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Friday night rewind

By Times staff writers
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 13, 2002


"You take them any way you can get them, especially when it's your first of the year. When you're 0-5, nothing is pretty." -- KEITH NEWTON, Gulf coach, on the Bucs' 8-3 win over River Ridge, their first of the season and second over the Knights in as many years.


Ridgewood first-year coach Troy Cornwell looked exhausted after a 40-7 loss at Zephyrhills. If only the Rams' third consecutive loss was his only concern. Three players left Ridgewood this week: starting fullback/linebacker Monte Werner, the baseball standout, and reserves Matt Snure and Josh Bevins. More importantly, Cornwell also had to deal with a family medical emergency. His Ridgewood team's effort was nowhere near what it was in a close loss to Wesley Chapel, which was followed up by last week's 42-14 Class 4A, District 6 loss to Land O'Lakes. Starting next week, Cornwell faces the greatest challenge of his first season. The Rams play three consecutive district games against River Ridge, Springstead and Central that will decide whether Ridgewood makes the playoffs for the first time in school history. "What we have to do as coaches is fight it and make sure Wesley Chapel is not our high-water mark," Cornwell said. "If Wesley Chapel is our high-water mark, then we're in trouble and we have to get it together and get everyone on the same page. It's adversity. We can either quit, let dissension in and let everything fall to pieces or we can try to stack it up and keep going."


Eddie Gibbs, a Land O'Lakes junior in his first varsity season, is quickly making a name for himself. Gibbs, a replacement for Chris Perez, who went out with a season-ending injury against Pasco, rushed for 103 yards in only his second start. Gibbs' 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter accounted for the Gators' final score and showed his speed and cutback ability. "He's lightning-quick," Land O'Lakes coach John Benedetto said. "He just doesn't have the experience Chris has. He's a good one. He's got great speed."


Week by week, Wesley Chapel is making progress with its fumbling problems. Two weeks ago, it was five against Ridgewood, then three last week against Zephyrhills. The Wildcats lost two more fumbles Friday against Mitchell, but another fumble turned out to be one of their biggest plays. Senior Tyrone Tomlin, who lost two fumbles last week, ran to his right in the second quarter but lost the ball, which took a perfect bounce back into his hands. He quickly heaved a pass downfield to a wide-open Patrick Cushman for a 40-yard gain. "I don't know how he got that thing off. I can't wait to see the video on that one," coach John Castelamare said. The other two fumbles didn't bounce as nicely. Senior Greg Harrison had the first in the final minute of the first half. He did not carry the ball in the second half, finishing with 25 yards after topping 100 last week. Fullback Chauncey Roberts lost a fumble in the fourth quarter and was promptly chided by Castelamare for carrying the ball in his right arm and not the left, nearer to the sideline. Senior Ed Garton recovered both fumbles for Mitchell.


Pasco running back Devon Hicks emerged as a playmaker, rushing five times for 98 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown, and catching four passes for 46 yards. He even threw two halfback passes, both incompletions, and delivered a crunching block on a kickoff return. "He's the back that I hope can help us make a run in the district," coach Ricky Thomas said. "I need a big clock-killing running back, and I hope he can really come on in these last three big games." South Sumter coach Inman Sherman liked what he saw. "Hicks is a good football player," Sherman said. "I know this is his first game back (from a rib injury), so he's going to get better and better."

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