our coverage area in Pasco County to have at least one scholarship offer:
- Dylan Gonzalez, Academy at the Lakes, senior linebacker
- Tylor Winn, Land O’ Lakes, senior wide receiver
- Adam Jarvis, Sunlake, senior linebacker
- Isaiah Bolden, Wesley Chapel, senior defensive back
- Chaz Neal, Wesley Chapel, senior defensive end
- Daniel Biglow, Wiregrass Ranch, senior wide receiver
- Kwesi Littlejohn, Wiregrass Ranch, senior safety/running back
- Jordan Miner, Wiregrass Ranch, senior cornerback
- Devaun Roberts, Wiregrass Ranch, senior tight end/defensive end
- Adrian Thomas, Wiregrass Ranch, senior wide receiver
- Charles Harrison III, Zephyrhills, senior quarterback
- Ja’Quan Sheppard, Zephyrhills, junior wide receiver
- Sterlin Williams, Zephyrhills, senior defensive lineman
- Javion Hanner, Zephyrhills Christian, junior running back
- Calvin Samuel, Zephyrhills Christian, senior running back
- Alonzo Sampson, Zephyrhills Christian, senior linebacker
- Evan Miller, Zephyrhills Christian, senior defensive back
- Javan Smith, Zephyrhills Christian, junior tailback/linebacker
- Jalen Spencer, Zephyrhills Christian, junior defensive end/linebacker
Published September 20, 2017