Welcome to “The Prep Zone Insider”

By Mike Ridaught

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had an enjoyable holiday break. We were actually very busy during the holidays broadcasting basketball tournaments and doing construction on the website. In fact, we’re very excited about the changes here at “The Prep Zone” because we have merged with our video partners, Splash Box Sports, to form a new website where all of our content (videos, scores, stories, etc.) can be found at one location. We’re still in the initial stages so please be patient as we continue to modify the website.

We’re also pleased to announce a new weekly prep update called “The Prep Zone” Insider. Each week, I will recap some of the top stories for the week across the 26 counties we cover – which includes Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Citrus, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Flagler, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Madison, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St. Johns, Sumter, Suwannee, Taylor, Union & Volusia counties).

Our weekly Trophy Shop Athlete-of-the-Week Presented by Mark McGriff’s State Farm Insurance of Gainesville returns this week, as well as our weekly high school show, “The Prep Zone,” which now airs every Thursday from 6-7 p.m. at Sonic on 39th Avenue in Gainesville. Plus, our first boys’ basketball broadcast of 2012 is this Friday, January 13, as Gainesville travels to Buchholz.

But before we move forward into 2012, let’s take a look back at the last couple of weeks in case you missed it during the holidays.

Football:

Senior running back “Duke” Johnson (Miami Norland) was selected as the Florida Dairy Farmer’s 2011 “Mr. Football.” Johnson, the 5A Player-of-the-Year, led the Vikings (15-0) to a state title and finished his career with over 5,000 yards rushing (5,069) and 52 TDs, becoming just the third Dade County player ever to eclipse 5,000 yards. Johnson set a Dade County playoff record with 375 yards rushing against Palmetto, had 260 yards rushing and four TDs in the win at #1 Glades Central, and in his final prep game earned MVP honors with 266 all-purpose yards against Crawfordville in winning the 5A title. Kelvin Taylor, the son of former Gator/Jacksonville Jaguar Fred Taylor, set career state marks for yardage (8,975) and touchdowns (141) and finished runner-up. Here are the classification winners:

8A – QB Nick Patti (Sr.), Dr. Phillips (Orlando)
7A – QB Cord Sandberg (Jr.), Manatee (Bradenton)
6A – QB Nathan Peterman (Sr.), Bartram Trail (St. John’s)
5A – RB “Duke” Johnson (Sr.), Miami Norland
4A – RB Derrick Henry (Jr.), Yulee
3A – RB Nelson Agholor (Sr.), Tampa Berkeley Prep
2A – RB Kelvin Taylor (Jr.), Glades Day (Belle Glade)
1A – RB Theryl Brown (Sr.), Wewahitchka

Past Dairy Farmers Mr. Football winners

1992 – Jammi German, Ft. Myers
1993 – Shevin Wiggins, Bradenton Manatee
1994 – Daunte Culpepper, Ocala Vanguard
1995 – Frankie Franklin, Jacksonville Sandalwood
1996 – Travis Henry, Frostproof
1997 – Zain Gilmore, Tampa Robinson
1998 – Anquan Boldin, Pahokee
1999 – Willie Green, Kissimmee Osceola
2000 – Adrian McPherson, Bradenton Southeast
2001 – Leon Washington, Jacksonville Jackson
2002 – Andre Reese, Pierson Taylor
2003 – Xavier Lee, Daytona Seabreeze
2004 – Antone Smith, Pahokee
2005 – Tim Tebow, Ponte Vedra Nease
2006 – Robert Marve, Tampa Plant
2007 – Jacory Harris, Miami Northwestern
2008 – A.J. Graham, Tallahassee Godby
2009 – Matt Elam, William T. Dwyer
2010 – Quentin Williams, Tampa Jefferson

Boys Basketball:

A total of 39 games were broadcast ‘live’ on the Prep Zone Sports Network over the holidays. Marty Pallman and I broadcast 12 games from the Kiwanis Christmas Tournament at Bradford (Starke) from Dec. 20-22. Gainesville High won the title with a 56-40 win over St. Mary’s (Maryland). Among the highlights of the tournament was Bradford (Starke) junior Justin McBride scoring 29 points and grabbing 24 rebounds in the semifinals, a 56-52 loss to St. Mary’s, while Tim Norman (15 points) led three GHS players in double figures in the title game as the Hurricanes entered the Christmas holiday unbeaten (10-0). McBride and Isaiah Jackson (GHS) were named to the All-Tournament team, while Ed Porter (GHS) was named the MVP…

Former Vanguard (Ocala) coach Jim Haley may have put together the best field ever assembled at the 38th annual Kingdom of the Sun (Dec. 26-30). Three of the top five teams in the state regardless of classification and four of the top 10 were there (#1 Montverde Academy, #2 Pompano Beach Ely, along with Lake Highland Prep & Olympia from Orlando). We broadcast all 26 games this year. The tournament had it all – from two buzzer beaters to one of the most awesome slam dunks I’ve seen in a high school game (Kasey Hill, Montverde Academy). Plus, there was Chris Walker of Holmes County, the #2 junior in the country, scoring 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking nine shots against Nease (Ponte Vedra) and Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer’s Joell James (North Carolina signee) grabbing a Kingdom record 23 rebounds against Williston, along with countless plays made by future Division-I players. This year’s tournament was awesome with a capital ‘A’…

The Terry Parker (Jacksonville) Braves remained unbeaten after passing their first true test of the season against Rutherford (Panama City) during the MLK Classic at Raines (Jacksonville). The Braves (12-0), the top-ranked team in the all-classification Prep Zone Power Poll, got 28 points from Solomon Poole in a 77-68 win. Poole is the younger brother of Stacey who played at Kentucky last year and the son of Stacey Poole, Sr., who is fourth all-time in scoring at the University of Florida.

“Solomon is the best player on our team,” Parker coach Elijah Wells told the Florida Times-Union. “We are a good team without him. With him, we’re an outstanding team. He handles the ball, shoots it, distributes it, rebounds; anything you need him to do, he does. He’s been that way for us all season.”

Girls Basketball:

After broadcasting 39 boys’ games in December, we felt like we should show the girls some love so we broadcast the Rob Moramarco Girls’ Basketball Challenge this past weekend at Buchholz (Gainesville), Jan. 6-7. Girls’ basketball has really come a long way and Moramarco showcased some really good teams and players this year. On display was the top teams in Class 8A (nationally-ranked Orlando Dr. Phillips), 7A (Buchholz) and 6A (Archbishop McCarthy, which improved to 17-0). One of the best performances I’ve seen at this level was by sophomore Taryn Griffey – daughter of Ken Griffey, Jr. – who knocked down eight 3-pointers, grabbed 10 rebounds and added five assists and five steals as Dr. Phillips defeated Buchholz, 76-59. Most of the talent in this year’s field, including Griffey, Fort Walton Beach Choctaw’s Brittany Brown (55 points in 2 games) and Pensacola Pine Forest’s Jayla King (62 points), among others, return next season. Buchholz had the most seniors on its roster than any other team, but with only five seniors for the Bobcats it really showed the youth of this year’s tournament. A total of nine of the 12 teams that participated entered with at least 10 wins. Gainesville lost 63-59 to Choctaw, an opponent GHS could meet again in the state playoffs. The ‘Canes (16-2) scored the second-most points in a game during the tournament (79 vs. Tampa Freedom), while the Bobcats (17-2) scored 82 in a win against a solid 6A Pine Forest team. That should say something about how far girls’ high school basketball has come.

So, now we begin a new year. The holiday break always makes the winter sports seem so short. It’s hard to believe that next week (Jan. 16) begins district play in girls’ soccer, followed by boys’ soccer (Jan. 23), girls’ basketball & wrestling (Jan. 30) and boys’ basketball (Feb. 6). In fact, the Preseason baseball classic tournaments begin the second week of February too. Plus, there’s National Signing Day on Wednesday, February 1. In other words, it’s time for us to get back to work so we bring you all the exciting action here at “The Prep Zone.” God bless & enjoy the ride!