Highlights from Week 5 of the regular season:
Player of the Week: Keith Walker, Wiregrass Ranch
The junior already established himself as the go-to guy in Wiregrass Ranch’s passing game. In four games, Walker had 18 catches for 266 yards — surpassing his season totals from a year ago.
His emergence helped ease the transition among quarterbacks with Rocco Becht taking over the starting job from Hunter Helton, who transferred to Armwood.
On Friday, Walker had his best game yet, catching four passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Bulls to a 35-7 victory over River Ridge. Wiregrass Ranch is undefeated (5-0) heading into a Class 7A, District 8 showdown with Armwood.
Make it 21-0 Wiregrass on this nifty grab and GO from Keith Walker. This was 3rd and 1, catch was the tricky part. Walker now 3-139-2 receiving yikes. Rocco Becht 4-5-181. Still in first quarter :44 left. @TBHomeTeam pic.twitter.com/QBVdf6inDl— Darek Sharp (@DarekSharp) September 21, 2019
Walker did most of the work on his three scores, taking short passes and turning them into big gains with his speed and arsenal of dekes.
But his best moves may have come in the return game. Walker fielded a punt, used a series of spin moves to shake off defenders and took off on a 60-yard return that set up the Bulls’ inside the 20-yard line.
Team of the Week: Newsome
There were signs Newsome was turning things around under coach Christian Yockey last season. After starting 1-4, the Wolves finished 2018 by winning three of their final five games, including an upset of district foe Sarasota Riverview.
The momentum has continued. On Friday, Newsome beat Durant 26-14, the Wolves’ second straight win in the Alafia River rivalry.
Newsome is now 4-1, equaling its win total from a year ago.
Yockey, in his second season, has stuck to the program’s roots. That means running the ball — a lot. The Wolves certainly have the backs to make that happen. Five players had more than 100 yards rushing this season heading into the game against the Cougars. Newsome was averaging nearly 300 yards per game on the ground.
After struggling early on Friday, Newsome’s commitment to the run game paid off with 263 yards of offense in the second half. Jason Albritton and Jason White each tallied more than 100 yards rushing.
Coach of the Week: Andres Perez, Steinbrenner
The Warriors improved to 5-0 for the first time since 2015 after their 29-15 win over Hillsborough. The game had extra meaning since Perez used to be an assistant coach under Earl Garcia at Hillsborough. It was the first time the schools have met on the football field, and the Warriors looked prepared. The defense held the Terriers to 2 passing yards and 158 rushing yards, 83 of those coming on one play.
Offensively, quarterback Haden Carlson was efficient, with 174 passing yards and two touchdown passes. Deon Silas gained 87 rushing yards.
Steinbrenner has a bye week before playing a district game at Plant. The Warriors have a real chance to be 6-0 for the first time.
While Garcia was not happy with the way his team played Friday night, he was happy for one of his former assistants. “He’s a rising star, you watch," Garcia said.
Time to eat
Winning is a great motivator, and 5-0 Lakewood has been well motivated so far. But it never hurts to provide some added incentive, especially for those hard-working athletes flying under the radar — the offensive linemen.
“Every time I get 100 yards, the boys get to go out to eat,” running back Derrel Kelley said. “We’re proud of them and I can’t do it without them.”
And with his 135-yard, three-touchdown effort against Braden River, guards Ka’won Reedy and Damien Daniels, center Jabriel Jackson and tackles Lezion Coleman and Aaron Williams get the reward of chowing down.
There was no mention of whether there’s a second dinner due; quarterback Deuce Spann also eclipsed 100 yards rushing (157) in the 38-20 win.
• Since giving up 41 points to Lake Gibson in the season opener, Hernando’s defense has tightened up, allowing a combined 26 points in the past four games.
• St. Petersburg, which had a mass exodus of players who either graduated or transferred in the offseason, got its first win, beating Gibbs 9-6 in overtime.
• Riverview, now 5-0 after beating Strawberry Crest, is off to its best start in school history and is guaranteed to have its first non-losing season since 2007.
• Lakewood’s shutout streak ended. The undefeated Spartans had gone four games without allowing an opponent to score.
• Clearwater Academy’s offense is averaging 58 points per game, by far the most in the bay area.
• Steinbrenner’s defense caused nine turnovers against Hillsborough, six fumbles and three interceptions. Matt Durrance had all three interceptions, which equals his total from last season.
• Keswick Christian’s Tilon Thompson scored four touchdowns in a 39-0 win over Lakeland Santa Fe. The Crusaders are now 3-2 this season.
Times correspondent Chuck Frye contributed to this report.