Top 20 Sports Performances of fall 2020: 11-20

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 6/9/21

‘Mac’ gets 100th win

ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High rode the legs of running back JoJo Restall for a fourth straight win as Raider head coach Tom Macpherson snagged his 100th career …

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Top 20 Sports Performances of fall 2020: 11-20


‘Mac’ gets 100th win

ORANGE PARK - Orange Park High rode the legs of running back JoJo Restall for a fourth straight win as Raider head coach Tom Macpherson snagged his 100th career win with a 28-14 win over Eastside High Friday night at Hoyt B. Cotney Stadium.
For Macpherson’s career, which included a 15 year tenure as head coach at Ridgeview High School, a two year stint at Baker County and a return to Clay County to take the Orange Park slot three years ago. “The 100 wins is a nice number, but I like the 21 years as a coach better,” said Macpherson, who started in 1991 with his first head coach gig at Ridgeview. “I think it took three games to get my first win and we finished 3-7. But, we went 7-3 the next two years and went to the playoffs both years.”
Macpherson, known for his explosive demeanor on the sideline and his football acumen in the film room, took Orange Park into the region playoffs in 2020 and had eight playoff seasons at Ridgeview with a 9-1 season in 2012.

Carroll fast start holds region title

GULF BREEZE - Middleburg High sophomore Chase Carroll birdied his first four holes at the Region 1-2A championship tournament held Mon., Oct. 19 at Tiger Point Golf Club in Gulf Breeze then settled in to win the individual title with a 3-Under par 69 score.
In Gulf Breeze on Monday, Carroll, who scored a 75 to finish 10th in last year’s region tournament and advanced to the state tournament, was in the lead by as much as five strokes after birdies on the first four holes and fifth at hole eight with four pars to scored an incredible 30 for the first nine holes.
In the second half of the course, Carroll used his lead to hold off challengers despite three bogies and a six par 39 final nine holes.
Ponte Vedra won the team title over Pace High and Mosley. Middleburg finished 10th.

World class cycling opens county to USA

GREEN COVE SPRINGS - There was a little bit of truck traffic during one event due to the Monster Truck Jam that was staged at the Clay County Fairgrounds, but cyclists from around the United States were more than willing to share the roads as the Great American Road Race cycling festival held Oct. 10-11 showcased more than just a great cycling event.
“We had our recreational vehicle parked at the fairgrounds for three days and, on that Saturday night, the truck jam was there and it was loud,” said womens champion Carlee Hemmerlein, a University of Central Florida cycling team athlete who dominated the Womens Category 1-3 races with wins in all three disciplines; time trial (At Camp Blanding), road race (staged at Penney Farms, and criterium (at Thrasher Horne Civic Center). “We were able to sit atop our RV and watch a little of it and that made the weekend pretty cool. It’s been a beautiful weekend.”
Kimberly Morgan, director of tourism in Clay County noted that 10 states were represented in the racing including as far as California and Minnesota.

Simmons to Bates: Fingertip miss ends Bartram loss

BARTRAM TRAIL - Oakleaf High quarterback Walter Simmons put on an offensive showcase of his skills with a 70 yard scoring pass to Cobie Bates in the first quarter and an 80 yard breakaway scoring run of his own in the second quarter, but his final pass of the night, a bomb attempt to a wide open Bates skirted off Bates’ fingernails as the Bartram Trail High Bears, with a dramatic 54 yard field goal, beat Oakleaf 30-27 Friday night at Bartram Trail High School.
“We talked to the kids all week that this was the de facto district championships,” said Oakleaf coach Frank Garis, referring to the recently released playoff schedules for 2020 with teams paired through a blind random drawing despite records. “We have too much in our program to say, ‘don’t worry, we’ll see you again’, we put it all out on the table tonight.”
In yet another classic matchup of the two northeast Florida powerhouses, Bartram Trail fought back to a 27-27 then a 30-27 lead with a 54 yard field goal to set up one of the more excruciatingly close “almosts” for the 2020 season.
Starting at their own 20 after Kemp’s end zone kickoff after his 54 yard field goal at 1:23 to go, Simmons missed twice before lofting a fourth down rainbow in Bates’ direction behind the Bears secondary that caromed off Bates’ fingertips and fell to the ground to end the game.

Fleming Island swim chases Chiles for titles

Panama City - Fleming Island High swim coach Jordan Bright has said that his relay teams last year were good; state champions 200 medley relay good, but that 2020 was going for a shot to get gold in all three relay events; 200 medley, 200 free and 400 free.
At the District 2-3A championships, Fleming Island went two out of three with gold in the 200 medley and 200 free relays, but second to district champion Tallahassee Chiles in the 400 free relay by just a tad over one second.
For the district title, Chiles edged Fleming Island 460-453.5 in one of the closest finishes in recent history.
The gold medal relay foursome of Emma and Sarah Grimm, Abree Clark and Christine Johnson, took control of their repeat of the gold medal with a dominating win in their 200 medley relay event in all three meets; districts, regions and state as Fleming Island finish second to Chiles in all three meets as well.

Davis fuels Fleming Island
fifth at golf state
HOWEY IN THE HILLS - Fleming Island High’s boys golf team got a career performance from Andrew Davis en route to a fifth place team finish at the Class 3A championship tournament held Friday and Saturday in Howey in the Hills.
Fleming Island added to their list of accomplishments for 2020 with the fifth place finish after a district title and a region runnerup finish to Spruce Creek.
Davis was steady as a rock with rounds of one over par 73 and three over par 75 for the two day event.

Fleming Island runs roughshod to region XC title
LAKE CITY - With top runners able to get ahead of the Fleming Island High girls running machine and take the first through five spots at the finish line, it was the group effort of coach Suzanne Baker’s team that had them primed for a stealthy assault both the region 1-4A championship race Saturday in Lake City and, also, on Saturday’s Class 4A championship race in Tallahassee.
“It is not quite official yet,” said Baker, as she awaited her fifth runner to be scored as the region 1-4A championship race unfolded at the finish line. “I know our first through fourth were separated by about 15 seconds. We’ve never done the district, region title thing then go to state.”
With freshman Allie Knotts trying to find the finish line as number five, Fleming Island’s front four machine of Emma Millson, Marisa Kortright, Mei Chiang and Grace Adams paved the way for at least a possible region title if not one of the top three teams to advance to the state meet.
Mandarin’s fifth runner finished at 20:59.30 to tighten up Baker’s calculations with Niceville seeing three more finish, but Flagler only getting two more runners in before Knotts sprinted home in 44th place at 21:44.70 in front of two Niceville runners, a Chiles runner and a Flagler runner to seal the Fleming Island top spot.
In the final count, Fleming Island scored 81 to Mandarin’s 90 and Creekside’s 114 to take the title.

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.
Rodriguez, twice the Class 1A runnerup and a third place finisher as a freshman, won his state title to finish unbeaten in his final season; 57-0 with a national best 207 pins in his career. “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. “Wrestling has definitely helped build me to the person I am today.”

Calise TD bomb fuels comeback

ORANGE PARK - A first half that put half the Panther Stadium faithful on the edge of leaving the game to attend Friday night festivities elsewhere turned into about an 11 minute highlight film of defensive efforts turned to points as the Ridgeview High Panthers turned around a 17-3 snoozer of a first half into a thrill-packed fourth quarter en route to winning a first playoff game under coach Matt Knauss, a 38-20 win over Tavares in round one of region playoffs Friday night.
“We’ve been here before; dealing with adversity,” said Ridgeview High wide receiver Spencer Calise. “I don’t know who sparked who, but we got it done.”
After seeding Tavares a 17-3 lead off first half offensive woes and a tough front pushing Tavares offense, Ridgeview struck back with a 50 yard bomb to wide receiver Spencer Calise that seemed to jolt the Panther sideline.
Calise, who has become a top target for quarterback Max Monroe in the past three weeks, had to “climb the ladder” in the end zone to snatch the lob from Monroe for the score.
“Spencer’s catch was a must-have with a guy draped on him on fourth down; it doesn’t get any bigger than that,” said Knauss, who has left Ridgeview to coach in Georgia with Bryan Arnette, an assistant at Oakleaf High School, replacing him.

Dressel International Swim MVP
Clay High former swim state champion Caeleb Dressel, now a professional swimmer for the International Swim League’s Cali Condors, was named the undisputed Most Valuable Player for the 2020 ISL season. Dressel, in an article by Barry Revzin at, earned 463.5 pionts in six competitions to earn an impressive $291,788 with $165,000 coming from being named MVP. At a recent ISL meet in Hungary, Dressel set two new world records with a 20.16 split that beat his previous record of 20.24. In the same meet, Dressel swam the 100 meter butterfly in 47.78 seconds to be the first swimmer ever under 48 seconds.
Dressel was denied the 2020 Tokyo Summer Games; postponed to 2021, after winning seven gold medals at the 2017 World Championships. Dressel will compete at the U.S. Olympic Swim Trials on June 13-20.


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