Top 10 Sports Performances of the year

By Randy Lefko
Posted 7/21/21

First quarter blitz sends Knights to Final FourOAKLEAF - Oakleaf High guard Taliah Scott nailed her first two jumpers; both three-pointers, with teammate Kaylah Turner pumping in her own as the first …

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Top 10 Sports Performances of the year

Posted

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.”

Rodriguez stays with
Lehigh wrestling
ORANGE PARK - Over the past two or so weeks, the Matthew Rodriguez wrestling following has hinted that Ridgeview High state champion wrestler Matthew Rodriguez would be announcing his choice to continue wrestling in college with a few more teams on the original roster.
When asked “How do you like snow?” prior to his ceremony to announce, Rodriguez smiled and said, “I used to live in Pennsylvania so I’m used to snow.”
With Lehigh his initial first choice and Penn State capable of snow, Rodriguez, in the end, chose to stay with Lehigh University to continue his wrestling career.
“It was definitely the comfortability of the program and the degree program,” said Rodriguez. “I felt very at home with the coaching staff at Lehigh.”

Rodriguez, twice the Class 1A runnerup and a third place finisher as a freshman, has had Lehigh University as his initial choice nearly a year ago, but recent camps and visits to campus put the likes of Penn State, Oregon State and Arizona State all on Rodriguez’ list.
Rodriguez finished 57-0 in his final season and set a national pins record along the way.
“The past few years, I have learned the discipline attached to the sport with things like cutting weight, consistent training and eating right,” said Rodriguez, who currently has 204 wins, eight losses and 154 pins with a senior season to come. “Wrestling has definitely helped build me to the person I am today.” prior to his ceremony to announce, Rodriguez smiled and said, “I used to live in Pennsylvania so I’m used to snow.”
With Lehigh his initial first choice and Penn State capable of snow, Rodriguez, in the end, chose to stay with Lehigh University to continue his wrestling career.
“It was definitely the comfortability of the program and the degree program,” said Rodriguez. “I felt very at home with the coaching staff at Lehigh.”
Rodriguez, twice the Class 1A runnerup and a third place finisher as a freshman, has had Lehigh University as his initial choice nearly a year ago, but recent camps and visits to campus put the likes of Penn State, Oregon State and Arizona State all on Rodriguez’ list.
Rodriguez finished 57-0 in his final season and set a national pins record along the way.
“The past few years, I have learned the discipline attached to the sport with things like cutting weight, consistent training and eating right,” said Rodriguez, who currently has 204 wins, eight losses and 154 pins with a senior season to come. “Wrestling has definitely helped build me to the person I am today.”

Millson strong return to
XC top performance of 2020
JACKSONVILLE - Fleming Island High senior Emma Millson returned from a season ending injury last year to return to the turf at the uber-competitive Cecil Field Summer Classic Cross Country Invitational held Friday night at Cecil Field’s New World Golf Course. The meet was the first competition amidst a summer of indecisiveness concerning the deadly COVID-19 pandemic and the starting of high school sports in Florida.
“I think we had up to seven runners in both races break the course record and Isabella broke the record by nearly a minute,” said race director Richard Fannin.
For the Golden Eagles, Millson stormed to the top spot for her team with a 19:42 split for seventh place after returning to the lineup after a series of injuries took her out of competition for the past year.
Millson would continue her comeback season as top finisher for Fleming Island with the Golden Eagles winning a district and region title followed by a sixth place finish at the state championships. Millson would finish 25th at the state meet and earn an athletic scholarship to the University of North Florida.

Rosano ride continues; 3-0
over Creekside

FLEMING ISLAND - Fleming Island High soccer forward Kaitlyn Scherer scored two goals to back a strong performance from keeper Mackenzie Kirk as Fleming Island seized a lead and held on for a 3-2 victory over visiting Creekside in a Class 6A Region 1 Semifinal Fri., Feb. 19. The win continues the incredible first season of head coach Joy Rosano, herself a former Fleming Island Final Four soccer player. Fleming Island High’s Cinderella Season, the first for new coach Joy Rosano, ended Friday with a 1-0 loss in the Class 6A state semifinal to Venice High in Venice. Venice (14-4-1) was last year’s Class 6A runnerup. Fleming Island, 18-2-1, only lost previously to defending 7A champion Bartram Trail twice and was ranked number one in Class 6A. Venice was ranked sixth in 6A. Ironically, Venice beat Creekside, twice playoff wins for Fleming Island, in last year’s state semifinal.

Lady Spartans blast to 10th title
Spartan boys fall 4-0
DELAND - With barely enough time to work up a sweat, the St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer team bolted to a 2-0 lead within the first 90 seconds of play in their Class 2A championship game against Canterbury High en route to a 6-0 final score. The title was the 10th in a row for the Lady Spartans and for coach Mike Pickett. Pickett now has 13 state titles.
“This season will always have an asterisk next to it because of all the adversity we went through to get here,” said Pickett. “We missed a good part of the season; a bunch of quality games and finished with just 13 regular season games. It is a testament to the 10 seniors on the team.”
In the ensuing Class 2A boys championship game, Canterbury returned the favor with a 4-0 win over St. Johns with the first half locked at 0-0.
With senior forward Paige Crews taking the opening kickoff and three Spartan midfielders; Mia Sadler, Bella Pontieri and Lauren Weiss, dashing down the sideline toward the Canterbury goal, St. Johns took just 15 seconds for Pontieri to spin left and loft a left-footed shot toward the front of the goal where Sadler finished off the play with a header to the net as the Canterbury stood stunned by the absolute speed of the ball from the 50 to the net.

Two walkoffs; two games; one night

ORANGE PARK - Ridgeview High looked to be suffering through a horrible rendition of softball Friday night (seven errors) in their second clash with Oakleaf High with a spattering of unforced errors causing coach Casey Thompson to bite his share of fingernails wondering if this year’s team was not going to have the heart to play in the big games on his schedule.
“There are a lot of young players out there and with our schedule as tough as it is, they have not been in the kind of pressure situations that games like this get to,” said Thompson, who was trying to reverse an earlier 3-1 loss to Oakleaf, also wrought with errors.
Thompson breathed a sigh of relief when a freshman, yes, one of those young-uns named Haylee McCrae, whisked a game-winning single with two baserunners on to best the Lady Knights 7-6 as the night waned into nine innings.

Williams homer crunches
No. 1 St. Johns

ORANGE PARK - With two Clay County teams facing off last Friday night with a combined record of 16-1, someone was going home very upset.
The Clay High Blue Devils (9-1) made the trip over to the St. Johns Country Day Spartan’s back yard to see if they could dish out a first loss to the Spartans who are perfect up to this point.
“That’s the (MaxPreps) number one team in the nation, so they wanted us for a long time” said Clay Head Coach Josh Persinger.
The Blue Devils would land an early, but light first punch, then stand toe-to-toe with the Spartans through seven innings before the Clay bats rose to the occasion.
For the Blue Devils, the action centered around the mound as Brandon Adams went the distance, taking down 12 Spartans with strikeouts and allowing only a single hit all night while walking just one Spartan. “Brandon’s had a lot of interest, but no one is pulled the trigger. They think maybe he can’t compete,” said Persinger.
In the fourth, with the Spartans placing Jordan Taylor on the mound, Max Williams, who up to this point struck out three times, found just what the Doctor ordered, and tattooed the ball out and over the right field fence for a two run home run putting the Blue Devils out front, 3-0.
“Max is an Alabama commit who was pushing” said Persinger. “Sometimes you get in that situation and all eyes are on you.”

Anthony shows out against
top national defense

VALDOSTA - In an historically Friday of interstate football, Georgia high school’s Lowndes County and Camden County scored two knockout punches in Florida attempts to throw a little chest out with victories on the Georgia side in both contests.
In Lowndes County, 8A-Oakleaf took to the road to take on the ninth-ranked nationally Vikings of Valdosta but found internal miscues and a bit more athleticism to give up a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a 37-17 loss. Lowndes County, the 2019 7A state runnerup, finished 2020 at 10-2 and lost in the state Final Four to eventual runnerup Collins Hill.
Against the vaunted Vikings of Georgia, Oakleaf wide receiver Terrance Anthony, a senior and first team All-State selection, had his best performance of 2020 with 11 catches for 180 yards with a 52 yarder and a 26 yarder including one score in the 37-17 loss.
Anthony, just two weeks later, had an eight catch night for 154 yards and a score; a 71 yarder in a 25-12 loss to Camden County, the second Georgia powerhouse in three weeks for Oakleaf. Anthony ended his regular season career with a nine catch, 216 yard, three score night against then unbeaten Clay High in a 41-14 Oakleaf win.
Oakleaf finished at 7-4 with a playoff loss to Bartram Trail.

Lowery tagged as state
weightlifting coach of year
GAINESVILLE (May 18) – Keystone Heights High School boys weightlifting coach Lantz Lowery was named the 2021 Boys’ Weightlifting Coach-of-the-Year while Winter Springs High senior Marvin Collins was selected as the winner of the 2021 Florida Dairy Farmers Mr. Weightlifting award, in a press release from the Florida Dairy Farmers.
“I think the key was that we had a bunch of weight classes with two or three guys having to compete just to be the two guys that would be able to go to tournaments,” said Lowery. “There was not a sense of being the best guy in a single weight class without having someone real close pushing you to keep sharp. On a good day, we had a lot of third guys that could be number two before a meet.”
Lowery was selected as the 2021 Boys’ Weightlifting Coach-of-the-Year after leading Keystone Heights to the Class 1A state title, the school’s first since 2014. The team had eight place winners, including 139-pound champion Zach Glover and 169-pound champion Kade Sanders, in scoring 37 points. Lowery, in his 16th season at Keystone Heights, was coach for the 2014 state champion team as well.

Battle of Titans II: Fleming Island beats SJCDs

ORANGE PARK - At first glance, the titanic battle between Fleming Island High and St. Johns Country Day School baseball, arguably in the top five of Florida baseball all classes, looked to becoming a 12-13 inning pitch fest between Cody Carwile and Brad Hodges with 11 strikeouts in the first two innings between the two flamethrowers.
“We knew they were coming off a big weekend in south Florida against some power teams and they were keyed up for this game,” said Fleming Island coach Grant Bigilin.
Fortunately, for baseball fans, the excitement of a no-hit, no-runs slinging contest did not materialize as Fleming Island took a mid-game lead, then nearly let it slip away en route to a 5-3 win Monday night at St. Johns Country Day School.
St. Johns answered the comeback call in the two-run homer by Finn Howell in the fifth, but left baserunners stranded in the seventh.
“I tip my hat to Fleming Island, they outplayed us,” said St. Johns coach Tom Lucas. “We struck out 13 times and you don’t win big games doing that.”
A well-executed bunt by Fleming Island’s Angelo Scionti in the third triggered a crack in the demeanor of Hodges as the Golden Eagles’ batting lineup jumped on Scionti’s success with a Justin Lebesch single and a walk to Aiden Mastantuno to load the bases for Marcus Murray’s sliced single and a two-run double from Jack Gidcumb to centerfield to fire up a 3-0 lead.
Both teams lost in their respective state championship games at season’s end; St. Johns in Class 2A, Fleming Island in Class 6A.

Hoskinson beats unbeaten
KISSIMMEE - Clay High’s Cale Hoskinson, a senior state wrestling champion, previewed his grittiness to earn that title with a bloodied, bruised overtime win at the February Clay Rotary against then-unbeaten Ahmahd Denmark of Robert E. Lee, a state runnerup in 2020, and then a state championship match win against a second unbeaten state medalist at the end of the season.
“He looked very similar to Ahmahd and I know that that match would be good for my confidence for the rest of the season,” said Hoskinson. “I just relied on my craft work and wrestled my guy.”
For Hoskinson, third last year at 152 and 42-2 this season at 160, his state championship match looked to be similar to his battle with Robert E. Lee High’s 2020 state runnerup Ahmahd Denmark at the Clay Rotary as he faced off against unbeaten Terrell Taylor; 29-0 and fourth last year at 160. Denmark, third at 160 in 2A on Saturday, offered a muscular, athletic foe for Hoskinson that Hoskinson went into a bloodied overtime to defeat in the Clay Rotary final.
Clay coach Jim Reape noted that Hoskinson has faced off against few strong, athletic wrestlers in the past years and was set to take on Taylor in a good mindset.
“The Clay Rotary guy was just a big, strong kid with a lot of horsepower and Cale has wrestled the Camden County guy a bunch over the summer and he’s built the same way,” said Reape. “He just does the work, prepares and doesn’t flinch on the mat.”

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