Dreadnaughts get national tournament bid
FLEMING ISLAND - The Fleming Island Dreadnaughts 10-under Pop Warner football team, coached by Mike Kenny, recently lost their region semifinal playoff …
Dreadnaughts get national tournament bidFLEMING ISLAND - The Fleming Island Dreadnaughts 10-under Pop Warner football team, coached by Mike Kenny, recently lost their region semifinal playoff game; 18-6, to a strong Titletown Titans team out of the national football breeding grounds of Valdosta, Georgia two weeks ago.
“We played the best team in the nation in their own backyard and came home with our pride a little sad, but our resolve strong as we were the only team to score points on their defense,” said Kenny. “The way things turned around this morning (Mon., Nov. 30) was quite the surprise.”
According to Kenny, the losing teams of the each of two regions in the Pop Warner National Championship Tournament that was cancelled last year due to the COVID pandemic, were chosen as alternates in a newly formed Mid-American Southeastern Region Challenge Game. The two regions of eight nationally; Mid-American Region and Southeast Region have both agreed to stage their own championship tournament this weekend in St. Cloud, FL.
“Due to some teams having travel or COVID restrictions in getting to the Mid-American Southeast Region Tournament, we were offered a bid to play to complete the brackets,” said Kenny. “I thought about it and the idea of getting in because a team could not get here, but with the country dealing with some serious stuff, I’m excited that the kids on the team get to play at least one more game; possibly two for a championship.”
The Dreadnaughts, led at quarterback by Wyatt Rapoza with running back mate Blake Mulanax with the offensive line led by Kade Carey ran a strong fourth quarter last week to score on the Titletown team.
On defense, Anderson Fortner is a top attacker with Tristan Stevenson on the outside secondary position.
Battle of unbeatens: Lady Raiders vs. Lady Knights
ORANGE PARK - One thing about the Tuesday night clash of unbeatens featuring the Oakleaf High Lady Knights and the Orange Park High Lady Raiders is that both coaches should be well-dressed in front of their respective benches.
Fred Cole, the former Orange Park High head girls basketball coach, will be manning the Oakleaf High sideline in his usual sharp suited attire that has been a staple of the RaiderDome competitions the past three years, while on the other side, former Orange Park Junior High coach, Michael Nesmith, will take the reigns from Cole in a unique clash of courtside friends.
“For me, with that game coming here, it’s a new era and a new tradition,” said Nesmith, prior to a win over Clay High on Thursday. “I’m not Fred Cole, I’m not going to coach like Fred Cole, I’m going to do what Michael Nesmith does. Plus my suits are better looking.”
Orange Park has opened with three wins in a row; a 68-11 drubbing of Baker County in their opener, a 67-26 win over Keystone Heights and last Thursday’s 75-14 win over Clay.
“It is in the Dome and there is nothing like it,” said Nesmith. “I’m going to coach my girls hard. We play Orange Park basketball, we’ll be successful.”
Oakleaf, implementing Cole’s fast-paced, suffocating defensive scheme with breakaways, has kept pace with impressive wins over Bolles, Lee (a key regional playoff foe), Bradford County, First Coast and Mandarin.
Briley, Zitkus, Stevens get top lifts at Suwannee
LIVE OAK - Three unique opportunities played out Friday afternoon for area girls weightlifters as the final meet before Christman, the Suwannee High Power of Christmas Invitational, put some of the strongest teams in Florida together in a meet that could foreshadow some key matchups at the FHSAA state championships. With Suwannee High School entertaining challenges as the top team Friday night, Clay High got their dibs in during the chase with a runnerup finish ahead of notable powerhouses Pace High, Mosley High and Leesburg High. Clay finished with 36 team points with Suwannee winning at 57 points in a final tally that swayed throughout the competition. Ridgeview finished sixth with Oakleaf taking ninth.
On the opposite end of the powerhouse scale, St. Johns Country Day School, fielding their first-ever school team, coached by Justin Frisbee and led by freshman Addison Frisbee, a nationally-ranked age group Olympic lift medalist, put their mettle to the test against the rugged field.
“It’s been a little overwhelming at first, but I think we are starting to get our grip and doing well,” said Frisbee. “We got a few first places in small meets earlier this season and we had girls on top here for a little bit. Baby steps.”
Eagles take SJRAC title; Raiders fourth
BARTRAM TRAIL - A strong rebounding presence from junior Ahman Greenidge fueled a Fleming Island High power game as the Golden Eagles took down second seed Palatka High 60-45 in a show of late-season prowess that portends Fleming Island’s upcoming playoff hopes.
“It was definitely a good test for us against a very athletic team,” said Fleming Island High coach Traavis Chandler, now 15-8 with wins over Bartram Trail (78-53) and Nease (55-38) to get to the final. “We knocked Nease out last night in a strong game and knew Palatka from last year. To hold them under 50 points was our goal on defense.”
Winning his second SJRAC title in a row against Palatka, Chandler liked his team’s role in the upcoming playoffs with the late wins.
“I think we had Ahman using some of his size advantage underneath,” said Chandler, referring to Ahman Greenidge’s 12 rebounds on top of his team-leading 22 points. “We’re trying to be ready for the playoff push.”
Greenidge was the main defensive cog for Chandler with junior big man Demarion Valmyr (6’-7”, 225 lbs.) adding his heft clogging the middle on Palatka’s driving offense.
“Bod” 30-miler: An emotional journey finished
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Orange Park road racer David Bonnette was chided and nicknamed the “Bod” as a chiseled, muscular running stalwart that ran hard paces and had strong finishes to age group titles just five years ago on the Jacksonville road running scene.
“I don’t know about the running stalwart thing unless you say self-proclaimed, but the last three years has been quite the emotional ride,” said Bonnette, now 54, and given an all-clear in October 2020. “After today’s run, I walked off by myself from the finish line and just thanked God for letting me do this. There a lot of people around me, especially my beautiful wife Amy, who got me here. That cancer word is a scary thing, but here I am today.”
The here, for Bonnette, was the finish line of the Hellcat 50K trail run at the Military Museum of North Florida on Saturday.
“I ran this once before in 2017 right before the cancer and wanted to come back after what has happened to me and take an emotional step,” said Bonnette. “I think I ran about 41 minutes faster than the last time and finished in about four hours, 21 minutes. It was a good moment.”
Hoskinson “war” leads Blue Devils’ Rotary win
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - A bloody nose, a fat lip and a bruised eye were not enough to stop Clay High 160 pound wrestler Cale Hoskinson who won an overtime championship match against a state runnerup in one of the more grueling matches of the weekend at the Clay Rotary Invitational at Clay High School.
“I just wanted to keep the match going every time they stopped it for blood,” said Hoskinson, who executed a single leg takedown in overtime to defeat Ahmahd Denmark of Robert E. Lee 4-1 in their championship match at the Clay Rotary. “I knew he was big, strong and athletic and our plan was to try and wear him out, but the stops gave him time to recover.”
Denmark finished at 40-4 last year losing in the Class 2A final 9-3 to Andy Martinez of Golden Gate High. Hoskinson (51-7 last year) was third in Class 1A at 152 with on overtime win over Gavin Miller of Bishop Moore.
Clay coach Jim Reape liked the mental battle going in the Hoskinson match between the referees who were wary of the bloody nose, Denmark’s athletic ability and Hoskinson’s durability to get past the bumps and bruises.
“Cale had a tough customer out there; got a little beat up and came through,” said Reape. “He was bleeding hard from his nose and we had a tough time stopping it and a 2-1 lead so we knew in overtime we would have to wrap Cale up to finish the match. He got after it in the overtime with two good shots including the winner.”
Hoskinson won the state title in 2021.
Rosano gets first feather of coaching; 3-0 over Creekside
FLEMING ISLAND - With a strategy that looked more like the full court press that Fleming Island High basketball coach Traavis Chandler employs on the hardwood floors of the gym, the Fleming Island High girls soccer team went baseline to baseline with Creekside High to a 3-0 district 3-6A championship win Friday night for the first first of first year coach Joy Rosano’s tenure at the helm.
“Oh yeah, we were going to use that full court press the whole game,” said Rosano. “I knew it was going to be a fast, physical game. We couldn’t get the smooth transitions on them early so we went with keeping the ball on the ground and moving downfield quickly.”
For the Golden Eagles, who finished regular season play with just two losses (to the pesky Bartram Trail High Lady Bears, the Class 7A defending champions), the win marks Rosano’s first playoff win although her high school days saw her part of a few deep playoff runs under then-coach Darrell Ivey.
Tussle of Muscle Viens’ pin, Boree clamp down Tussle title
FLEMING ISLAND - Clay High got back-to-back dramatic finishes; a third period pin from Thomas Viens and a takedown with just 12 seconds on the clock from Luke Boree to steal away the Tussle of Muscle wresting title from Fleming Island in yet another wrestlefest classic between the two wrestling programs.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this win,” said Boree, who faced off against Fleming Island senior Garrett Cole. “He has beat me a few times and it’s always been tough matches.”
Boree’s win was off a 1-1 tie through the second quarter with both wrestlers scoring on escapes before Boree scored the two-point takedown as the loud and boisterous crowd sensed an overtime session to end the match.
“We talked all week to them about just competing,” said Clay coach Jim Reape. “We had a tough weekend with the Clay Rotary (Clay won) then wanted to keep them mentally sharp for tonight. We just wanted to battle them because Fleming Island is the standard of excellence as a top big school program.”
Reape’s query for “competing” was not lost on the penultimate match of the night as Viens, at 132, turned a 7-0 apparent major decision coming to Fleming Island’s Xavier Logan into a cradled pin with a minute left in the period.
First quarter blitz sends Knights to Final Four
OAKLEAF - Oakleaf High guard Taliah Scott nailed her first two jumpers; both three-pointers, with teammate Kaylah Turner pumping in her own as the first three shots for the Lady Knights proved prophetic in a 76-61 win for first year coach Fred Cole over Timber Creek High in the region 1-7A championship game held Friday at Oakleaf High School.
“This was our best first quarter all season,” said Scott, who has singed the nets for 36, 26 and 32 in the Lady Knights region playoff run. “We came out and moved the ball, took great shots and played great defense in that first half which really got us going and led us to this win.”
For Cole, emotionally drained as the final buzzer blared, fell to tears on his bench.
“Tears of joy,” said Cole, now 24-2 and headed to the Lakeland Civic Center on Friday to face Tampa Plant in Oakleaf High Schools first-ever basketball foray into state basketball lore. “The whole season has emotionally been a lot for me and the girls. The girls did so much to get this win and get to state.”
Stotler chats about records, wins, Vols and Olympics
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - Clay High senior swimmer Sara Stotler, fresh off a state gold medal in the 100 butterfly and a silver in the 200 individual medley, talked about records, titles and her choice after just one phone call to sign a letter of intent to continue swimming at the University of Tennessee. Stotler was interviewed prior to her signing day on November 12.
“They were the first school to contact me at 11:59 p.m. or midnight on June 17,” said Stotler. “They told me they not only wanted me for the athlete that I am but for the person I am, on and off the deck. That meant a lot to me.”
Tennessee, the 2019-20 women’s swimming Southeastern Conference champions, had three individual champions and won three relay titles. The NCAA championships were cancelled because of the COVID pandemic.
In the past five years. the Tennessee womens’ swim team has had five top five finishes in the SEC with a second in 2015 with a 13th at NCAAs, a fourth in 2016 with a 22nd at NCAAs, a third in 2017 with a seventh at the NCAAs, a fourth in 2018 and last year’s team title.
At the 2020 FHSAA Class 2A championship meet, Stotler said her gold medal performance was a little more about remembering the final state meet for herself. Stotler had won the 100 butterfly in 2018 with two silver medals last year; 200 IM and 100 butterfly.
Stotler’s gold medal performance came with little fanfare as she delivered a record performance while winning handily over the second place finisher.