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Memorable moments and a bloody nose

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 24, 2000


I probably shouldn't, but more often than not I take my two daughters, ages 7 and 10, to Friday night football and baseball games because their friends are usually there and they enjoy running around and, well, playing in the dirt.

But it doesn't interfere with my job. I typically eschew press boxes to sit in the stands for atmosphere's sake anyways, and they have a blast when they are not stuffing their faces with Air Heads candy and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

However, on Oct. 14, I regretted bringing them to watch Ridgewood and Wesley Chapel tangle on a Thursday night at W.F. Edwards Stadium.

With a few minutes left in the first half, I began making my way to the visitor's (Ridgewood's) sideline. Playing with a half dozen other kids to the right (home side) of the goal posts was Jenna, the 7-year-old. As I walked past her with seconds remaining, I told her to hop off an electrical box she had climbed, for fear she might fall. She sheepishly smiled, jumped down, and we both went on our way.

I stopped directly behind the goal posts as Ridgewood's Tim Legros lined up a field goal from the left hash mark, so as not to distract him. Legros chipped his kick from the severe angle and it sailed just inside the goal post. I continued my trek, for a second, until a young boy ran up behind me and asked if that was my daughter -- you know, the one crying and bleeding profusely from her nose.

I ran over to find that Legros' kick had hit her smack in the face. I took off my shirt (I wore two) and stopped the bleeding as a crowd gathered. Eventually, we went up into the stands to watch the second half, and Jenna complained the whole time that she wanted to go back down and play with her friends.

She's tougher than her dad.

Oh, and by the way, Ridgewood won the game, stopped a 35-game losing streak, and Pat Mansfield had the most memorable football performance of the year.

MOST DISAPPOINTING MOMENT: Land O'Lakes falls to Sarasota in baseball regional semifinals. With apologies to Zephyrhills, the Gators were Pasco's best team and had the misfortune of running into a future major-league pitcher and a nationally-respected program like Sarasota's.

BEST PERFORMANCE, FEMALE: Zephyrhills' Liz Torres turned in the best prep volleyball performance I've seen at the regional semifinals and finals (edging Icy Miller's 1997 heroics for Hudson), and Andrea Wardell had 26 kills in the best two matches of her life as the seniors willed their team to state.

BEST PERFORMANCE, MALE: Pat Mansfield, Ridgewood. One touchdown catch, one touchdown pass, one touchdown run, 100 yards rushing, and two diving interceptions help end a 35-game losing streak. Considering how big the game was -- probably Ridgewood's last chance to avoid setting a state record for consecutive losses -- the performance was remarkable.

BEST PLAY: With the score tied in the bottom of the fifth against Sebring and a trip to state on the line, Zephyrhills' Brett Cimorelli launched -- and I mean launched -- a homer to center that landed ... right ... about ... NOW! The blast gave the Bulldogs a 4-3 lead and they went on to win 6-3 and advance. FAVORITE MALE ATHLETE: Cimorelli. There were better quotes (much, much better, I might add) than the silent Bulldog, but no one earned as much respect from other coaches, who rave about his composure and attitude, considering the guy had every right (FSU scholarship, state baseball trip , all-state in football and baseball) to be a cocky punk. He was far from it.

FAVORITE FEMALE ATHLETE: Torres. Without the shy setter's immeasurable talents, the Bulldogs volleyball team does not have its outstanding three-year run and Class 4A final four appearance. She was fun to watch for the little things she did so well.

FAVORITE TEAM: Tie between Zephyrhills and Hudson volleyball teams. They engaged in some of the most memorable matches, and should have met in the regional final had the Cobras not, ummm, gotten something lodged in their throats in the semifinals. But both teams had funny, lively and quotable players ... and that's pretty much all we ask.

BEST TEAM: Ridgewood cross country. Is there a better coach around than Glenn Cable who (gasp!) gets kids out for cross country and then turns them into winners? This season's Rams finished second to Flagler Palm Coast at districts and regionals, but when it counted most, sucked it up and beat that same team for a state championship. Psychologically, a stunning feat.

FAVORITE COACH: Impossible to distinguish between the county's seven baseball coaches, who are truly as a group the easiest and most reliable skippers to work with. There's not one coach you'd change if it was up to you, something that can't be said of any other sport.

BEST COACHING JOB: Dave Puhalski. His team was at least a year away, if even that, and yet he somehow cajoled the best season in school history out of it. We're still not sure what he did, but it worked.

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Land O'Lakes basketball. See above.

BEST QUOTE: Larry Beets, Ridgewood baseball. We can't understand half of what he says, but we bet a dollar and a donut (his line, not mine) there are few more colorful.

WORST QUOTE: Bruce Cimorelli, Zephyrhills baseball. Nice guy, but as Beets once said, "if you were talking to him and his feet were burning, you'd never know it."

MOST UNSUNG HERO, MALE: Carl DiMartino, Ridgewood. When the all-state teams came out and the Major League Baseball draft passed by and all the college scholarships were signed, DiMartino was out of the picture. But what a dandy season the Rams' shortstop painted: .457 average with 8 homers, a county-leading 12 doubles and 32 RBI.

MOST UNSUNG HERO, FEMALE: Melissa Strawser, Hudson. Look at what happened to the Cobras' basketball and softball teams this year when the senior got hurt? Strawser was clearly the county MVP when it came to girls sports.

LOOKING FORWARD TO: The playoffs for River Ridge football ... Hudson setter Jill Perez's replacement ... Ebony Adams vs. Nicole Warder in girls hoops ... A return to prominence for the county's softball teams after a bad 1999 ... The Baisley twins' senior season ... Hudson's Amanda Paulo goes for more state titles ... the debut of Mitchell High School ... a new coach for the Pasco softball team to fix what Jim Ward broke.

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