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52 posts from May 2008

May 22, 2008

College football coaches love South Florida

The best thing about spring, at least for me, is to talk with and meet the college coaches that roam the sidelines for practices or at games to get a look at some of the top-flight athletes we have here in South Florida.

From the Palm Beaches to Key West, hundreds of college coaches take advantage of the impressive month-long spring football we have here and feast on athletes that are simply unmatched anywhere else in the country.

Having the pleasure to talk with many coaches throughout the course of a year, it's always nice to catch up in person and talk about some of the rising stars of the gridiron here in our football hotbed.

Some schools spend the entire month of May somewhere in our area – from talking with coaches and academic people during the day – to watching spring workouts in the afternoon, which truly measure what the athlete is all about on the football field.

While I have been to some 40 schools already in this area and more out of the area and into Georgia this spring, running into college coaches from UCF, USF, Georgia, Florida, FSU and Miami has become common place. But there are so many other schools that don't get the publicity that actually use this spring to fill out their rosters.

Western Michigan and Central Michigan have more players from the state of Florida than any school outside the state. Auburn, Clemson, Wake Forest, Rutgers and Louisville are loaded with our products as well.

This is the time of year when seeing coaches from Mississippi St., Michigan St., Iowa St., Indiana, Northern Illinois and Wisconsin, Louisiana Monroe, Oregon St. and others talking about the athletes as if they actually lived here year round. You can rattle off some 20 elite players and every college coach knows how fast they run, their parents name and phone number. That's where recruiting has come to.

While many believe the talent level is down in our area from last year, without the marquee players from Northwestern and Booker T. Washington, keep in mind that when the dust settles in February, there will be the same amazing 200-plus football players signing D1A scholarships from this region, which is an amazing number of quality football talent. North and South Dakota haven't had that many combined in the past 14 years, but then again, we don't churn out top-flight ice hockey players, either.

If you've been out to games and have watched some rising 2010, 2011 and 2012 standouts, drop us a line. I know the coaches who cover this area would love to hear about the future stars as well.

LARRY BLUSTEIN
FloridaKids1@hotmail.com

May 21, 2008

St. Thomas' Smith gets honor

Longtime St. Thomas Aquinas football coach (and athletic director) George Smith, who led the Raiders to the 5A football title after three consecutive years of championship-game hearbreak, will be honored by the American Football Coaches Association.

From the FHSAA:

GAINESVILLE – George Smith, the football coach and athletic director at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, will be honored by the American Football Coaches Association as the 2008 Power of Influence Award recipient during the association's Coach of the Year dinner at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn. on Jan. 13, 2009.

The Power of Influence Award was created by the AFCA to honor a deserving high school football coach for his effect on his players, school and community, including community service, mentoring and role modeling. It is the first AFCA award specifically designed to honor a high school coach.

"The FHSAA would like to add its gratitude and thanks to George for all that he has done for the student-athletes in our state," said FHSAA Executive Director John A. Stewart. "No one we know is more deserving of this honor."

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

May 20, 2008

Honors continue to roll in for Shawn Barry

American Heritage senior defender Shawn Barry, who scored 13 goals and assisted on four others, was named to the Parade All-American team this week.

It is the second national honor Barry received in as many weeks. Last week, he was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year.

With all these awards, can Barry win a second consecutive Miami Herald Boys' Soccer Player of the Year Award for Classes 4A-2A? What do you think?

Find out Thursday morning at the annual All-Broward Athletic Awards at the Signature Grand in Davie.

May 19, 2008

NFL's (and Taravella's) Morgan retires

Oft-injured NFL linebacker Dan Morgan, who signed with the Saints this offseason, called it quits Monday.

And although he's better-known as yet another a UM-star-turned-Pro Bowler, Morgan has an even more local connection: He's a Coral Springs kid who played his high school football at Taravella -- much of it at running back (the Canes even reportedly recruited him at that position).

Check out this excerpt from an old Herald roundup, circa September 1996:

The county's leading rusher displayed his durability and consistency when he carried the ball 249 times for 1,332 yards last year without a fumble. This summer, he worked with a trainer to increase his strength and speed. Morgan, who is 6-3 and 217 pounds, gained about 15 pounds and dropped his 40 time to 4.4. On defense, he will switch from inside linebacker to free safety. Florida, Florida State and Miami all have offered him a scholarship.

Of course, according to the archives, Morgan's injury propensity would show up during that 1996 senior season, with collarbone and toe ailments. He did rebound, becoming the 11th overall pick in 2001 (Panthers) and earned a 2004 Pro Bowl bid. But concussions and, ultimately, a leg injury cut his career short. From today's AP story:

"When we signed Dan, he was committed to making a fresh start, and he was making every effort to rehabilitate the leg injury that he suffered last year," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "But it wasn't responding as well as he had hoped. We wish him well in his continued recovery, and he will be remembered for the excellent player he was during his career."

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

Umm, ouch...

While covering the 1A and 2A state track championships last month, I wondered allowed why Florida doesn't have a javelin competition (my high school's home state, Kansas, does).

Maybe this is why:

PROVO, Utah -- Ryan McGeeney served seven years in the Marines, including a six-month deployment in Afghanistan, but 10 minutes of photographing the state high school track championships proved to be more dangerous to him.

Hours after his leg was pierced by a javelin at BYU's Clarence Robison track stadium, McGeeney was fortunate to be able to appreciate the irony.

The Standard-Examiner photographer was struck below the knee by a javelin while shooting the discus event shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, delaying the events while an ambulance pulled onto the track to take him to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

"They don't have javelins in Afghanistan," McGeeney joked after returning a few hours later to continue shooting photos of the track meet. "That's where I'm lucky."

McGeeney was watching a Top of Utah competitor in a girls discus event at the north end of the track infield when he was skewered just below the right knee by a javelin from the south side.

Of course...

Provo High javelin thrower Anthony Miles felt terrible about the accident, though McGeeney reassured him it was not his fault.

"My heart just stopped, and when I heard that he was going to be OK, it was just a nice relief that he was going to be all right," Miles said.

And the rest of the story?

The throw was measured by the event judges and sealed the state 4-A javelin title for Miles, he said.

"My very last throw I think I beat it by three inches (170-feet, 9-inches), but still with that throw, I would have taken state."

Now wouldn't that just add to the excitement?

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

Loss To Northwestern still stings Deerfield

It was nearly seven months ago, but for Deerfield Beach football coach Art Taylor and his team, the heart-breaking loss to Northwestern in the Orange Bowl is something that they think about as they prepare for this Friday's spring game at 5A Palm Bay.

Being less than two minutes from its second 6A state finals appearance in three years, the Bucks saw the dream fall apart as the Bulls went 99 yards and left the team with an empty feeling.

As the attention shifts to 2008, Taylor's talented team returns 15 players from a group that handed St. Thomas Aquinas its only loss during an 11-3 season.

Coming back for another shot is senior quarterback Denard Robinson (5-11, 180), who is as gifted a player as you get at this level. This speedy (4.38) athlete went over 2,000 total yards and has schools from UCF to West Virginia and Purdue watching his progress.

The Class of 2009 also includes safety Adrian Witty (5-11, 185), who also put up some fast (4.4) numbers at combines in the off season. There are also receiver Travis McDonald (6-2, 185), defensive tackle Johnny Seays (6-0, 220), offensive/defensive lineman Raymond Newton (6-1, 215) and cornerback Elliott Atkins (5-9, 165), who is considered one of the emerging cover-corners.

Class of 2010 running back Cassius McDowell surprised everyone last year by running for 966 yards and 13 touchdowns. Another rising junior to keep an eye on is defensive back/quarterback Donte Dotson, a 5-9, 165-pounder.

One of the players to watch for in the Class of 2011 is free safety Khambral Garland (5-10, 175), who is quick and athletic. He had four interceptions a year ago.

LARRY BLUSTEIN
FloridaKids1@hotmail.com

May 18, 2008

Baseball's new regional format

A few things of note, following up on today's story about baseball's new regional format (a best-of-3 series, as opposed to one game):

  • As noted, eight of the nine South Florida baseball coaches said they liked the idea behind new format -- at least a little -- considering it a fairer way to decide who goes to the state final four. The only dissenter: Goleman coach Manny Yanez. "I kind of liked the one-game format," said Yanez, whose team swept its regional. "...Nobody's playing two out of three or three out of five in basketball or football."
  • Miami Christian's Armando Rodriguez wasn't emphatically in favor of the new system -- his team lost two straight to Bruce Charlebois' squad after winning the first -- preferring a best-of-3 format in the state final (Paul McLaughlin of the FHSAA addressed this in the story, though, saying time restrictions will almost certainly prevent that from happening).
  • Nova coach Pat McQuaid was concerned with the quick turnaround for 2A and 5A schools, whose semifinals in Sarasota began Wednesday -- not so much because of what happened (weather allowed all regionals to end Saturday, as scheduled), but what could have happened (what if weather pushed them back to Monday?). "Hopefully they'll come to a consensus so they rotate that around a little bit [among classes]," McQuaid said.
  • Brito's Pedro Guerra, through an interpreter, was the only coach not to openly question the doubleheader (easily the most contentious issue). "As long as you train the players," he said, "there's not going to be a problem."

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

May 17, 2008

South Florida's successful softballers

If you were watching ESPN2 this afternoon, you might have heard the words "from Hollywood, Fla." -- in reference to Charisse Mariconda, a St. Thomas Aquinas graduate and Virginia Tech softball player who was in the Hokies' lineup against Tennessee (announcer Pam Ward also called Mariconda "a nifty little third baseman" in the Hokies' 4-0 win.

Of Course, Mariconda's not the only South Florida softballer in the NCAAs regionals, being played this weekend nationwide:

  • Houston senior Angel Shamblin (Hollywood Christian) threw a perfect game Friday in a 9-0 win against Delaware State.
  • Stanford junior Missy Penna (Miami Southwest) struck out 14 batters Friday in a 4-0 win against Massachusetts.
  • Pace's Kelley Montalvo, an Alabama junior, went 2 for 3 with two runs and an RBI in Friday's 10-1 win over Jacksonville State.
  • UF's Tiffany DeFelice (American Heritage), UCF's Hillary Barrow (Felix Varela), USF's Cat Olnick (American Heritage), Auburn's Krista Clyde (Cypress Bay) and Tatiana Fernandez (Dade Christian), and Stony Brook's Casey Jacobs (Chaminade-Madonna) and Alyssa Struzenberg (Cooper City) all saw action Friday. UF's Stephanie Bronbacher (American Heritage), UCF's Diana Rojas (Lourdes), Auburn's Lauren Schmalz (Everglades), Notre Dame's Shannon Kelly (Hollywood Christian), Alabama's Crissy Owens (Braddock) and Florida State's Robyn Petrovich (South Plantation) also are on regional teams.

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

May 16, 2008

Clauss headed to George Washington

Cooper City pitcher Kara Clauss will play softball at George Washington University next season. Clauss will join the Atlantic-10 school after going 10-4 and leading Cooper City to the Region 3-6A final in 2008 (a 2-1 loss to Palm Beach Gardens).

Clauss also no-hit Flanagan in the regional semifinal. She'll join a Colonials squad that went 12-27 in 2008.

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)

Time to talk tennis, too

In working on a story about two North Carolina-bound Broward tennis players: Cypress Bay's Brennan Boyajian (this year's 4A champion) and Sagemont's Zach Hunter (the 1A overall winner), I came across some recent USTA junior rankings for boys and girls.

Plenty of Broward and Dade players were on these lists. And while that's probably not surprising, tennis is one of those sports that sometimes gets overlooked by many (I, too, am guilty as charged, as Dewey Cox would say).

Top 100 boys (18-and-under; as of May 15):

  • Boyajian, No. 11
  • William Federhofer (Dr. Krop High), No. 35
  • Spencer Wolf (Coral Springs), No. 50
  • Jeffrey Morris (Cypress Bay High), No. 53
  • Hunter, No. 63
  • Luke Mojika (Palmetto Sr. High), No. 67

Top 100 girls (18-and-under; as of May 15):

  • Courtney Clayton (St. Thomas Aquinas High), No. 10
  • Monica Chow (Miami), No. 13
  • Rachel Saiontz (Ransom Everglades School), No. 15
  • Alexandra Anghelescu (Weston), No. 35
  • Julie Sabacinski (American Heritage School), No. 60
  • Cassandra Herzberg (Miami Country Day School), No. 67

--Patrick Dorsey (e-mail)