There are plenty of strong seasons happening at Sarasota high schools.
Now that October has almost arrived — maybe it already has, depending on when you're reading this — and the high school fall sports playoffs are, somehow, just weeks away, I thought it would be a good time to revive my “underrated players” column, which I always struggle to concisely describe in more detail than that. But for you, I will try.
This column is not exhaustive. There will be fall sports athletes having great seasons that do not appear on this list. This is simply a way to give some recognition to athletes that deserve it and have not gotten it this season, at least from me.
Let's start with swimming. Most of the big swimming events, the ones that give an idea how individuals and teams will perform at states, like the Tri-County Championships, take place in October. While the sports community waits for those results, I'll give props to Sarasota High boys swimmer Evan Keogh, who won all four of his events at a dual meet against Riverview High on Sept. 22. Riverview’s Addison Sauickie had a strong day on the girls side, winning three events.
On the cross country circuit, Riverview High junior boys runner Brendan Roper is having a nice season. Roper finished 10th (17:49.84) out of 176 runners at the Palmetto Invitational on Sept. 25 at Palmetto High, one spot ahead of senior teammate Riccardo Testini (17:59.60). Roper’s fastest time of the year came at the North Port Invitational on Sept. 18 when he ran a 17:09.26. Keep pushing that hard and Roper might break the 17-minute barrier soon, no small feat.
On the girls side, Cardinal Mooney High sophomore Addison Dempsey has finished first or second in all five races she has run this season, most recently finishing second at the Palmetto Invitational (19:53.44).
A shout out to the Sarasota Christian volleyball team is necessary. The Blazers are 14-3 after a 3-1 road win against Sarasota High on Monday and a 3-1 home win against The Out-of-Door Academy on Tuesday. The Blazers might not yet be able to compete with the Cardinal Mooneys of the world — Sarasota Christian was swept by the Cougars on Sept. 10 — but after going 14-12-1 in 2020 against similar opponents, this year is a massive step forward thus far. Senior outside hitter Hailey Knepp leads the team with 4.3 kills per set, per MaxPreps.
Finally, a lot of the attention on the Sarasota High football team’s (4-1) offense is paid to wide receiver T.J. McKay, and rightfully so; the senior has caught 21 passes for 497 yards and 10 touchdowns in five games. That is spectacular. But don't forget about Tyler Pack. Playing opposite McKay, the junior has caught 13 passes for 225 yards and a touchdown. The Sailors need more than one strong option in the passing game and Pack had provided another. That will be important in the second half of the season, especially on Friday, when Sailors travel to Riverview High (4-1) for the teams’ annual rivalry game, which starts at 7:30 p.m. The Ram Bowl will be the place to be; I can't wait for this game.
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