Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leesburg Stings Eustis

Speed Proves Key For Yellow Jackets In 21-7 Victory

The Yellow Jackets Scored Three Touchdowns In The First Half To Secure A Season-opening Win.

September 02, 2000

By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
LEESBURG -- Leesburg Coach Bud O'Hara said more than once during the preseason when talking about his football team: "Speed kills.''

It didn't take long for Eustis to find out what he meant.

The Yellow Jackets used their speed to score three touchdowns in the first half and then rolled to a 21-7 victory over the Panthers in the season-opening game Friday night at Memorial Field/Hubert O. Dabney Stadium.

Leesburg (1-0) scored its first-half touchdowns on a 21-yard run by Tony Fields, a 39-yard pass play from quarterback Derek Burbank to Jermaine Orr, who had gotten behind the Panther secondary and made a nice catch after bobbling the ball, and then on a 91-yard kickoff return by Orr.

It was hard to imagine that this was the same Leesburg football team that opened practice on Aug. 7 with only 14 players ready to play.

Orr turned out to be the star for the Yellow Jackets.

Not only did he score two touchdowns, but he also had two interceptions, the second of which came with 5:09 remaining in the game and sealed the Yellow Jackets' victory.

"I was just backpedaling and I saw the ball coming,'' Orr said about his second interception."It feels real good. Everybody believed we weren't going to win. Everybody except for the players on the team.

Leesburg scored the first three times it got the ball, and when it wasn't sprinting into the end zone, its defense was doing a pretty good job of stopping the talented Eustis backfield of Toris Carter, Deleon Dawson and Clifton Joseph. In the first half, only Carter had much success, rushing for 41 yards. Dawson had just 15 and Joseph had 11.

Another of Eustis' talented backs, Russell Fickett, who is injured, didn't play.

The Yellow Jackets defense set up the first two touchdowns.

The first one, Fields' 21-yard run, came after Eustis' Carter fumbled, and Leesburg linebacker Corrie Kelly recovered the ball at the Eustis 43.

Orr set up his touchdown reception when he intercepted Eustis quarterback Steven Ziegelhofer's pass intended for Sammy Rimes. Leesburg then put together a nice drive that twice included third-down conversions for first downs and one fourth-down conversion.

Eustis (0-1) did manage to get on the scoreboard with 3:43 remaining in the half after Panther lineman Sidney Richardson broke through the line and blocked a punt attempt by Doug Orr, and Deleon Dawson recovered at the Leesburg 33. Three plays later, Frankie Manor scored on an 11-yard run.

Joe Williams 
The Sentinel Staff
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South Lake spoils Leesburg's playoff plan

November 02, 2001
Daily Commercial Staff Writer

All the Leesburg Yellow Jackets needed to do to solidify a Class 4A-4 playoff spot was get a victory Friday night.

Enter the underdog South Lake Eagles.

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead, then held off a Leesburg late-game surge to win, 21-20.

After a Jarriel Lewis punt from the Eagles' end-zone with less than a minute to play, Leesburg (6-4, 3-3) took over on the 15-yard line.

After a gain of two yards and with no timeouts remaining, Yellow Jackets kicker Stephen Malinda entered the game to get the win. The off-and-on rain throughout the night made the playing field slick, but the snap and hold were good. Malina booted the pigskin for a 30-yard attempt but watched it fall a few yards short.

"My hat's off to Leesburg -- it's a shame someone had to lose tonight," South Lake coach Charles Weems said.

The Eagles (5-5, 4-3 5A-4) turned their season around after an 0-3 start to win five of their last seven games. The Yellow Jackets had several opportunities to win the game but turnovers eventually hurt them.

With four minutes gone in the first quarter, South Lake already owned a 14-0 lead. On the opening kickoff, Leesburg coughed up the ball (one of five fumbles on the night) and two plays later, Terrance Holden ran in from 17 yards. On the Yellow Jackets ensuing possession, they again fumbled on the first play and suffered the consequences. Lewis found Perry Garrett for a 30-yard touchdown pass four plays later.

Lewis ended the game 14-of-17 for 182 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Garrett added 70 yards on the ground.

The Eagles added a third score in the first quarter when Lewis hit brother Jarrett for a 51-yard touchdown.

But the Yellow Jackets did not back down. Quarterback Jermaine Orr scored on touchdown runs of 3, 1 and 1 yards. Orr's third scored came with 5:39 in the third quarter, but the South Lake defense blocked the extra point attempt to hold the fragile, 21-20 lead.

"We came tough the first quarter and they played a great second half like we knew they would," Weems said. "They're a great team. . . .we knew they wouldn't quit.

"This was a great way to send our seniors out."

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Leesburg Stuffs Mccoy, Shuts Out Eustis Mitchem, Hanks Each Break 100-yard Barrier In Jackets' 21-0 Victory

Former Leesburg Standout Undra Mitchem at The Citadel

 October 21, 1989|By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff

EUSTIS — On a night when a pair of Leesburg High School running backs each rushed for more than 100 yards, it was the Yellow Jackets' defense that played a starring role, leading Leesburg to a 21-0 victory over Eustis on Friday night in a non-district game played at The Panther Den.

Leesburg's duo of senior halfbacks, Undra Mitchem and Lee Hanks (playing in only his second game since recovering from a fractured ankle) both broke through for long runs to add to their totals.

Former Leesburg Yellow Jacket Standout Lee Hanks at Morninside College
Hanks, who gained 132 yards on 15 carries, ignited Leesburg (2-4) on its first possession in front of an estimated crowd of 1,200 chilly fans. He broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown run. Mitchem, who had 145 yards on 17 carries, broke loose on a 71-yard carry in the third quarter to help set up his 4-yard touchdown run two plays later.

 Mitchem would have scored on his long run if Brian Treves didn't trip him up at Eustis' 15 before Garlan Wilkins got to the stumbling Mitchem at the 9.

But it was Leesburg's defense that battered and stuffed Eustis' offense. The Panthers (3-4), who gave quarterback Steve Williams his first start in an attempt to build a better passing attack, never sustained much of an attack. Williams was 1 of 10 for 12 yards with three interceptions.

Leesburg keyed on Bayfus McCoy, Eustis' sophomore tailback who entered the game with 1,073 yards for the season and hadn't been held under 100 yards in a game. McCoy, who injured his left hand late in the first quarter and played the remainder of the game with it taped, never gained more than 2 yards on a carry and ended with minus 9 yards on 13 carries.

Without McCoy's standard performance, Eustis' offense could gain only 35 yards.
McCoy also fumbled the ball away three times, which accounted for half of the Panthers' six turnovers. Williams' interceptions were the others. Eric Sims picked off two interceptions and Willie Dickens grabbed the other.

''They just stopped us,'' Eustis Coach George Fuller said. ''Bayfus had a hand injury which didn't help, but the offense just wasn't clicking and they were stuffing us up front. We just played like we were flat.''

Eustis' only drive came in the first quarter and was aided by two 15-yard penalties against Leesburg, including a roughing-the-punter penalty. With those penalties and some hard running by Eustis fullback Darren Moore, the Panthers drove to Leesburg's 22 before turning over the ball on downs.

Eustis never again got closer than Leesburg's 46, but Leesburg spent much of the night in Eustis' territory.
The Yellow Jackets came up just short of the goal line on the final play of the first half. Leesburg linebacker Joe Fernandez recovered McCoy's fumble at Eustis' 49 with 1:22 remaining. Mitchem, following a 35-yard gain, got around the right end with time running out but was knocked out of bounds at the goal line.

''I don't think this was our best defensive game of the season,'' Leesburg Coach Ken Weir said. ''Without a doubt, I think that was against Vanguard a 30-10 victory. But this was a good defensive effort.''

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Johnson Going Home To Play Alma Mater Leesburg


September 22, 1989
By Joe Williams Of The Sentinel Staff
LEESBURG — Juanita Tanner's son is coming home.

Greg Johnson, a star on the Leesburg High School football teams from 1968 through 1971 and an integral part of the 1969 Yellow Jacket team that went 11-2 (9-1 in the regular season) and lost to Tampa Blake, 27-6, in the Class A state championship game, will return to Memorial Field tonight.

Johnson returns as a conquering hero who Leesburg fans and players hope can be conquered. Johnson is the coach of Osceola High School in Kissimmee, Leesburg's opponents in a non-district game beginning at 7:30.

''It's fantastic. It's just a dream come true,'' said Tanner, who lives in Fruitland Park, and can barely wait for tonight's game. ''We are thrilled to death. All the neighbors and friends have been calling. Everyone is tickled to death.''
Although she has watched Johnson many times as a player, this will be her first opportunity to watch him work as a coach. It's a moment she has been waiting for and preparing for for a long time.

Win or lose, Tanner and her family, will be there in the stands rooting for Johnson's Kowboys. She will have to change her allegiances at least for tonight.

''We may have to move out of the county because we are going to sit on his side and root for him,'' she said. ''Though we want him to win, we hate to see Leesburg lose. The whole family is going to be there. The stands may be taken up by the family.''

Although it may seem strange for Tanner and her family to be sitting on the visitor's side, they actually will be sitting on the same side of the field they sat on to watch Johnson play. Leesburg swapped sides of the field a few years ago when the field was renovated and new concrete bleachers were built.

''I know that we'll be on the side that I played on,'' Johnson said. ''I poured out a lot of blood and sweat and some tears on that side of the field. It is going to be a little bit like deja vu.

''This will be the first time I'll be back there. I know some of my friends will be in the stands. It will be funny and strange. I know some of my friends have kids playing for Leesburg, but I don't know if any are on the varsity. There is some personal pride to coming in and winning. It will make my homecoming more memorable.''

Johnson, who was 6 feet 4 and weighed 220 pounds his senior season, played defensive end and offensive tackle for the Yellow Jackets and Coach Wilbur Lofton. He later played defensive end at Florida State University and was drafted in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1976.

After a couple of preseason games, he was traded to the Baltimore Colts. He played a season for the Colts before being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he was a backup to defensive end Lee Roy Selmon.

He finished his professional career by playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the Canadian Football League in 1978 and 1979.

Johnson returned to FSU in 1979, finished his degree, and, after working two years in the insurance business in Jacksonville, started his coaching career at Episcopal High School in Jacksonville. He came to Osceola as an assistant in 1984 and became the school's coach last year.

Yes, Johnson is going home, and just like when he played for Leesburg, his family will be in the stands rooting for him. But, for his mother, this is a special occassion.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

School district won’t release controversial tape


Denise-Marie Balona, High school sports, High schools, Lake County schools — posted by denise balona on July, 28 2010 7:03 AM

The Lake County school district has two words for those of you who — like me — were waiting for officials to release a tape of former football coach Charles Nassar’s rantings during a private meeting: Tough tootsies.

District officials aren’t giving out copies, even though they’re technically public records. Why? The State Attorney’s Office told them not to, they said.

You see, Nassar, who coached at Leesburg High, says the tape was made illegally. He was meeting with some of his assistant coaches in his office and someone made an audio tape of the conversation without him knowing. Several copies of that tape surfaced this past spring — one reason Nassar decided to turn in his clipboard.

The school district had launched an internal review based on the contents of the tape. But officials weren’t sure how to proceed considering, for one thing, that Nassar’s attorney claimed that even listening to it could be a violation of the law.

The district sought guidance from the local State Attorney’s Office, which recently issued a short letter saying the tapes should be sealed and then, when the district keeps them as long as they’re required to under public-records law, they can be thrown out.

Publicizing the tape’s contents would constitute a new crime because the taped conversation was illegal, said Assistant State Attorney Mark D. Simpson in his letter to the district.


Denise-Marie Balona
Orlando Sentinel

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Saving Tackle Lifts Leesburg

Widmann Stops Conversion In 7-6 Victory Against Eustis

September 14, 1991

By Joe Williams Of The Sentinel Staff
EUSTIS — Oran Singleton, whose runs continually provided lifts for Leesburg, got a well-deserved ride on the shoulders of friends Friday night at the Panther Den after the Yellow Jackets escaped with a 7-6 victory over Eustis in a non-district high school football game.

Singleton got the ride, but it was linebacker Bo Widmann who delivered the victory, which came in front of a crowd of about 3,500.

Widmann made a dizzying hit on Eustis running back Bayfus McCoy on a two-point conversion attempt with 1:28 to play to keep Leesburg in the lead. Widmann was slow getting up, and the Panthers had no time to recover.

''I saw it coming,'' Widmann said. ''I set up the blocker, and I just had an open shot at him.''

McCoy pulled the Panthers to a point when he took a pitchout from quarterback Anthony Allen on a fourth-and-18 play. McCoy got to the outside and blew past the Yellow Jackets for a 50-yard touchdown run. It was the only time McCoy broke a long run.

The game was matched two of Central Florida's most explosive running backs. McCoy finished with 119 yards on 21 carries.

Singleton rushed for 146 yards on 20 carries, including a 34-yard run on a fake punt in the first quarter, which led to a missed 35-yard field-goal attempt by Brian Rausch. Singleton also broke a 37-yard run in the second quarter to set up Leesburg's touchdown by quarterback Steve Gooden.

Gooden scored on a 5-yard run after being trapped by several defenders, including Jason Cory and Chris Likely. But Gooden spun away, cut back to his left and scored with 4:44 remaining in the half. Rausch kicked the extra point.

Leesburg 7, Eustis 6

Leesburg 0 7 0 0 - 7
Eustis 0 0 0 6 - 6

L - Gooden 5 run (Rausch kick); E - McCoy 50 run (run failed).


Joe Williams Of The Sentinel Staff
Orlando Sentinel

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Eustis Goes For 2, Beats Leesburg

October 20, 1990

By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
LEESBURG — There was a satisfied look on Bayfus McCoy's face as he walked off the field at Hubert O. Dabney Stadium Friday afternoon after scoring an overtime touchdown to help lift Eustis to a 22-21 victory against Leesburg.

McCoy was one of the state's rushing leaders through the middle of the year last season before Leesburg's defense stopped him for minus 9 yards. Friday, although McCoy only gained 56 yards on 17 carries, he got the upper hand, scoring on a 1-yard run in overtime and quieting the crowd of about 1,000.

Eustis quarterback Anthony Allen then faked a handoff to McCoy on the conversion attempt, freezing Leesburg's defense momentarily, before Allen took off on a bootleg around left end and got into the corner of the end zone for the victory.

''When it got into crunch time, I wanted the ball,'' McCoy said. ''It's just a good feeling to come in here and beat a AAAA school. Now, all we have to do is start beating the AA and AAA schools.''

Class AAA Eustis (3-3) elected to play defense first after winning the coin toss for the Kansas tiebreaker. Leesburg (3-4) took the ball on the 10, and three plays later reserve fullback Bobby Dan McGlohorn scored on a 2-yard run. Chris Craine kicked the extra point, putting Leesburg up, 21-14.

After Eustis scored on McCoy's 1-yard run, kicker Justin Smith jogged onto the field to attempt the extra point, but Eustis Coach Kevin McClelland called timeout and opted to go for the conversion.

''I'm going to go for the two (points) anytime I'm in a situation like that,'' McClelland said. ''I don't care what anybody else does, I wanted to go for the win right there.''

Leesburg seemed to be in control most of the game. But the Yellow Jackets lost some key defensive players, such as linebackers Bryant Reed and Ty Lawrence, to injuries in the first half. Then, Leesburg also hurt itself with a couple of mistakes.

Leesburg led, 14-7, in the third quarter after sophomore running back Oran Singleton, who rushing for 121 yards on 20 carries, scored on a 55-yard touchdown run.

After linebacker Jason Sellers intercepted a pass by Allen at Eustis' 40 on the next possession, Leesburg looked like it was going to put the game away. But fullback Joe Fernandez fumbled on the 18, and defensive lineman Jason Cory recovered his second fumble of the game.

Eustis then was presented with an opportunity to tie the score with 7:39 remaining when a high snap sailed through punter Brian Rausch's fingers. Rausch picked up the ball but was tackled at Leesburg's 5 by Rodney Stevenson and Matt Brown.

Three plays later, Allen scored on a 3-yard run to tie the score and force overtime.

Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
Orlando Sentinel

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Leesburg rally falls short at Hernando

published: Saturday, October 17, 2009

C.J. Risak
Staff writer

HERNANDO -- Leesburg coach Charles Nassar wasn't about to sugarcoat his team's performance Friday at Hernando.

Asked what his team might have gained from a strong second-half performance that saw the Yellow Jackets trim a 27-0 deficit to a single touchdown, Nassar replied, "Nothing. We lost. There's no moral victory to be had.

"You just can't dig a hole that deep. We had to be perfect in the second half and couldn't do it."

No, they weren't perfect, one reason they fell to the Leopards, 41-28, a loss that left them 4-3 overall, 2-2 in 3A-6. Hernando is 4-2 overall, 3-1 in 3A-6.

But there wasn't just the hole. It's who dug it for them.

Like Hernando's Alvin Delaine III, the main cog in the Leopards' three-man attack. Delaine gained 205 yards rushing on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 18 yards and another TD. He added a two-point conversion pass reception to cap a spectacular evening.

But he was only part of Leesburg's problem. As Nassar explained when asked what his team did differently in the second half, he simply said, "Nothing. We started blocking, that's all."

Between their opening drive of the game and their first drive of the second half, the Yellow Jackets could not even get a first down. Hernando drove 55 yards in the first quarter, Delaine going the last 27, to get its first score, then added three more in the second, the first following an interception by Derek Wilson tha tled to Kall Daniel's 8-yard pass to Delaine, the next a 66-yard drive capped by Marlin Smith's 2-yard run, and the last after a fumble on the kickoff return that turned into an 11-yard Smith TD run.

Prospects for a long second half for Leesburg seemed good. But the Yellow Jackets went 55 yards in just six plays, Luther McDowell -- who did not touch the ball in the first half -- going 42 yards to the Leopards' 5, then scoring on a 3-yard run to make it 27-7.

Hernando answered with a 57-yard TD drive, Smith getting his third touchdown from 4 yards out, to put it at 35-7.

But then it really got interesting.

Leesburg drove 58 yards for a score, Malcolm Belton diving in from 2 yards out, trimming the deficit to 35-14 with 44.6 seconds left in the third quarter. Then the Yellow Jackets' Austin Sellars recovered Ben Rizzo's onside kick at the Hernando 37, and on the next play McDowell tossed a 37-yard scoring strike to Sellars. In an 8-second span, Leesburg had scored twice to make it 35-21.

It wasn't over yet. Hernando fumbled on its very next play from scrimmage, Leesburg recovered, and eight plays later Belton pushed his way in from a yard out to make it 35-28 with more than nine minutes to play.

Leesburg had one last go at it, recovering another fumble at the Hernando 27. But that was it. Delaine added a 12-yard TD run with 2:07 left to cap it for the Leopards.

"We were trying to look for a way to give it away," said Hernando coach John Palmer. "Our defense set the tone early and I can't say enough about our offensive line."

For Leesburg, Belton had 92 rushing yards on 16 carries and McDowell gained 82 on eight tries, getting all his yards in the second half.

C.J. Risak
Staff writer
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Big-play Touchdowns Lead Leesburg Past Mount Dora

September 21, 1991
By Herky Cush Of The Sentinel Staff
LEESBURG — The threat of lightning twice held up play in the Leesburg-Mount Dora game Friday night, but in the end it was the host Yellow Jackets who did the quick striking in a 42-7 non-district victory at Leesburg Memorial/Hubert O. Dabney Stadium before a crowd of about 1,000 fans.

Three times in the game Leesburg had scoring drives of one play with tailback Oran Singleton scoring on runs on 74 and 76 yards and quarterback Steve Gooden completing a 68-yard pass to Bo Widmann.

Mount Dora (0-2) answered the first touchdown of Leesburg (2-0) but could not offer any challenge to the big plays of the Yellow Jackets.

''I'd prefer the long drives that take time off the clock,'' Leesburg coach Ken Weir said. ''But with Oran that's just not going to happen.''

Following the second halt in play, 32 minutes with 3:40 left in the second quarter, the teams took a two-minute break for the half. And in the second half, with the consent of both coaches, the clock kept running, even on incomplete passes and timeouts.

Gooden took off on a 44-yard keeper to open the scoring with 1:35 gone in the opening period.

Mount Dora answered with Shawn Howard scoring on a 4-yard run on fourth down.

Then Singleton, 5 feet 5, 155 pounds, took over with three consecutive touchdowns.

Following the Singleton Show, Gooden struck with two long touchdown passes - a 68-yarder to Widmann and then a 55-yarder to D. J. Keith in the third period that closed the scoring.

''There's no answer for that kind of speed,'' said Mount Dora's first-year coach Craig Cosden. ''We can't prepare for that kind of speed because we don't have anyone like Oran.''

On both of the long runs by Singleton, the last Hurricane to have a shot was Howard, but he couldn't get enough of an angle to make a play on the swift Leesburg star.

''He's quick that's for sure,'' Weir said. ''I just felt bad for him about the continuous clock.''

Singleton had 186 yards on 10 carries in the first half and finished the game with 184 on 13 carries. His three second-half carries came behind the second-team offensive line.

Leesburg 42, Mount Dora 7
Mount Dora 7 0 0 0 - 7
Leesburg 14 21 7 0 - 42

L - Gooden 44 run (Raush kick); MD - Howard 4 run (Beasley kick); L - Singleton 1 run (Raush kick); L - Singleton 74 run (Raush kick); L - Singleton 76 run (Raush kick); L - Widmann 68 pass from Gooden (Raush kick); L - Keith 55 pass from Gooden (Raush kick).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

It's Official: Gooden Off To Missouri School

February 10, 1993
By Joe Williams Of The Sentinel Staff

LEESBURG — Steve Gooden isn't sure if it was mother's intuition or the look on his face, but somehow his mother knew Sunday night that he had signed a national letter-of-intent to play football at Southwest Baptist University.

''It was kind of funny. As soon as I came in she said, 'You signed, didn't you?' I said, 'Yeah,' ''
Gooden said.

''I guess it was just a feeling that she had.'' Gooden, Leesburg High School's starting quarterback for the past three years, signed with Southwest Baptist during a recruiting trip there last weekend, but the signing didn't become official until his mother, Shirley, also signed.

Gooden brought the papers home, his mom signed them and they were mailed back to Southwest Baptist Tuesday. Gooden joins Leesburg linebacker Ty Lawrence, who also signed with the Bearcats during the recruiting trip.

Southwest Baptist, an NCAA Division II school with an enrollment of about 3,500, held open two grant-in-aids, one for Lawrence and the other for Gooden. Lawrence, The Lake Sentinel's two-time defensive player of the year at linebacker, is expected to play on the Bearcats' defensive line. Gooden could be the option quarterback they were looking for.

''In the past few years, they had been recruiting a lot of throwing quarterbacks because they were more a run-and-shoot type team,'' Gooden said. ''But now they have a new coach and they want to run the option. They aren't sure if their quarterbacks can run the option.''

Gooden grew up in Leesburg's option attack, quarterbacking the Wishbone and then the I-Bone offenses. During the past two seasons, he rushed 129 times for 411 yards and 11 touchdowns and passed only 73 times, completing 31 for 687 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Although Leesburg posted 8-2 and 10-2 records the last two seasons, Gooden's contributions to what turned out to be one of Central Florida's best offenses were overlooked, mostly because of his height (5 feet 6).

''I think schools look at me and they say, 'He can run the option, but he is only 5-6,' '' Gooden said. ''At Southwest, everything (the pass plays) are either going to be rollouts or play action. A lot of colleges don't run that kind of offense and they aren't going to change for a 5-6 quarterback.''

Despite displaying good ability at running the offense, Gooden didn't receive any interest from colleges until Southwest Baptist called. They saw Gooden on videotape and decided they wanted him.

''I feel very fortunate for that to happen,'' Gooden said. ''You don't get any letters, any calls. After my senior year, I figured I wasn't going to play football in college.

''Then, somebody calls out of the blue and offers you a full scholarship. Somebody out there has been praying for me.''

By Joe Williams Of The Sentinel Staff
Orlando Sentinel

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Leesburg's Freeze picks Lenoir-Rhyne

April 20, 2007 Adam Minichino

LEESBURG - Leesburg High School football coach Charles Nassar admires Luke Freeze too much to call him a "pipsqueak."

Freeze, though, doesn't hesitate to use that word to describe his size and appearance three years ago.

These days, thanks to Freeze's hard work in Nassar's weight training system and football program, he has matured into a 5-foot-11, 235-pound senior standout.

But Freeze's accomplishments are only part of the story, and they only begin to illustrate why Nassar is so proud of his senior offensive lineman.

"Luke is the absolute model for what we tell our guys," Nassar said. "If you're good enough to play in Central Florida and start on a district competitive team and you take care of your business in the classroom, you're good enough to play somewhere."

Freeze realized that goal last week when he signed a letter of intent to play football at Lenoir-Rhyne College, a Division II school in Hickory, N.C. He made his decision official Wednesday, on his 18th birthday, at Leesburg High School.

He said he also considered Maryville College (Tenn.), Averett University (Va.) and Charleston Southern University (S.C.).

Freeze was a mainstay at center this past season for the Yellow Jackets (7-4). He also played some at linebacker early in his career at Leesburg.

Next season, Freeze figures to compete for playing time at both positions for first-year coach Fred Goldsmith, who inherits a program that went 3-8 in 2006 and loses 10 seniors from this past season.

Freeze said he visited Lenoir-Rhyne College last year during spring break. He said the coaches seemed very interested at that time, and he remained in touch with the program through the change of head coaches.

Freeze, who has a 3.8 grade-point average, plans to study sports management, with the hope of becoming a coach. He said he is just as proud of his work in the classroom as he is of his maturation as a football player. He thinks both played significant roles in helping him land a combined academic and athletic scholarship.

"I am kind of small, but my academics are good," Freeze said.

Nassar said Freeze has "worked his tail off" in the weight room to play at Leesburg and to realize the goal to play college football. Nassar said Freeze's bench press has improved 200 pounds and his squat has increased 350 pounds in three years. He said some of that is natural, but he said someone doesn't get as strong as Freeze is without being dedicated.

Nassar said Freeze's attitude about his work in the weight room and his studies are similar. He said Freeze's skills in the classroom helped him attract attention from nearly 20 schools at a college recruiting fair in February at Lake Wales High School.

"A lot of people think the high school coach has way more to do with the process of the scholarship than he actually does. The role of the high school coach is to introduce the player to the college," Nassar said. "Our job is to expose our athlete to those colleges where we think they best fit. Luke's academic prowess finished the deal. Anybody who starts for us or Eustis or Tavares, etc., is good enough to play college football somewhere."

Freeze said Nassar made him and the Yellow Jackets believe in him and his program. He said the belief in Nassar and his system helped him realize a goal to play in college that he has had since the first day he strapped on his pads.

"I came in a little scrawny and like a pipsqueak, and now I am bigger," Freeze said. "Investing in his program got me where I am today."

Adam Minichino
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Citrus Puts Squeeze On Leesburg Hurricanes Triumph On Late Scoring Pass

September 24, 1988 | By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff

INVERNESS — Quarterback Monty Grow hit tight end Glenn Ryan on an 8-yard slant pattern over the middle with 28 seconds remaining to spoil a great defensive effort by Leesburg and give Citrus a 7-0 victory in a non-district high school game Friday night at Hurricane Field.

Ryan's touchdown capped a 90-yard, fourth-quarter drive, as the Hurricanes (2-1) seemed to take advantage of a tiring Leesburg (1-1) defense and capture the victory before about 2,500 fans.

Citrus, which failed to score on two other opportunities deep in Leesburg territory, went almost exclusively with tailback Todd Williams in the second half. Williams had 24 carries for 107 yards. Eighteen of those carries, including eight on the final drive, came in the second half.

Williams' biggest run of the drive was a 12-yarder that came on a third- and-two from the Hurricanes' 36. Grow also helped keep the drive alive a little earlier with an 11-yard bootleg on third down from Citrus' 17.

Leesburg's breakdowns on Citrus' final drive were the only ones for the Yellow Jacket defense, which spent almost twice as much time on the field as Citrus' did. Citrus ran 57 offensive plays, Leesburg only ran 37.

The Yellow Jackets tried two desperation pass plays in the final 26 seconds but Tommy Willis, who replaced starting quarterback Greg Engle on the final series because he has a stronger arm, had a pass intercepted by Grow with 2 seconds remaining.

Leesburg's offense was handicapped throughout the game by poor field position. Leesburg had drives that started twice on the 15, on the 13, one the 20 and on the 1.

Jackets' Lewis, Smith on to Texas

LEESBURG - Leesburg High School football coach Charles Nassar never has believed he is the only person responsible for helping his players get into college.

Nassar believes in setting a high standard for his players and challenging them every day to surpass those expectations.

The result, Nassar hopes, is players will realize how hard they need to work and then do all of the legwork to realize that goal.

A talented and driven senior class helped Nassar and the LHS football program realize its goals in 2005.

Thanks in part to years of diligence in the weight room, Leesburg finished as the runner-up in Class 4A-District 6 and earned its first playoff appearance since 2001, and its first in Nassar's four seasons at the school.

Michael Lewis and Mark Smith were at the forefront of the program's maturation.

As seniors, they set an example in the weight room and served as leaders in the Yellow Jackets' 8-3 season.

Lewis' and Smith's leadership and play on the field gave them an opportunity to continue their football careers in college.

Lewis and Smith will leave next week for Ranger College in Texas, where they will prepare for the first day of the football team's training camp on Aug. 6.

"Mike and Mark have grown up with us," Nassar said. "They played all four years at Leesburg. It has been nice to watch them mature from high school boys to young men.

"It speaks to the maturity of these young men that they have done the finishing legwork to get themselves somewhere."

The former Leesburg High School standouts signed paperwork for their financial aid in late May and hope to help the junior college program grow just like they helped Leesburg's program grow.

"We had to build a program at Leesburg and look how it has turned out, with the weights and everything," Lewis said. "I am not really worried about what it is going to be like. I know I just have to go out there and give it my all."

Lewis, a 5-foot-11, 223-pounder, played running back and linebacker last season for the Yellow Jackets.

Smith, who is 5-9 and weighs 176 pounds, played quarterback and in the secondary. Both rushed for more than 600 yards.

"Football is my life," Smith said. "My (grade-point average) in ninth grade was real low and Coach (Nassar) told me I wasn't going to be able to play football if I didn't raise my GPA."

Smith played safety with the varsity team the final three games of his freshman season. He said he raised his GPA above 2.0 between his freshman and sophomore years. He said he had a 2.5 GPA as a senior.

Smith said the importance Nassar placed on academics helped him mature on and off the field.

"Coach is always talking about setting an example as a student-athlete, not just an athlete," Smith said. "If you're just an athlete, people in the school will think you're a dummy. Everybody just watched us and we showed them how to get the job done, and they followed."

Smith also credits Nassar for helping him understand doing well in the classroom is just as important as doing well on the football field.

"Now I know when I go to college I can't play around and I have to get my school work taken care of," said Smith, who plans to study criminal justice or business.

Nassar said he started to contact college coaches about Lewis and Smith in February after National Signing Day. He called former Leesburg High School defensive coordinator Jeff Brown, who is the defensive coordinator at Ranger College.

Nassar said Brown was immediately interested after he saw tapes of the two players.

"I just remember them having good heads on their shoulders and being good athletes," said Brown, who coached at Leesburg in 2002 and '03. "We recruit guys we feel will be good for our program on and off the field."

Brown said both players will be in the mix to earn playing time. He said competition will be strong at every position as the team prepares for its season opener Aug. 26 against Highland Community College.

"I think these kids may have slipped through the cracks," Brown said. "I think there are a lot of schools between here and there that would like to have them."

Brown credited former Leesburg High School standout Anthony Saincilaire, a rising sophomore on the Ranger College football team, for helping to bring Lewis and Smith to Texas.

Former Leesburg standout Maurice Shuler also recently signed to play basketball at Ranger College.

Lewis said having friends in school will help him and Smith adjustment to being away from home.

Nassar is looking forward to getting a lot of positive feedback about Lewis and Smith.

"Ranger College offers them a chance to start over academically," Nassar said. "They both worked very hard (academically), and this gives them a clean slate to work themselves into a position to go to a four-year school."

Lewis and Smith join a growing list of Yellow Jackets in college. Tory Harrison (Southern Mississippi) and Randall Sullivan will try to continue their football careers this year. Nassar said Sullivan declined several football scholarship offers to take an academic scholarship to Florida A&M. He said Sullivan will try to walk on to the team.

Leesburg Places 6 on OBC First Team

December 06, 1988

Six players from Leesburg High School's football team were selected to the All-Orange Belt Conference first team and five more were picked to the second team by conference coaches at the annual end-of-the-season meeting last week. Those selected to the first team were Ryan Taylor, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound senior offensive tackle; junior wide receiver Willie Dickens (5-11, 150), senior place-kicker Rick Rausch (5-11, 165); senior linebacker Brad Dunn (6-0, 200), senior defensive tackle Chris Sopotnik (5-11, 225); senior safety Tommy Willis (6-2, 170). Second team members are offensive guard Terry Rolle, quarterback Greg Engle, running back Undra Mitchem, outside linebacker Ray Pate and Brady Sellars as a utility defensive player. Honorable mention selections include Tony Sims as a utility offensive player and defensive lineman Bryant Reed.

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Rolle, Willis Sign Together To Play At Elizabeth City

February 22, 1989 | By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff

LEESBURG — Terry Rolle and Tommy Willis, longtime friends and teammates on the Leesburg High School football team, will remain teammates in collge.

Rolle and Willis signed Tuesday afternoon with Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University in a double signing ceremony conducted in the school's library. Present at the signing were several of their teammates as well as their mothers, Ida Rolle and Gloria Willis-Waters.

''I think it will be fun,'' Willis said. ''T-Rolle and I have known each other since we were little. Being 700 or 800 miles away from home, it's good knowing that I'll have a friend up there. We will be able to look out after each other.''

''It's a boost going off to college with Tommy,'' Rolle said. ''I don't have a problem making friends, but it is comforting to have a guy from the same place. We are going to be roommates for the next four years.''

Rolle (6-1, 280), is projected as a possible starter at offensive guard for Elizabeth City next season if he qualifies under Proposition 48. Rolle has to raise his SAT or ACT scores to qualify. Even if he doesn't, Rolle will remain at Elizabeth City and sit out next season.

Willis (6-1 160), will be looked at as a quarterback, although he only played two games at quarterback last season after starter Greg Engle was injured.

Willis was The Lake Sentinel's defensive player of the year.

Their signings bring the total of Leesburg players who will be playing in college to three. Ryan Taylor signed with the University of Florida on Feb. 8. Two other Leesburg players, Brad Dunn and Chris Sopotnick, plan on trying to make college teams as walk-ons.

Dunn is going to try-out for the University of Central Florida, and Sopotnick will try to make the Georgia Southern football team.

Willis and Rolle were being recruited by Florida A&M until assistant coach Walter Highsmith went to Texas Southern. Highsmith continued to recruit Willis until he decided to join Rolle at Elizabeth City.

''Tommy was really considering signing with Texas Southern, but at the last moment he decided to go to Elizabeth City,'' Leesburg Coach Richard Kennedy said.

Among the schools who showed interest in Rolle were A&M, Bethune-Cookman, the University of Mississippi and Florida State.

''They were telling me to go to a junior college and play for two years,'' Rolle said. ''But you don't know what could happen in those two years. I could get injured or something else.''

Willis went through the season as Leesburg's second-string quarterback and starting safety.

''He played defense for us because that is where he was needed,'' Kennedy said. ''I think Tommy will be very, very good. Tommy can play quarterback, it was just that we needed him at defensive back.''

By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
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Offensive coordinator Jonathan Cannon will take over head coaching duties in the interim

UAPB coach undergoing medical tests

Associated Press

PINE BLUFF, Ark. -- Arkansas-Pine Bluff coach Mo Forte has been advised by his doctors not to be on the sidelines for Saturday's game against Southern Illinois.

The university said in a news release Thursday that the coach has been undergoing medical tests for the last several days. The tests have not yet been completed.

Offensive coordinator Jonathan Cannon will take over head coaching duties in the interim, the university said. The news release did not identify Forte's symptoms or where he was getting medical evaluations, and a spokesman was unavailable for comment.

Forte, a former football player at the University of Minnesota, has no known history of any serious medical ailments. He has been at practice this week in good spirits.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Leesburg Nudges Bishop Moore, 9-7 Madden Boots 27-yard Field Goal In 4th Quarter To Clinch Victory

November 23, 1985

By Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
LEESBURG — Steve Madden kicked a 27-yard field goal with 5:31 remaining Friday night to lift Leesburg High School to a 9-7 victory over Orlando Bishop Moore before a season-ending homecoming crowd of about 2,000 at Yellow Jacket Field.

Madden's field goal was his first of the season after four unsuccessful attempts and followed a badly missed extra-point attempt late in the third quarter. It also snapped Bishop Moore's winning streak at five games.

Fullback Jon Cannon, who played a key role in the drive before the field goal, broke loose on a 15-yard runto the 13. Then he added two runs of 4 yards each. The second 4-yard carry put Cannon over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

He finished the game with 70 yards on 15 carries to give him 1,004 yards.

Leesburg (4-6) cut Bishop Moore's lead to 7-6 late in the third quarter when Madden, a junior quarterback, threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to Rod Wright. But Madden missed the extra point.

Bishop Moore (5-5) took a 7-0 lead with 50 seconds left in the first half when quarterback Mark Klein hit Matt Kalicak on two consecutive pass plays. The first one was a 36-yarder, which set up a 13-yard touchdown pass on the next play. Paul Castillo added the extra point.

Castillo had an opportunity to stretch the Hornets' lead to 10-0 early in the third quarter, but a 37-yard field-goal attempt was wide to the right.

''That was really nerve-wracking, especially after that extra point,'' Madden said. ''We had a problem when we lined up for the extra point, but I just flat made bad contact with the ball.

''But on the field goal, there was a good snap. John McGlohorn got the ball down, and I just concentrated on keeping my head down. I knew it was through as soon as I kicked it.''

Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Leesburg rebounds to win against rival Eustis

Eustis High School running back Marquis Curry (4) tackles Leesburg High running back Kamonte Phillips (5) in the first quarter of their game at Leesburg High School on Friday , Oct. 9, 2009.
published: Saturday, October 10, 2009



LEESBURG -- It was a game of adjustments at H.O. Dabney Stadium Friday in Leesburg.

In the end, Leesburg adjusted, and Eustis got worn out. The Yellow Jackets erupted with 29 second-half points on 35 offensive plays to best the Panthers 36-21.

It was a homecoming win for Leesburg, who improved to 4-2 on the year. Eustis fell to 1-4.

Good old-fashioned power running broke the game open for Leesburg. Single-wing runs mainly to the right -- with the odd misdirection thrown in for good measure -- consumed more than three quarters of the second half for the Yellow Jackets and tired out a Panther defense that held high- scoring Tavares to just six points the week before.

Leesburg Yellow Jackets' running back Jalen Dozier (10) scores a touchdown at the 5:11 mark in the second quarter to score his team's first points against the Eustis Panthers in a game at Leesburg High School on Friday , Oct. 9, 2009.

Leesburg's revelation was a reaction to what looked like a Eustis team on a mission. The Panthers had stuffed Leesburg on the Jackets' first two series, forcing two three-and-outs. Eustis meanwhile went up 13-0 on two quick touchdown drives led by senior Panther duo quarterback Kelsei Brown and running back CJ Brown.
It was junior running back Kendrick Rowe who scored the first point of the game with a 47-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into regulation. Kelsei Brown added his own long touchdown run of 21 yards.

Leesburg needed to switch or face a long night, said head coach Charles Nassar after the game.

"We came out sleep walking, and they came out like fire," Nassar said.

The Jackets shifted from a flex-bone option offense to a single-wing power run that proceeded to eat clock like Pacman eats power pellets.

A grinding 13-play, 71-yard drive took more than 6 minutes off the clock in the second quarter and gave Leesburg its first points.
Sophomore running back Jalen Dozier scored the first of his three touchdowns on the night on the drive.

Stalled drives by both sides made the halftime score 13-7 in favor of Eustis. Leesburg got the ball to begin the third quarter and refused to give it up. Two drives of 10 plays and one of 14 plays put Leesburg up 29-21.

Leesburg took the opening kickoff and drove 84 yards to go up 14-13. Their next drive was 69 yards and tied the game at 21. A successful onside kick let Leesburg roll down the field again, putting them up 29-21. The Yellow Jackets didn't look back.

Eustis did its best to keep up, scoring on a five-play, 70-yard drive late in the third. But that effort lasted only 2:32, putting an already-weary defense back on the field to stop a determined Jacket rushing attack.

"Defensively, we let ourselves down tonight," said Eustis coach Bill Larkin. "(Leesburg) went to a power offense" and wore the Panthers out, he said.

Penalties didn't help either. Eustis was flagged 11 times for 75 yards, include two big personal foul calls -- one that extended a Leesburg drive and the other starting the Jackets at midfield.

Leesburg's Dozier finished the night with 18 rushes for 105 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran in a two-point conversion. Yellow Jacket junior Luther McDowell had 66 yards on seven carries and two touchdowns, one of 44 yards. Junior Malcolm Belton had 70 yards on 17 carries.

For Eustis, Kelsei Brown had 75 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. He was 3 for 5 with 31 yards passing.



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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Leesburg Yellowjackets High School Football Team Preview - MaxPreps

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South Sumter outlasts Leesburg

South Sumter High School's Oscar Vera tackles Leesburg High's Malcolm Belton during a spring game at Leesburg on Thursday, May 21, 2009.

published: Friday, May 22, 2009


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The Leesburg Yellow Jackets hosted the South Sumter Raiders for a spring scrimmage game in what turned out to be a disappointing 27-13 loss.

"There were too many mistakes," said Leesburg Coach Charles Nassar. "I know it's a spring game and that's what spring is all about -- cleaning up mistakes. But there were too many."

One of Leesburg's biggest mistakes came on special teams as they muffed a punt which allowed the Raiders to recover in the end zone for a touchdown with eight minutes left in the second quarter.

That touchdown tied the game after Jalen Dozier carried the ball in for a Yellow Jacket touchdown with 4:37 left on the clock in the first. Ben Rizzo's extra point had given Leesburg the early lead.

"We learned some good things on special teams," said Nassar. "That's why we play Coach Sherman in the spring. He is all about doing things on special teams."

The Yellow Jackets also gained experience at moving the football, but found it difficult to push past the Raiders' defense to finish those drives.

"The strength of our team should be our defense," South Sumter coach Inman Sherman said. "We've got a lot of seniors there,"

That defense stopped Leesburg inside the 10-yard line twice in the first half. Then after an exchange of touchdowns, the Raiders' defense won them the game in the second half.

The start of a big third quarter came for the Raiders when Ryan Evans carried the ball in for a touchdown with just over nine minutes left in the third giving them the lead.

But Leesburg answered back when a 35-yard gain by Luther McDowell was aided by a roughing the passer penalty that put the Jackets in position to score on the 15-yard line. The next play Efrain Negron sprinted into the end zone with 8:50 left in the quarter. The Jackets missed the extra point allowing the Raiders to keep a one-point

Then South Sumter captured the momentum when Davey Vera recovered a fumbled exchange for a 45-yard touchdown return with less than five minutes left in the third. The Raider's missed extra point left them with a 20-13 lead.

South Sumter capped off their game-winning quarter when Ian Pappinheim completed a 58-yard pass to E.J. Hall for a touchdown as the buzzer sounded. With the extra point, the Raiders took a 14-point lead.

Despite that lead, it was the solid South Sumter defense that kept the Yellow Jackets from making a comeback

With just over seven minutes left in the fourth, Negron came up just short of the touchdown marker leaving the Jackets at first and goal on the one-yard line. After losing yards on the next play, Leesburg was unable to push in for a score. They turned the ball over on downs on the 4-yard line with 5:50 left on the clock. The score remained unchanged from that point on.

The game shaped both coaches goals for the summer. "We need to tighten up some things and work on ball control," said Nassar.

"Summer is huge," said Sherman. "We have to have a big summer. The mistakes we made are all fixable."


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Leesburg chalks up almost 300 yards on ground to beat South Lake

published: Saturday, September 19, 2009


Staff Writer

LEESBURG -- As a coach, Charles Nassar always looks for a perfect game from the Leesburg High School football team.
He nearly got it Friday night.

The Yellow Jackets rushed for nearly 300 yards, including 130 by quarterback Efrain Negron, to earn a 21-7 victory against South Lake at H.O. Dabney Stadium.

"This was the closest we've come to a perfect game this season, including our preseason games," Nassar said. "We committed a couple of turnovers and had a few penalties, but we did of things right (Friday). We have some execution issues to clean, like the exchange between our quarterback and running backs, this was a very good performance by our kids."

Leesburg (2-1) took a 7-0 lead midway through the second quarter on a six-yard run by Malcolm Belton, and added to its advantage when Jalen Dozier capped a three play, 33-yard drive with a 10-yard run following a South Lake fumble.

Dozier took an inside handoff off a direct snap to running back Luther McDowell and outraced the Eagles defense to the end zone.

The Yellow Jackets gained 146 yards in the first half, all of which came on the ground. For Nassar, an advocate of the option, Leesburg's success on the ground was a highlight.

In the second half, the Yellow Jackets did not attempt a pass.

"Last week (against Mount Dora), D'Mauri Jones, our best receiver, was banged up but he was healthy for this game," Nassar said. "He was healthy for this game, but South Lake did a good job defending him, so we stayed on the ground and had of lot of success. Our running game was working, so why change?"

South Lake (0-3) was its own worst enemy at times, particularly in the second half. The Eagles fumbled on their first possession in the third quarter, their second of the game, and were whistled for two equipment violations on defense -- the first of which occurred on a fourth-and-four, giving the Yellow Jackets a first down.

Even though Leesburg eventually punted the ball away, South Lake watch the game clock become its enemy, as the Yellow Jackets took two additional minutes off the clock.

"We're continuing to beat ourselves with silly mistakes," South Lake coach Walter Banks said. "It's like giving yourself a self-inflicted wound. We digging ourselves into a hole that we can't get out of and it's really frustrating.

"Our kids are leaving everything on the field, in terms of effort and desire, but we have to find a way to cut out the mistakes."

South Lake's lone offensive highlight came in the third quarter when quarterback Stanley Evans hit Nick Wiasome in stride and the junior wide receiver outraced Leesburg's secondary to the end zone on a 69-yard score. For the game, Evans completed four of eight passes for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Evans also rushed for 41 yards on 14 carries.

South Lake's ground attack was led by Steel Stewart, who picked up 67 yards on 10 carries.

In addition to Negron, Leesburg's running attack included Dozier (74-yards rushing), McDowell (59), Belton (20), James Asibey-Bonsu (10) and Kamonte Philips (2).

For South Lake, the road doesn't get any easier Friday, when perennial Class 6A powerhouse Apopka makes its first-ever trip to Groveland, while Leesburg opens district play against Citrus in Inverness.

"For us, the real season starts next week," Nassar said. "District games are the ones that count. We're going to spend next week trying to get better, like we do every week. This win was nice, but the important games on our schedule begin (Friday)."

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Leesburg squeezes Citrus

published: Friday, September 25, 2009


Staff Writer

INVERNESS -- Quarterback Efrain Negron scored three touchdowns Friday to lead a resurgent offense as visiting Leesburg outscored Inverness-Citrus, 34-7, to improve to 2-1 on the new season.

The Yellow Jackets offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage to enable running back Luther McDowell and the rest of the backfield to compile 265 rushing yards on the night.

Negron scored twice in the first half, on runs of 27 and 65 yards and had a 42-yard touchdown reception from McDowell called back on an illegal motion penalty.

Leesburg held the Hurricanes to just 12 rushing yards in the first half and limited Citrus to just two big plays for the evening. On one, a 42-yard pass from quarterback J.J. White to wideout Hayden Kelly, the Canes advanced to midfield. But two plays later, they fumbled and Ryan Rivera recovered to end the drive.

As the first half came to an end, Leesburg's Ben Rizzo attempted a 37-yard field goal which hit the crossbar and bounced back onto the field and the Yellow Jackets went into the locker room with a 14-0 advantage.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Citrus attempted an onside kick, but the Leesburg front five pounced and recovered on their own 48-yard-line. Eight plays later, Negron ran in from the 1 to open a 21-point lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, the Jackets again recovered a fumble. Five plays later, Jalen Dozier ran it in from the eight to put the game away.

Citrus managed its only score of the night with a march down the length of the field. With 15 seconds remaining, they fumbled. But the Jackets fumbled right back, giving White the opportunity for find A.J. Woythaler in the back of the end zone from four yards out.

Leesburg (3-1) hosts Brooksville Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday night.


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Strong second half carries Nature Coast past Leesburg

C.J. Risak Staff writer

LEESBURG - Blame it on the time of year. After all, it is October and Halloween season.
Or how about that full moon?

However one wishes to describe it, there certainly was a Jekyll-and-Hyde act on display at Friday's Brooksville Nature Coast-Leesburg game. And it was Nature Coast that took better advantage of it.

After a lackluster first half, the Sharks turned it on quickly in the second to knock off the Yellow Jackets 23-18.

Tevin Drake proved to be the ultimate difference for Nature Coast. Limited to 32 yards on seven carries in the first half, the 6-foot, 200-pound senior sliced through the Leesburg defense for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the second, totalling 192 yards rushing on 24 attempts.

"We just looked horrible in the first half," said Nature Coast coach Mark Lee. "I don't know what it is. We just challenged them (at halftime), and they played the way in the second half the way they should have been playing all game."

First half: Nature Coast totaled 34 yards in offense and trailed 6-0, losing a fumble and having a punt blocked. Second half: The Sharks gained 209 yards, scored three touchdowns and added a field goal.

For Leesburg, the game could easily be described as missed opportunities.

"They're good," Yellow Jackets' coach Charles Nassar said of Nature Coast. "You can't leave all the points on the field we left in the first half. We didn't expect that lead to stand up."

Still, it was Leesburg that struck first when Trey McKinney got through the line and blocked Nature Coast's Richard Hart's punt attempt, recovering it and taking it in for the score. The extra point was blocked, but the Jackets were up 6-0.

It remained that way until the Sharks attitude adjustment at halftime, Hyde substituting for Jekyll (or vice versa). On Leesburg's second play of the the second half, Luther McDowell fumbled on the exchange with quarterback Efrain Negron and Nature Coast recovered. It took the Sharks three plays to travel the 21 yards, Drake going the final eight for the score and a 7-6 lead.

They followed that with a 19-yard field goal by Tyler Callaghan to increase their lead to 10-6 and, after a Leesburg three-and-out, the Sharks constructed a 12-play, 77-yard drive culminated by a 10-yard scoring pass from C.J. Baker to Anthony Carlucci.

That made it 16-6 early in the fourth. Leesburg, which failed to get a second-half first down until nearly the midpoint of the fourth quarter, got two late TDs from Jalen Dozier, one on a 24-yard sweep and another on an 11-yard scramble.

"We didn't block anybody," Nassar said. "Finally in the fourth quarter we got some blocks."

But it was too late. Dozier's second score came after Drake put the game away for the Sharks with a 44-yard cutback score that made it 23-12. Dozier's final TD came with just 19.8 seconds to go.

The game had major implications in District 3A-6. Nature Coast, the pre-season favorite, is 4-1 overall, 2-1 in the district. Leesburg is 3-2 overall, 1-1 in the district.

C.J. Risak Staff writer
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Lofton's impact went beyond the field

This article appeared in the Orlando Sentinel on Jan. 14, 2004.

Former Leesburg football coach Wilbur Lofton loved the retirement home he and his wife, Ethel, built in 1996 in the small town of Reliance, Tenn. To Lofton, fishing in the pond on his property was like heaven on earth.
"He loved his home here," Ethel Lofton said. "Reliance is just a little community, up in the mountains. There are no businesses, no stoplights. The only reason it is a town is because it had a post office, which it doesn't even have any more. We bought the land here in 1987 and for the next 10 years we came up here, camping and working on the land.

"It was like a jungle, but we cleared it, we built a pond and the house. He loved it up here."

Wilbur Lofton, 68, perhaps the most successful football coach Leesburg High School has ever had, died at his home Dec. 21 after a yearlong battle with colon cancer.
"There are a lot of people who know the Xs and Os," said Buford Robinson, Leesburg's former principal, who gave a young Lofton his first head coaching job in 1966. "But he had a special relationship with the players. He knew how to motivate the players."

Lofton's most successful year at Leesburg came in 1969 when he led the Yellow Jackets to what was then the Class A state championship game in Tampa Stadium where they lost to Tampa Blake 27-6. Leesburg also made it into the state playoffs under Lofton in 1971. In 1980, he led Tarpon Springs to the state playoffs.

His 36 years of coaching also included stops as head coach at Tifton (Ga.) High School, three years at Hudson High School and 13 years at New Port Richey Gulf. His first coaching job came at the University or Georgia in 1960, where he worked with the freshman team. That team included future Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton.

Back in his years at Leesburg, Lofton had more to worry about overcoming than opposing teams.
It was the late 1960s, and while many schools and teams were dealing with racial unrest, Lofton wouldn't have any of that on his football field when students and athletes at Carver High School, the black school in Leesburg, blended with Leesburg's white student body.

"He brought us together, taught us to love one another, to respect one another," said Mike Napier, the senior quarterback on the '69 team. "Everybody in Leesburg was excited about our football team, black and white. There were no racial problems."

Kenny Mitchem, a senior slotback and strong safety for the state finalists, said the movie Remember the Titans, which was about a Virginia high school football team and how it dealt with integration, reminded him of how Lofton handled the situation.

"We were fully integrated that year [1969-70]," Mitchem said "The first thing Coach Lofton did was he pulled us to one side. And he pulled the black players to one side. He told us, we were going to be a team and we, as football players, were going to be the leaders of our school.

"He treated everyone equally."

Leesburg went 9-1 through the regular season in '69, losing only to Lake City. It then beat Auburndale 12-0 and Belle Glades 36-23 to reach the state title game.

But the run towards the state runner-up berth did not happen in just one season. Lofton's ability to motivate players helped build the Yellow Jackets football program from the day he became head coach.

"The first thing he did was call all the males into the auditorium and he asked everyone to stand up who was playing football. Twenty-three guys stood up," Napier said. "Then Coach Lofton challenged us to take pride in our school, in what we do, to be champions, to be winners. Anyway, we ended up with 40-some-odd guys out on the team.

"He was a great teacher, a great motivator."

Napier, who eulogized Lofton during the funeral service, remembers Lofton as a disciplinarian who stressed fundamentals but loved his players.

"I said, the Lord God knew Wilbur Lofton as Coach Wilbur Lofton," Napier said. "He touched thousands and thousands of lives. Green Bay had [Vince] Lombardi. Miami had [Don] Shula. We had Wilbur Lofton. He was the one who motivated us and challenged us and made us men."

Joe Williams of The Sentinel Staff
Orlando Sentinel

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