Polk County played host to a high school senior all-star football game over the weekend.
The brand new Feltrim Sports Village at the Balmoral Resort in Haines City hosted the 2nd Annual SPIRAL All America Classic on Saturday, Jan. 4. The American Team, whose roster included Haines City High running back/linebacker Jaylen Holmes and Winter Haven linebacker Joshua Jones, lined up against a victorious National Team that emerged with a 42-35 overtime decision.
The game was presented by the FBS Tropical Bowl College Football All-Star Game Committee and featured nearly 100 elite seniors – the majority of whom hailed from Florida – from various parts of the country. Orlando Christian Prep running back Luis Tejada (National Team) was named the 2020 All America Classic Overall Most Valuable Player.
The National Team rallied in the fourth quarter to win last year’s inaugural All America Classic in DeLand by a 15-7 score.
* Lake Wales High standout Johnny Richardson, who signed with the UCF Knights during last month’s early period, played a key role in the South’s 26-21 victory at the 65th Annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Football Classic. The game was held Dec. 21 at The Villages High School.
Richardson’s 6-yard touchdown run not only helped the South take a 7-0 first-quarter lead, but he also added a 31-yard rushing score to start the second half. In addition, the South coaching staff included Lake Wales varsity head coach Tavaris Johnson.
Lake Wales, which reached the Class 5A regional finals this past season where the Highlanders lost to Tampa Jesuit, also celebrated Gervon Dexter’s official commitment to the University of Florida. The 6-foot-7-inch defensive lineman, who was named to the inaugural Sports Illustrated All-American Team last month, signed with the Gators during the early period.
* Louisiana Tech running back Justin Henderson – a 2015 Lake Wales graduate – gained 95 yards on 22 carries in the Bulldogs’ 14-0 Independence Bowl win over Miami on Dec. 26. Henderson, who was selected the game’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player, completed his junior season with 1,062 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns as Louisiana Tech finished at 10-3.
LeDawn Gibson Invitational upcoming
Winter Haven’s LeDawn Gibson Girls Basketball Invitational is scheduled for Friday (Jan. 10) and Saturday (Jan. 11). The host Lady Blue Devils, who played 11 times during a 23-day span from Dec. 13 to Jan. 4, tip off against Armwood High at approximately 6:30 p.m. Friday before meeting Tampa Carrollwood Day at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
The LeDawn Gibson tournament field also has Ridge Community High, Naples Barron Collier, Palm Beach Lakes, Leesburg and Tampa Plant.
Winter Haven’s recent journeys included trips to the Andy Hart Memorial Tournament (2-0) in Mayo, Fla., the CresCom Bank Holiday Invitational (2-1, third place in Pat Summitt Division) in Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Florida Prospects Christmas Tournament (0-3 in the Platinum Bracket) at Lake Highland Prep in Orlando and the She Got Game Classic (1-1) in Atlanta, Ga. The Lady Blue Devils registered six victories and five losses – punctuated by three one-point contests – during the stretch to give them an 11-6 overall record entering Friday’s matchup with Armwood.
Winter Haven squeezed in a home game two days before Christmas, defeating Sarasota 71-52 on the strength of a 25-point first quarter. Shelby Ricks’ double-double featured a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds, Kayla Smith contributed 19 points and Trinity Hardy scored 15 points.
* Bartow High’s boys varsity basketball team entered this week with a 12-1 overall record, which included a 95-66 win over Lake Wales on Jan. 3. The Yellow Jackets played at Lakeland on Tuesday – results were unavailable at press time – and travel to George Jenkins this Friday after they defeated the Eagles by two points on Dec. 13.
Bartow spent a portion of the holiday season in Charleston, S.C., at the 2019 Rotary Roundball Classic. The Yellow Jackets went 3-0 to claim the Rotary International Bracket championship as junior Walter Clayton earned Most Valuable Player honors and junior Alex Vigo was named to the All-Tournament Team.
FHSAA soccer rankings
The Florida High School Athletic Association released updated girls and boys varsity soccer rankings on Dec. 27. The rankings help determine district tournament seedings as well as at-large regional qualifiers and opening-round regional pairings.
Among the notable girls rankings:
Winter Haven (7.646) and Bartow (4.479) had the top two power ratings in Class 6A-District 10. The Blue Devils, who closed out 2019 with a 2-2 draw against Auburndale on Dec. 19, were ranked seventh in 6A-Region 3.
Likewise, Lake Wales (10.074) and Auburndale (6.811) held the top two spots in Class 5A-District 7 and were among the top four in 5A-Region 2. The Highlanders host Boca Raton Olympic Heights this Saturday, while Bloodhounds had a 1-2-0 mark at last week’s Southeastern University Showcase highlighted by a 3-2 victory over Sanford Seminole as Brooke Smith, Avery Conrad and Kera Houser netted goals.
On the boys side, Bartow (8.597) ranked second in the five-team Class 6A-District 10 behind George Jenkins (11.428). The Yellow Jackets were scheduled to play Lake Gibson (Jan. 7) and Discovery High (Jan. 8) this week in advance of the upcoming Polk County Champions League Tournament.
Lake Wales (5.788) and Auburndale (3.768) were third and fourth, respectively, in Class 5A-District 7 behind Brandon (6.913) and Lake Gibson (5.815). All Saints’ Academy (-0.598) ranked second in Class 2A-District 6 and seventh in 2A-Region 2.