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Published Wednesday, October 26, 2005

'Naughts in National TV Spotlight


Lakeland's Chris Rainey generated national buzz for the Dreadnaughts when the team won the Class 5A state title last season.

By Roy Fuoco

The Ledger

It's showtime for the Lakeland football team.

After receiving national recognition in print when it was ranked No. 1 in USA Today at the beginning of the season, Lakeland will now get national exposure on TV.

The No. 1-ranked Dreadnaughts will play their first nationally televised football game when they meet Kissimmee Osceola at 7 p.m. Thursday at Bryant Stadium as part of the FSN Nike High School Football Game of the Week, which is a package of five games.

The game will air live on FSN Florida and on 20 FSN regional sports channels around the country. Cathy Weeden, vice president and general manager of FSN Florida, estimates that the game will be available in 70 million homes, including 53 million homes live.

The Dreadnaughts, who can clinch their 17th district title, are excited about the game being on TV but refuse to be overwhelmed by the hype.

"It's just another game," junior running back Jamar Taylor said. "We've been on TV before."

Added quarterback Billy Lowe: "You can't get caught up in the hype or bad things are going to happen. You have to play it like any other game. Everybody knows it's on national TV. Everybody gets excited about it. You just have keep your humility about it and go out and play like it's every other game."

The series came about as part of discussions between Nike, the title sponsor, and Fox Sports. FSN Florida got involved in looking for games in the late spring and early summer.

"We wanted to put together a series of high-profile games involving powerhouse schools and powerhouse regions," Weeden said.

Lakeland certainly entered the picture when it received its national ranking. In two other national polls, the Dreadnaughts are ranked No. 3 and No. 5.

As the host school, Lakeland received $5,000 to move the game from Friday to Thursday and to cover any additional costs that may occur because of the production.

"High schools don't typically have extra funds, and we didn't want to be a hardship on them," Weeden said.

Lakeland principal Mark Thomas said he doesn't know how moving the game from Friday to Thursday will affect the gate. He said he hopes fans of other schools who have wanted to see Lakeland play will come to the game since their high school isn't playing. And he hopes that Lakeland's fans come out strong.

"There's a lot of excitement about the game being on national TV," Thomas said.

The game will be a first-class production. Amy Pempel, director of media relations for Sun Sports and FSN Florida, said they will produce the game just like they do a college game. There will be five cameras and a full production truck.

The game will be broadcast by Paul Kennedy on play-by-play, James Bates as analyst and Tom Block as the sideline reporter.

The production crew will get to Bryant Stadium about seven hours before the game to lay cable and set up the production equipment.

Weeden said FSN Florida does not release the cost of producing a football game but noted that the costs of high school games are a bit higher because high school stadiums aren't set up for broadcasting like college stadiums.

This isn't the first Lakeland game to be televised. It has been on local cable numerous times as the Catch-47 Game of the Week, including earlier this year against Lake Gibson.

But national TV games, although not necessarily including Lakeland or any Polk County team, could become more common in the upcoming years. Although ratings for the earlier games were not available, Weeded said that FSN officials are happy with the results, and she expects the series to continue.

Lakeland nearly was on ESPN earlier this season to play Hoover (Ala.) instead of Nease, but Nease wouldn't let Hoover out of the contract to play.

About 928,000 households tuned in for the game that Hoover won, 50-29.

The financial benefit to the schools playing in a nationally televised game is minimal. But that could change.

Former CBS Sports president Neal Pilson told Bloomberg News: "The high schools are still figuring it out. Once the schools pool their resources and hire experienced negotiators, you'll see a whole new business develop from this rapidly."

For now, schools simply have to settle for the national exposure.

"I think it's great to have high schools recognized . . . especially when you go national with live coverage," Lakeland coach Bill Castle said. "It's good exposure for high school football, and I think it's taking off."

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The QB for Lakeland is going to the Ville according to his dad, it seems he wasn't recruiting by any of the schools in Florida.  Too bad, the kid looked good last night, and we all know the Bulls need QB help.

at this point we should be offering any and every warm body that can throw the ball nutil we have a warm body that can throw the ball

no tier 1,2 or3 QB should leave the state of FL without an offer from USF, IMHO

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  • 2 weeks later...

Published Saturday, November 12, 2005



Dreadnaughts Take to Air To Roll Into the Semifinals


Ledger Correspondent

LAKELAND -- Lakeland senior Billy Lowe passed for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns Friday night, sending No. 1 ranked (USA Today) Lakeland into the Class 5A, Region 2 football semifinals.

Lowe and Lakeland's stingy defense provided the Dreadnaughts with a 41-0 victory over the East Bay Indians (5-6) before a crowd of about 5,000 at Bryant Stadium.

Lakeland (11-0) plays on the road in the semfinal game next Friday against Tampa Chamberlain, a 24-12 winner over Land O' Lakes.

Normally a ball-control/big play running team, Lakeland took to the air from the start and broke the game open when Lowe connected with tailback Chris Rainey for scoring passes of 36 and 61 yards. He would have had another touchdown pass but for a penalty nullifying it.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Lowe began his high school career as a wrestler, three times making the state tournament. He also played football, mostly as a linebacker and backup quarterback, but took the reins in his senior year.

He described himself as a thinker. "We try to do the opposite of what the other team's defense is doing," he said. "It's all about reading them. They act and we react."

Lowe completed 12-of-19 passes, and had receivers open all night.

"I missed some throws because I got happy feet," he said. "They were blitzing and I threw too quickly."

Lakeland coach Bill Castle said he had to adjust his offense which allowed for Lowe's passing. "They came out in a different defense than we were expecting," Castle said.

"We got a good effort and we got to play everybody and kept our starters from getting banged up."

Rainey, who ran for 306 yards and four touchdowns the week before, got Lakeland on the scoreboard on a 39-yard run with three minutes left in the first quarter.

The Dreadnaughts got the ball right back on a nine-yard punt by the Indians and scored in two plays. Jamar Taylor went from the 26 to the 8 and then rambled up the middle to the goal line where he lost possession of the ball. Never mind. Teammate John Hardy pounced on it for the touchdown.

Lakeland's defensive unit was so effective that the Dreadnaughts' had scoring drives in the second quarter that covered 36, 26 and 61 yards. It was the team's fifth shutout of the season.

On the first possession, Lowe sent Rainey out wide as a flanker and threw a sideline pass that was actually behind the line of scrimmage, Rainey put on a b burst of speed and blew past two defenders on his way to the end zone.

On the second possession, Lowe passed to Paul Wilson for 12 yards, then for 13 yards and Jamar Taylor leaped over the line of scrimmage from the 1. Lakeland had the ball on its own 39 when Lowe again passed to Rainey on a sideline pass and he won a race to the end zone.

Those three scoring drives came within five minutes and put Lakeland ahead, 35-0.


Lakeland running back Jamar Taylor tries to wrest free of the grasp of East Bay's Tyler Snell in the first half Friday.

He's a Junior and received a letter from Miami this week.

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Published Saturday, November 19, 2005

'Naughts Enjoy Yet Another Rout

By Roy Fuoco

The Ledger

TAMPA -- Dominate, control, rule, dictate, direct govern -- Roget's Thesaurus is running out of synonyms to describe the typical Lakeland football game this season.

The score says it all.

Lakeland's 49-0 victory over Tampa Chamberlain Friday night in the Class 5A, Region 2 semifinals before about 3,800 fans was simply your basic rout by the USA Today's No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

Considering that Lakeland's average margin of victory is 36 points, is it even a surprise that such a rout took place in the second week of the playoffs?

"Not really, not with all the preperation and hard work we put in practice," linebacker Troy Johnson said. "You see the results every game."

The Dreadnaughts (12-0) dominated every phase of the game. They finished with 309 yards of offense, which could have been more except for the running clock in the second half and the six turnovers that the defense caused, which gave the offense a short field.

Chris Rainey rushed for 108 yards and one touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass. Jamar Taylor rushed for 91 yards and three touchdowns, and quarterback Billy Lowe threw two touchdown passes and ran for one more.

Steve Wilks, Ahmad Black, Deonte Parker and Devon Terry all had interceptions. Johnson and Weber Stanis each recovered fumbles. Stanis' recovery was in the end zone for a touchdown.

Lakeland allowed just 38 yards of offense in the first half and 149 for the game.

"They're as good as their reputation," Chamberlain coach Billy Turner said. "They exposed every weakness that we had. We played hard, but they were just too good for us. That's a great football team. They did everything good. They execute on offense unbelievably."

The game was close for a quarter, in part because of penalties that slowed down the Dreadnaughts, whose first-team offense scored on every possession.

Wilks' interception gave Lakeland its first possession at the Chiefs' 40. Rainey apparently scored on the first play, but a clipping penalty brought the ball back to the 39. It took Lakeland three more plays to score with Taylor's 7-yard touchdown run.

It was 7-0 after the first quarter but four plays into the second quarter, Lakeland capped a 12-play, 77-yard drive with Lowe's 13-yard pass to Paul Wilson.

Johnson's fumble recovery set up Lowe's 20-yard touchdown run on the ensuing play for a 21-0 lead, and the rout was on.

"We got a great effort tonight," Lakeland coach Bill Castle said. "We had great fan support. That means a lot, and it motivates our kids. It was a good team effort. The defense played real solid tonight, and the offensive line did a great job controlling the line of scrimmage. Jamar and Chris ran good, and Billy did a good job running the offense."

It was 35-0 at halftime.

Lakeland will play Lake Gibson at Bryant Stadium in the regional final next week.

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