Florida

Orlando Sentinel prep editor talks rise of Montverde Academy basketball & No. 1 Olympia baseball

Buddy Collings of the Orlando Sentinel joined me Saturday to talk about the emergence of Montverde Academy as a national high school basketball powerhouse and the odds of Orlando’s Olympia High School, the No. 1 baseball team in the nation, at winning the state title this year.

Montverde Academy, led by LSU commit Ben Simmons, won its third national title in a row on Saturday. Collings also talked about how Simmons, named national player of the year by numerous organizations, lost out on the Mr. Basketball award in Florida to fellow LSU commit Antonio Blakeney of Orlando’s Oak Ridge High School.

( – Click here to listen to Buddy Collings of Orlando Sentinel on Carnahan Chronicles – )

Top high school baseball team in nation remains unbeaten

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. – When you’re the No. 1 high school baseball team in the nation, in both the USA Today and MaxPreps rankings, each game feels like so much is on the line.

Olympia baseball

Olympia won the Florida League High School Invitational on Saturday to improve to 17-0-1.

Orlando’s Olympia High School improved to 17-0-1 on the season Saturday while defending its Florida League High School Invitational title with a 2-0 win over Pembroke Pines Charter at Lake Brantley High School.

The national attention will continue to follow the Titans as they near postseason play.

“We try not to focus on that,” Olympia coach Chuck Schall said. “The rankings and all that, it’s always there, but we try not to let those expectations dictate how we play.

“Every time we win these close ballgames it just makes us tougher.”

Olympia is winning close games thanks to a stable of quality pitchers and equally impressive efforts defensively.

(Read more about Olympia’s recent win at Orlando Sentinel and 740 The Game)

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Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Breaking down opening week of wild NFL free agency

A wild start to free agency this week has a number of players in the National Football League relocating to new parts of the country.

Among the surprising moves was one made by Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who opted for more money by joining the rival Philadelphia Eagles.

On Saturday we discussed the decision by Murray and broke down the moves being made this week by the local NFL teams in the state of Florida.

Kaká free kick helps Orlando City Soccer Club draw New York City FC in inaugural MLS meeting

ORLANDO – Fans rose to their feet each time Kaká touched the ball during the Major League Soccer debuts for both the Orlando City Soccer Club and New York City FC.

But it took a little more than the length of the match for locals to get what they came to see at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

Kaká delivered a crucial goal, thanks to a lucky bounce, that evened the match after NYCFC took the lead in the 76th minute. Spain’s David Villa set up U.S. national team member Mix Diskerud for a score from the top of the box that put the visitors in front and seemingly ruined the day for the Lions.

But the Brazilian legend tied the match on a free kick in the 91st minute by deflecting a shot off of defender Jeb Brovsky, who provided an otherwise fiery presence throughout the match.

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Things that go with Redhook

I was introduced to Redhook Long Hammer IPA at a Daytona Cubs minor league baseball game several years back, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Pun intended.

Long Hammer is by far the favorite of the four Redhook styles I’ve tried. It’s much smoother than the typical IPA and a perfect pairing for spring-time baseball in Florida. It also goes quite well with other things in life, but not all, as explained at the bottom of a sixer I sipped through.

Redhook

Carnahan Coverage: Tim Mitchell has rebounded in major way since high school basketball days

Tim Mitchell didn’t survive roster cuts his junior year at Orlando’s University High School. The following year he played a major role though in a successful season for the Cougars, setting the stage for where he is today. I had a chance to cover Mitchell during my time at the East Orlando Sun newspaper during the 2007-08 season. Below is an edited version of a story I wrote about him for the January 3, 2008 edition.

Tim Mitchell_EOSunBut first an update: Mitchell is currently finishing out his senior season at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida after helping lead the program to its first trip to the NAIA Division II tournament a year ago. Southeastern entered the postseason unseeded but finished third in the country after earning wins over No. 16 Huntington (Ind.), No. 1 Cardinal Stritch (Wis.) and No. 9 Davenport (Mich.), before falling to the eventual champions, No. 5 Indiana Wesleyan, in the semis.

Mitchell led all tournament players with nine blocked shots and averaged 10 points and 10.3 rebounds in four games for a team that finished 27-7 overall. During the 2013-14 season Mitchell blocked 67 shots and shot 58 percent from the floor while averaging 13.6 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. Southeastern is currently 15-11 overall and 9-8 in The Sun Conference.

ORLANDO, Fla. – When Tim Mitchell was unable to secure a roster spot at University High School before the start of his junior year, he had all but given up on his prep playing career.

It seemed as though the closest he’d get to a varsity basketball game would be while watching from the stands. That’s about the time reality set in for the 6-foot-7 post player as he began accounting for his own actions, or lack thereof.

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Carnahan Coverage: No. 22 UCF baseball pushing for first postseason trip since 2012

The UCF baseball team reached a regional championship game in 2012, capping a back-to-back run in the postseason with one of the strongest squads in recent memory.

A year ago the Knights lineup featured a majority of players new to the program, yet they barely missed out on being selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Entering this season UCF has just five players on roster from that 2012 team. But the experience this group garnered a year ago has them ranked No. 22 in the Baseball America preseason rankings.

I spoke with senior JoMarcos Woods and head coach Terry Rooney for the Orlando Sentinel this week about how valuable that experience will be this year. The Knights will face five teams this season that open ranked in the Top 25.

Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Bright House Sports Network’s Austin Lyon talks future of National Signing Day

On Saturday I was joined by Austin Lyon of Bright House Sports Network to talk about college football’s upcoming National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Lyon provided a preview of what to expect from BHSN’s coverage while also touching on what the future may hold for National Signing Day as more and more student-athletes opt to become early enrollees at their colleges of choice.

He broke down the schools being considered by offensive lineman Martez Ivey of Apopka High School, the top college football prospect in Central Florida, and what schools running back Dexter Williams and athlete Jalen Julius are each considering. Both Williams and Julius finished their prep careers at West Orange High School in Winter Garden.

Lyon wrapped up the segment by talking about the recruiting classes of college programs throughout the state of Florida and gave a short preview of BHSN’s upcoming coverage of the boys and girls basketball postseason.

Future looking bright for Urban Meyer and Ohio State Buckeyes

It’s not exactly a rags to riches story, but what Ohio State’s football team accomplished down the stretch this season is worthy of its “us against the world” tagline.

Hailing from the under-appreciated Big 10, the Buckeyes not only navigated the negative perceptions of its conference affiliation unbuttered, but did so after being embarrassed at home against Virginia Tech in their second game of the year.

By the end of the season Ohio State was forced to turn to the third quarterback on their roster in the conference title game against Wisconsin, a game in which they needed to win in order to be considered for the inaugural four-team College Football Playoff. The same story played out in the semifinals against Alabama, and finally in the National Championship against Oregon.

( – Click here to watch every touchdown scored Monday between Ohio State and Oregon – )

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Hannah Plybon emerges from small town to captain of University of Akron women’s hoops team

(The following story is an alternate version of what will appear in the Jan. 9, 2014 edition of OrrViews in Orrville, Ohio)

ORLANDO, Fla. – It didn’t take long for Hannah Plybon to showcase the kind of impact she could have at the highest level of college basketball.

Hannah Plybon (left) earned as spot on the All-MAC Freshman Team a year ago.

Hannah Plybon (left) earned as spot on the All-MAC Freshman Team a year ago.

On the heels of successful runs in three different sports during her senior year at Orrville High School in Ohio, Plybon made an immediate impression on coaches and teammates upon her arrival at the University of Akron.

Plybon worked her way into the starting lineup as a freshman before her rookie season ever got underway, on a team featuring six seniors that had returned from a 23-win campaign.

Plybon has since blossomed into a leader at Akron, on a squad that opened the 2014-15 season by winning its first 10 games.

She’s now less than a year removed from being named to the All-MAC Freshman Team after starting 32 of 33 games for the Lady Zips, who qualified for the NCAA Tournament and won the Mid-American Conference for the first time in school history.

Not bad for someone hailing from small-town America, where the pride of being hometown to former college coach Bobby Knight and a jelly manufacturer is offset by two decades worth of factories closing shop and families relocating elsewhere.

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Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Notre Dame alum and NFL first-round pick Jeff Faine talks about football past and helping foster kids

Jeff Faine was one of the fortunate ones.

Just seven days after being born Faine was adopted by parents who provided stability for a lifetime, ensuring he’d never be shuffled between foster homes throughout his childhood.

After a four-year career as a student-athlete at Notre Dame, the 2003 NFL Draft pick (21st overall) embarked on a 10-year professional playing career. Today he helps kids aging out of the foster care system by giving them a chance to transition positively into adulthood at The Faine House, which opened its doors a little more than a year ago.

Faine joined the show Saturday morning to talk about The Faine House and his playing days at Seminole High School in Sanford, Fla., with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and in the National Football League while with the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals.

( – Click here to listen to J.C.’s interview with Jeff Faine on AM 740 The Game – )

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Carnahan Chronicles College Football Rankings (Week 14)

Injuries to quarterbacks at Baylor and Ohio State have finally moved TCU into the No. 4 spot in this week’s Carnahan Chronicles College Football Rankings. But how the power conferences are eventually decided this weekend will play a role in whether TCU can maintain their position. There’s just one more round of games left before the final four spots are officially wrapped up.

#1 (1) Florida State (12-0) – Won 24-19 vs Florida
#2 (2) Alabama (11-1) – Won 55-44 vs No. 15 Auburn
#3 (3) Oregon (11-1) – Won 47-19 at Oregon State
#4 (6) TCU (10-1) – Won 48-10 at Texas
#5 (4) Baylor (10-1) – Won 48-46 at Texas Tech
#6 (5) Ohio State (11-1) – Won 42-28 vs Michigan
#7 (–) Arizona (10-2) – Won 42-35 vs No. 13 Arizona State
#8 (–) Georgia Tech (10-2) – Won 30-24 at No. 16 Georgia
#9 (10) Wisconsin (10-2) – Won 34-24 vs No. 18 Minnesota
#10 (7) Mississippi State (10-2) – Lost 31-17 at No. 19 Mississippi

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Carnahan Chronicles College Football Rankings (Week 13)

Not much has changed from a week ago in the Carnahan Chronicles College Football Rankings. FSU is still the only unbeaten from a power conference at this point in the season. The other unbeaten team barely hung on to win Saturday as Conference USA’s Marshall improved to 11-0 with a 23-18 win over UAB. Maybe one day we’ll see a team such as this get a shot at making the playoffs. Colorado State (10-1) of the Mountain West is the last remaining team left with one loss not listed below after winning 58-20 over New Mexico behind running back Dee Hart, an Alabama transfer. Would be interested in seeing Hart get a chance to run against Bama at the end of the season.

Here’s the rankings for this week:

#1 (1) Florida State (11-0) – Won 20-17 vs Boston College
#2 (2) Alabama (10-1) – Won 48-14 vs Western Carolina
#3 (3) Oregon (10-1) – Won 44-10 vs Colorado
#4 (4) Baylor (9-1) – Won 49-28 vs Oklahoma State
#5 (5) Ohio State (10-1) – Won 42-27 vs Indiana
#6 (6) TCU (9-1) – Did not play
#7 (7) Mississippi State (10-1) – Won 51-0 vs Vanderbilt
#8 (10) UCLA (9-2) – Won 38-20 vs No. 19 USC
#9 (–) Georgia (9-2) – Won 55-9 vs Charleston Southern
#10 (9) Wisconsin (9-2) – Won 26-24 at Iowa

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Carnahan Coverage: Estrela & Rafael Ramos making most of time with Orlando City Soccer Club

When Estrela and Rafael Ramos each earned Major League Soccer contracts with the Orlando City Soccer Club in August the move from Portugal to Florida was made easier because of their existing friendship, forged under the youth soccer system of Benfica.

The 19-year olds played out the final month of the USL PRO season with the Lions this year and joined Portugal’s U-20 national team this month in what’s proved to be a busy stretch away from family and friends.

In just a matter of months they’ll continue the journey when they make their professional debuts with Orlando City as members of MLS in March.

( – Click here to read J.C.’s feature on Estrela & Rafael Ramos for MLSSoccer.com – )

Carnahan Chronicles Radio: Interview with Danny Morales, local sports update, college and pro football talk

A friend from back home succumbed to a long illness earlier this week and I felt it was only right to dedicate this week’s edition of Carnahan Chronicles radio to his memory. See you when we get there, Jason Vann.

This week the show got underway with talk about the opening round of the high school football playoffs in Florida and the lone remaining girls volleyball team from the area still playing for a state title. I also gave mention to the UCF women’s soccer team hosting a match this weekend in the first round of the NCAA postseason and interviewed Valencia Voice editor-in-chief Danny Morales about UCF football’s win Friday over Tulsa.

( – Click here to listen to J.C. dedicate show, talk local sports, and interview Danny Morales – )

Producer Chris Vazquez joined me to talk about the biggest college and pro football games of the weekend, but the conversation took a bit of a turn each segment as we zeroed in on a couple topics that’ve created debate in our respective circles.

The first was whether the Florida State-Miami game is an even bigger rivalry for fans of the Seminoles than Florida State-Florida. The other was whether the Cleveland Browns should invest in Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel as the franchise’s quarterback of the future. Not sure we came to a clear conclusion, but talking it out is a good step in the right direction.

( – Click here to listen to J.C. and Chris talk FSU-Miami and college football this week – )

( – Click here to listen to J.C. and Chris talk Cleveland Browns QBs & NFL games this week – )