Clay Today Best of 2017

Randy Lefko
Posted 12/28/17

Zapp tops state returnerFLEMING ISLAND - After a tennis-worthy blowout of 5-0 over Seminole High in the region first round playoffs last week, the Fleming Island High boys tennis team faced off on …

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Clay Today Best of 2017


Zapp tops state returner

FLEMING ISLAND - After a tennis-worthy blowout of 5-0 over Seminole High in the region first round playoffs last week, the Fleming Island High boys tennis team faced off on April 20 and beat handily Lake Mary High in the second round to emerge as the region champion. Lake Mary has won the region title the past two years with state titles in 1992 and 1999.

The two wins propels the Fleming Island boys team to a first-ever team berth in the Class 4A championships to start play on Tues., April 25 at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.

Freshman Logan Zapp, who had been tabbed as the number one singles for most of the season with senior David Burns at number two and senior Mark Suhrer at number three, was facing off against Lake Mary junior David Gorshein, the district 2-4A champion and a much bigger physically player than the slight build of the younger Zapp.

In the singles number one match, Zapp had to finish off an overtime set against Gorshein to keep the match intact before winning the match. Zapp went toe-to-toe with Gorshein to a 6-6 first set with Zapp breaking Gorshein’s service for the fifth point. In the tiebreaker, Zapp surged to a 7-2 win then followed with a 6-3 gamewinner. In the final game, Zapp took a 3-0 early lead with two service breaks on Gorshein, but Gorshein rebounded to tie at 3-3 with his own service break on Zapp. Zapp would recover and break Gorshein one more time for the 6-3 final.

“This is a special team,” said Fleming Island coach Chip Chadwell. “I think the girls did this a couple of years ago, but this is the first for the boys to go to state as a team.”

Lady Spartans get sixth title

DELAND – In a championship game reminiscent of the United States women’s team World Cup championship over Japan on a brutally sunny day in Canada, the 40 miles per hour winds in Deland’s Spec Martin Stadium became the focal point of St. Johns Country Day School girls soccer coach Mike Pickett’s strategy for Wednesday’s Class 1A title defense against Lakeland Christian.

With the gusts at his team’s backs, Pickett employed a heavy full frontal attack mode on the field that ended two quick first half goals and a final 2-0 championship win. The USA womens team, with the sun glaring into the eyes of the Japan team’s goalie, scored four quick goals, three by all star Carli Lloyd, en route to a 5-2 World Cup championship in Vancouver in 2015.

“Obviously the wind played into the strategy and when we got the two quick goals for the half, we didn’t need to get more in the second half, so we protected out goal,” said Pickett, with the sixth consecutive Class 1A trophy returning to Orange Park with an unbeaten 28-0-0 season record. “The field is much smaller and the wind being what is was limited what we could do. It was ugly, but we did what we had to do.”

Briley triple jumps to gold medal

BRADENTON – Oakleaf High triple jumper Melvin Briley blasted  a winning effort on his first shot at the Class 4A gold medal to lead the Knights’ boys track team to a best-ever ninth place finish at the FHSAA track and field championships held May 6-7 in Bradenton.

“He’s an ideal athlete that fits perfect in the exactness of the triple jump,” said Oakleaf High jump coach John Carter. “He is calm, dedicated and doesn’t let his surroundings bother him.”

Middleburg High sprinter and jumper Marcus Floyd also took a medal in the Class 2A triple with a second place silver while St. Johns Country Day School freshman hurdles Courtney Sage won bronze in the Class 1A 300 hurdles. Oakleaf High senior Anthony Norris took third in the Class 4A long jump to add his name to top three finishers from Clay County.

In the windy, rainy conditions of the two-day championship event, Briley, who bested his region-winning 48 foot, 11 inch leap with a 49’-7” state title jump, was Clay County’s lone gold medalist in a weekend of near-misses.

Briley, a junior, blasted his first jump then struggled to get back on track after a near-disaster second jump of 40’-6”.

“He was trying too hard and we had to adjust for the wind and rain,” said Carter. “We try not to change too much from practice to the meet and this was the state meet. We just adjusted his run to the pit for the wind.”

Briley adjusted and hit a 47’-2” jump on his third jump and a 47’-1” on his final jump. Kani Falconer, a senior at Miami Killian, finished behind Briley at 48 feet with third and fourth both in the low 47-foot range.

Lady Broncos inch to region semifinal

MIDDLEBURG – Middleburg High opened up in a flash with freshman guard Brittany Range sinking two quick three-pointers to set up a 13-6 first quarter lead in the Broncos’ region 1-7A quarterfinal matchup with Vanguard High of Ocala, but it was all Middleburg could do to hold off a second half surge by the Knights to win 60-58 Tuesday night at Middleburg High School. The win was the first playoff win in Middleburg High history with three first round losses from 1994, 1995 and 2000.

“We survived. My girls test my nerves,” said Middleburg coach Michael Hayward. “Lots of careless turnovers at the end, but they recovered. I love that they have been at this same point in numerous games and were still able to bounce back and win the game. That’s the true grit of a champion.”

Middleburg returns home on Thurs., Feb. 18 to host the region semifinal in the fifth meeting with Nease High School, who defeated Gainesville High 54-23 in their region quarterfinal. Middleburg beat Nease for the district 3-7A title, but lost twice in regular season play to the Lady Panthers.

Fleming Island takes second at national duals championships

KISSIMMEE – With a monster pin by Ryan Smenda, a two point takedown from heavyweight Jose Concepcion with less than a second left and three wrestlers with unbeaten records, North Florida Wrestling Academy head coach P.J. Cobbert double-downed on his recent second in Class 3A finish with a second in the nation finish at the annual AAU Scholastic Duals high school wrestling national championships held last week at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports arena.

“I love everyone of these kids and some may not love me back because of how hard we have worked to just get here, but this is what it is all about,” said Cobbert after his NFWA squad finished second in the Community 1 (Big Schools) championship match 30-43 to Rhino Wrestling Club of Pennsylvania Friday afternoon. “Not one kid wrestled a bad match all week, even our B team that wrestled in the Community 2 (Small schools) championship silver final.”

After a near-disastrous first round win, the Academy wrestling team stormed through their preliminary matchups and a series of championship throwdowns before narrowly missing with late-scoring efforts to finish second overall among 41 teams. The Academy’s championship entry in the Community I division is a first for a Florida school. Also wrestling in Community I, Oakleaf’s Spartans finished fifth in Pool play and lost two matches in their championship silver bracket while, in Community II, the North Florida Wrestling Academy B team finished second in the championship silver bracket (16th place through 31st).

“We got this close (holding his thumb just near his forefinger). We just have to keep working,” said Cobbert. “But, today, right now, this is what it is all about.”

Davis snares Fleming Island’s first wrestling state title

KISSIMMEE – Fleming Island High senior Jason Davis roared through the 182 pound weight division for the entire season with one thing in mind for his final campaign: win a state title.

“I talked about it, wrote about, tweeted about and, in the last 20 seconds, I realized, I did it,” said Davis, who won the 182 pound Class 3A title Saturday night at the FHSAA state championships at Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Arena. “I’m not a big celebration guy, but I shook coach P.J. Cobbert’s hand after that mat, told him I loved him and thanked him for getting me to that next level. All the training has been well worth it.”

Pontore gets second title for Fleming Island

DELAND – After a 0-0 tie at the halftime break, Fleming Island High boys soccer coach Frank Pontore asked his team to “Man up” and play Fleming Island style soccer; running through loose balls, banging bodies with opponents and taking control of tense situations.

“Wow, unbelievable. I literally questioned their manhood and told them to play our style of ball,” said Pontore. “They kind of were sleeping in the first half. They woke up. This is a great second half team.”

Senior forward Mark Suhrer must have been listening as he tapped in two goals; one a high-flying header, junior forward Reed Davis smashed one and senior Alex Cruz won a one-on-one breakaway as the Golden Eagles put away the Doral Academy Firebirds 4-0 to win the Class 4A soccer title Saturday afternoon in Deland.

“That first one I said, ‘no way that is going in’,” said Suhrer, a senior. “When Marcus played his ball over, I just hit it as hard as I could with my head.”

Fleming Island (28-1-2) finishes the season with just one regular season loss, two overtime region wins and a thrilling overtime state semifinal win to complete the task and give Pontore his second title with Fleming Island. Pontore also produced a title at Orange Park High School.


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