Who will emerge as the county's best kicker now that Jon Peattie at Countryside and Brandon Mai at Largo have graduated?
By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 25, 2002
Countryside and Largo have many starters to replace, none more important than their kickers.
Last season, Peattie and Mai made names for themselves with their strong legs, connecting on field goals from distances usually unthinkable at the high school level.
They had the two longest field goals in the state. Peattie kicked a 57-yarder to force overtime. A day later, Mai nailed one from 55.
But Peattie is playing at Miami. Mai has not qualified and is waiting until the spring to decide on a school.
So who puts his best foot forward?
The best bet is Clearwater Central Catholic's Joey Ijjas. A soccer standout who was the goalie for the school's state title team last season, Ijjas has size (6 feet 3, 200 pounds) and experience in his third season as a starter.
"(Mai and Peattie) deserved the press they got last year," Ijjas said. "I haven't seen every kicker in the county, but I feel I have a pretty good shot at (becoming the best)."
Two years ago, Ijjas hit a career-long 47-yarder. He hopes to kick some from 50 and beyond this season.
"You get a 50-yarder, you put your name on the map," Ijjas said. "The opportunity to go out and kick one is a good feeling."
Like Peattie and Mai, Ijjas said he scours the newspaper on Saturday mornings to see how other members of the kicking fraternity fared the night before. Names he might find this season include Seminole's Morgan Riley, Dixie Hollins' Vince Iacopelli, Northeast's Kelly Dewitt and Pinellas Park's Cody Gelwick.
As for Countryside and Largo, they have found capable replacements, Chase Hobby and Jonathan Segrette respectively.
"It will be tough to find someone as good as Peattie and Mai were," Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said. "But those two schools always seem to find kickers, so I think we'll both be okay."
-- BOB PUTNAM, JOHN SCWARB