Green Devil proves it's never too late to return to the game

Published November 15, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG - St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias first saw Janee Boykins play in eighth grade.

Unfortunately, Farias had to wait four years to again see Boykins on the pitch.

"Unbelievably talented," Farias said. "If I had her for four years, she would have every major college beating down her door right now."

Boykins never ended up on Farias' team because she was busy playing basketball for the Green Devils. But this season, the senior goalkeeper decided on a return to soccer.

"She has all the athletic gifts: fast, strong, physical, great hands," Farias said. "And she's fearless. I mean, she stopped a ball against Gaither with her head."

St. Petersburg, a state semifinalist last season, is off to a 3-1 start thanks to Boykins and the Green Devils' strong defense. Another key to maintaining the Green Devils' defensive shape was replacing last year's Times' first-team all-county selection Meggie Ford, who starred for Columbia this season. Farias has plugged Sara Crawford in Ford's place.

"Meggie was a huge loss," Farias said. "But Sara has done a great job and I'm starting to see the defense come together the way I like it."

OUCH!: Dunedin coach Mike Gann has been dealing with a number of early-season injuries. Emily Overby, Dunedin's second leading scorer last season, strained her MCL and was out 10 days. Amanda Campbell tore her ACL during the offseason and has yet to be cleared to play.

But the biggest loss has been freshman Kasey Blades, a Region 3 Olympic Development Program selection. Gann said he hopes to have Blades back from a left quadriceps tear by the end of the month when Dunedin plays East Lake and Pinellas Park in the same week.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: St. Petersburg's Andrea Rodrigues notched a hat trick last Tuesday in the Green Devils' 7-2 win over district rival Gaither. The trio of strikes brought Rodrigues' early-season total to nine, more than halfway to her 17 goals from last year.

Brandon Wright can be reached at bwright@sptimes.com