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Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer

Bob Putnam

Bob Putnam has covered high school sports for the Tampa Bay Times as a staff writer since 1996. He is a fourth-generation Floridian who graduated from Dixie Hollins High School and wrote for the student newspapers at St. Petersburg College and USF. He has covered the high school careers of football stars Riley Cooper (CCC/Florida/Philadelphia Eagles), Dante Fowler (Lakewood/Florida/Jacksonville Jaguars), Leonard Johnson (Largo/Iowa State/Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Dexter McCluster (Largo, Mississippi/Tennessee Titans), among others.

Phone: (727) 580-4395


  1. 247Sports: Berkeley Prep's Nicholas Petit-Frere top OT in nation


    Berkeley Prep offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere already is widely considered the best player in Tampa Bay.

    Now, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound senior is ranked as the best in the nation, at least at his position.

    On Monday, 247Sports elevated Petit-Frere to five-star status and ranked him as the nation's best offensive tackle and 10th overall in the 2018 class. The praise comes after Petit-Frere had a dominant performance against Calvary Christian in the spring game....

    Berkeley Prep rising senior defensive end Nicholas Petit-Frere (78) performs a pad drill during spring football practice at Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, May 12, 2017.
  2. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay


    1. Armwood (10-2, Class 6A region semifinalist)

    Up next: at Tampa Bay Tech

    Skinny: Last year's loss to Lake Gibson in the Class 6A region semifinals was the Hawks' earliest exit from the playoffs in more than a decade and ended a three-year run of state title game appearances from 2013-15. If Armwood does return to the title game, it will do so under new leadership. Offensive coordinator Evan Davis took over the program in May from longtime coach Sean Callahan. Davis inherits a loaded roster that could have as many as 11 players in the 2018 class sign with a Division I-A school. Ohio State commit Brian Snead, who rushed for 176 yards in a preseason win over Bradenton Manatee, leads a strong ground game. There are other weapons, too. Devin Black is a dual-threat quarterback who can distribute the ball to a number of elite receivers, including Warren Thompson (Oregon) and four-star prospect Jerome Ford. On defense, Malcolm Lamar, another Oregon recruit, anchors a talented line. The linebacking unit could be the strength with James Miller (LSU, USF and Oregon offers among others), Caleb Sutherland (Toledo commit) and Ricardo Watson (USF and Oregon offers) leading the way. Against Manatee, the Hawks recorded a shutout and had three interceptions, two by Jhonny Quest. ...

    Armwood High School quarterback Devin Black (7) hands the ball off to running back Larry Anderson (13) during the Spring Football Jamboree in Seffner, Fla. on Thursday, May 18, 2017.
  3. Jefferson's Jermaine Eskridge out with a broken arm


    Jefferson receiver Jermaine Eskridge is out for the season after breaking his arm in last week’s 28-17 preseason win over Newsome.

    The injury happened in the third quarter. At the time, Eskridge had two catches for 73 yards.

    It is the arm Eskridge broke in the playoffs last year.

    This is the second time the senior has missed an entire high school season. He had to sit out his sophomore year after transferring from Alonso to Jefferson....

    Jermaine Eskridge (1), of Jefferson, leaves the game after breaking his arm in the third quarter of a preseason game against Newsome.
  4. Preseason football: East Lake 16, Hillsborough 0


    EAST LAKE — This was the first chance for Hillsborough to tinker with its new weapons on offense. Jefferson transfer Tyrese Spain made a few catches. Wiregrass transfer Da Da McGee had some nifty moves on a handful of carries.

    But for most of Friday night, the Terriers were stuck in neutral.

    East Lake's defense had a lot to do with that.

    Twice, the Eagles stopped Hillsborough on downs. East Lake's defense also forced four turnovers, scoring off one. That was more than enough to pull through in a 16-0 preseason win....

  5. Preseason football: Wesley Chapel 33, Land O'Lakes 16


    WESLEY CHAPEL – When Jelani Vassell took the opening kickoff back for a touchdown, it appeared the rout was on for Wesley Chapel. 

    It was one of the few highlights for the Wildcats in the first half.

    The extra point following the kickoff return was blocked. On defense, Wesley Chapel had a lapse in pass coverage on a big touchdown. A snap sailed out of the end zone, resulting in a safety. And the offense was stopped twice on downs. ...

  6. Bombers' college camp kick starts recruiting process for softball players


    CLEARWATER — After playing a series of makeshift games, softball players from all age levels gathered around the pavilion area at Eddie C. Moore complex. They listened attentively as 10 college coaches answered their questions about the recruiting process.

    The Q&A session wrapped up a two-day camp in Clearwater put together by the Bombers travel ball organization. There were no exclusions. Players from other organizations could participate as long they paid the $160 registration fee. Members of the Bombers and teams of eight or more players were given a discounted rate....

    The Clearwater Bombers travel ball organization held a two-day camp over the weekend that concluded with college coaches answering questions about the recruiting process. (Bob Putnam, Times Staff Writer)
  7. Plant's Ty Thompson out with torn ACL


    Plant running back Ty Thompson is out for the season after tearing his ACL during a scrimmage this past weekend.

    “Ty’s foot was planted in the turf and his leg gave way awkwardly on the tackle,” Panthers coach Robert Weiner said. “It was nothing intentional. It’s just unfortunately one of those things that is part of the game.”

    This is the second time in the past three years the Panthers have lost one of their premier skill players to a knee injury before the start of the season. In 2015, quarterback Rex Culpepper tore his ACL during USF’s Sling-n-Shoot tournament....

    Ty Thompson is out for the season with a torn ACL
  8. Softball coaches, parents say travel ball profile is 'spot on'


    Travel softball is a booming business. Organizations are expanding. So are tournaments, such as showcase events.

    Parents know just how expensive it can be with some spending as much as $10-14,000 on the sport annually. The ultimate quest is a scholarship, a hard thing to obtain considering most college programs only offer partial ones....

    Firecrackers travel team members Gracie Lopez, second from right, of Orlando, comes into the dugout as Jordan Wharton (8), of Inverness,  goes out to bat during Atlanta Legacy Showcase softball tournament on Friday, July 14, in Acworth, Ga. (John Amis/AP for the Tampa Bay Times)
  9. Clash 4 Clayton raises thousands for Mahler family


    SPRING HILL — Saturday’s officials scrimmage at Springstead High featuring 12 teams from Pasco and Hernando counties also doubled as a fund raiser. Springstead athletic director Dustin Kupcik renamed the scrimmage the “Clash 4 Clayton,’’ with proceeds going to aid former Hudson coach Rob Mahler’s 1-year-old son in his battle against Stage III pediatric cancer....

  10. Softball scholarships a pricey pursuit for elite travel teams


    ATLANTA — Alex Hare can make acrobatic moves to corral grounders from every direction. She can slap a softball into the gap or smack one over the fence. She displays speed, power and range, all the tools necessary to make it as a shortstop at the college level.

    The Mitchell High junior hones her skills through countless hours of lessons on every aspect of the game, from pitching to hitting to fielding to agility. She shows them off at showcases, tournaments and camps. ...

    Alex Hare talks to her teammates in the dugout during a rain delay during the ASA Gold Nationals in Clearwater on July 19, 2017. Alex Hare is a student at J.W. Mitchell High School and has committed to Alabama State University for her college athletic career. She plays on a traveling softball team, along with taking personal softball lessons as well.
  11. Treshaun Ward transfers to Tampa Bay Tech


    With preseason games less than two weeks away, Treshaun Ward was in his own personal limbo.

    The former Plant City running back was scrambling to find a place to play. He wanted to attend Armwood since the spring, but his mother said the Hillsborough County school district denied a hardship waiver to go there.

    On Tuesday, Ward found a home. He announced via Twitter that he is transferring to Tampa Bay Tech....

    Plant City's Treshaun Ward transfers to Tampa Bay Tech
  12. Wiregrass Ranch RB Da Da McGee transfers to Hillsborough


    Da Da McGee, a 1,000-yard rusher for Wiregrass Ranch last season, has transferred to Hillsborough.

    "It's always hard to leave a school where you had friends and good teammates that were there for you," McGee said. "It was basically the skills that was over there. I'm not saying Wiregrass didn't have any skills, but it was a choice that I made to make me a better player than before."

    McGee's departure continues the exodus of Bulls this summer. Wiregrass Ranch had already lost athlete Raymond Woodie III, who moved to Oregon, and defensive back Shamaur McDowell, a Minnesota commit who transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton....

    Da Da McGee rushed for 1,063 yards and 11 touchdowns last year at Wiregrass Ranch. (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)
  13. Armwood's Malcolm Lamar commits to Oregon


    Armwood defensive lineman Malcolm Lamar indicated last month he would most likely wait until national signing day to make his college commitment.

    On Friday, Lamar decided he could not wait any longer, announcing through a video on his Twitter page that he was committing to Oregon.

    “I wanted to wait because I thought it was going to be hard to find a home to play in college,” Lamar said. “But I found that home in Oregon.”...

    Armwood's Malcolm Lamar is the fourth area player in the 2018 class to commit to Oregon
  14. Illini, Gophers and Lions, oh my: All locked in on Tampa Bay recruits


    Toledo, which has had at least three locals on the roster for the past seven seasons, is not the only non-state school having success landing local prospects from the 2018 class and beyond. Here are five others....

    It's kind of a no-brainer that Illinois coach Lovie Smith is having success landing Tampa Bay players. His former Bucs ties likely help. (Associated Press)
  15. Target on Tampa Bay: Toledo establishes firm recruiting foothold


    After committing to Toledo last week, Wharton defensive back AJ Hampton was asked how many other locals were joining him.

    "To be honest, I don't know," Hampton said.

    It is hard to keep track given how many area players have already decided to become Rockets. Hampton was the latest on a list that includes fellow Wharton teammate and offensive lineman Lavel Dumont, Admiral Farragut offensive lineman Sam Baker and Armwood linebacker Caleb Sutherland....

    \Wharton offensive lineman Lavel Dumont on the Tampa Bay love for Toledo: "This year's Toledo bay area 2018 class is legit." (Scott Purks, Special to the Times)