Last updateThu, 20 Aug 2015 9pm

Taking the Field: Santa Fe High 2015 Season

By SUZETTE COOK/Today editor

ALACHUA – While the Cady Studios photographer from Lake City was lining up the Santa Fe High School Raiders Varsity Football team last week for yearbook portraits, SFHS Head Football Coach Bill Wiles was trying to get the message across to his players that the change in district competition for the 2015-2016 season is not something to underestimate.

In January, Wiles said the new map was drawn and announced.

“We'll be playing a difficult schedule, Wiles said. “What worries me, is that we changed districts. So our kids are perceiving it as we were in a district with Suwannee and North Marion, and now, no longer we are. Our kids’ perception is that it’s going to be easy.”

Preseason practice for Raiders started on Aug. 3. And the team is gearing up for its first game on Aug. 21.

This is Wiles’ fourth year coaching at SFHS.

“We should have a good football team,” he said, but added, “Nothing is given to you. We live in a society where people expect things for nothing.”

“Every year you have to rebuild your team,” Wiles said. “Last year’s team has nothing to do with this year’s team. Whatever they want to be. They’re either listening to us, and they’ll take coaching. This team is starting from scratch."

Then he listed the new lineup of top teams that the Raiders will meet up with on the line of scrimmage soon. “Bradford County, Keystone Heights, P.K. Yonge, Interlachen,” he said. “We open the season with Newberry.”

Then it will be on to Charlton County , Georgia “to play one of the best teams in the nation,” he said. “I don’t know if the kids are ready. We play a 7A school from Tallahassee and we’re a 4A team. We play a brutal schedule.”

Then coach sent over players to talk about the upcoming season.

Captain Caysaun Wakley, 17, is a linebacker, a senior, and has a goal of making to the NFL

“I feel like we’ve got a really good chance,” Wakley said, “I’m feeling confident. If we just come out and play our game, we can succeed and possibly get a state championship.”

Wakley said he has been taking in 5,000 calories a day to pick up an extra 20 pounds.

“Give it your all, it’s about how you’re going to show up and what you’re going to be remembered for,” he said.

Captain Tyler Hughey, also a linebacker and senior said, “We’re coming out of a pretty tough district. It’s going to be the same challenge. We’ve got to play every game like we’re playing against the best team in the state. We’ve got to be able to go out there and make plays.

“Our goal is to win a state championship. Intensity, leadership, encourage my teammates, lead by example,” the 17-year-old said about how he plans to make the best of his senior year at SFHS.

Senior running back Kenyatta Patterson said, “I’ve got heart and pride. I try to do the best for our team.” His advice for his teammates: “Give it everything you’ve got on that field.”

Senior Jamari Markham, 17, said he thinks the district changes “eased the competition.”

“It’s still good,” Markham said. “I’m going out with the same mentality as last year. We’re playing for each other, trying to go to state,”  the offensive tackled said. “I made the best out of my high school career.”

Jack-of-all-trades Walter Jenkins plays tight end, fullback  defensive end, linebacker and on special teams.

“Make sure you go full speed, the whole time,” is the mantra Jenkins plays by. “This is my last year,” the 17-year-old senior said. “Come out here and play fast, strong and got to be together. I’m not that vocal,” he said. “I lead by example.”

The athletes will be sharing the field with cheerleaders and the Raider Regiment Band.

“It’s mostly sophomores, cheerleader Kassidi Tillman said about the squad this year. “The team is rebuilding this season. We have a lot of new people, so we are teaching the basics and practicing a lot.”

Tillman said the cheer team looks forward to interacting with fans this year. “We try to get interactive,” she said. “Yell back at us when we have cheers, when we have signs, yell what they say. We want them talking back.”

Band Director Nate Bisco said the production this year is called “Time Flies” and it is his brain child. “We’re portraying the history of aviation,” he said. “Going back to DiVinci to hopefully Mission to Mars,” he added.

Songs to listen for include “Come Fly With Me,” “Leaving On A Jet Plane,” and Rocket Man.”

“Our color guard will be starting as mechanics,” Bisco said. “Half of them are going to then become flight attendants and pilots and the other half are going to then become astronauts in the last piece.”

“We’re very excited about this show, and it should be another great season of the Raider Regiment.”

According to Coach Wiles, the football team is in charge of its fate for the 2015-2016 season.

 “They got to care about each other, take coaching,” he said.

“In Florida, there are 500 and some football teams, and at the finish line, eight are going to cross it. Depends on how hard they work, how they live their life from day to day.There’s a lot of things that go into being a good football team.

“You got to be a good person first.”

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APD to staff SRO Program in Alachua


ALACHUA – The Alachua City Commission agreed on Aug. 10 to replace Alachua County Sheriff Office deputies with Alachua Police Department officers in a unanimous vote to insure continued staffing of the School Resource Officer Program.

In a contract prepared as an agreement between the School Board of Alachua County and the city of Alachua, the SBAC agrees to pay the city $82,805.12 for the 2015-2016 school year. The funds will be used to place an SRO at Santa Fe High School, Mebane Middle School, Alachua Elementary School and Irby Elementary School.

APD Chief Chad Scott, a former resource officer, addressed the commission about creating three part-time positions to continue to serve local schools.

“I believe that with these additional positions to the police department, we will be able to implement a school resource program and still accommodate staffing needs and patrol functions,” Scott said.

“I feel this is a huge opportunity for the Alachua Police Department to continue to build a positive relationship with our community."

Scott said he served as an SRO at Lake Forest Elementary, Fort Clarke Middle School, Oakview Middle School and Newberry High School.

“I still hold close relationships with students,” he said.  “As the Chief of Police, I look forward to keeping the public schools in the city of Alachua safe.”

Santa Fe High School Principal Dr. Beth LeClear said she looks forward to working with the APD.

“I am very excited,” LeClear said. “Chief Scott and I have already met. His priority is the safety of the children of Alachua.  I am very happy to work with Chief Scott and his team. We have previously hired City of Alachua [officers] and they are always professional, positive and great role models for the students of Santa Fe.  I am looking forward to a great year.”

 According to the contract, the city of Alachua “reserves control in determining staffing levels for the SROP in each of the four schools.”

 Commissioner Gary Hardacre said he is happy to have that control in the city’s hands.

“I’m glad we’re taking this away from the sheriff. I think it’s in the best interest of our citizens that our police chief, with the help of the city manager, makes these decisions. That way, our citizens really have a voice. If we have a problem in our community, I feel a lot more confident it will be handled the way it should be [having] direct control over that.”

Vice Mayor Ben Boukari, Jr. said he has fond memories of the resources officers from schools he attended.

“I think this is actually fantastic,” he said. “When I was in elementary school, I remember 'officer friendly.'  I remember her talking to us about stop signs and how important they were. That sounds so small, but it’s huge to a little kid learning.”

Commissioner Robert Wilford said his sister was an educator for 30 years, and he believes in the SROP. “The idea of children seeing a police officer in a positive light,” Wilford said. “I am very exciting with us taking the lead and cutting out the middle man.

Commissioner Shirley Green Brown is a retired educator.

“Just to see the partnership between the school board and our city police department,” she said. “What a wonderful relationship you will have with the students in this community. Thank you to the city, thank you to the staff.”

Mayor Gib Coerper congratulated the city on “making this happen before the school year starts.”

“All of us have been involved with the school,” Coerper said. “I see what a difference it makes. You will also be the recipient of the third grade letters this year,” he reminded Chief Scott of the tradition of having elementary students write letters to the mayor and police chief each year.

SBAC Public Information Officer Jackie Johnson is also excited about the agreement.

“We're glad of the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the city of Alachua and the Alachua Police Department through this contract,” she said.

“Having the city's own law enforcement officers working with the students, families and staff in their community will certainly be a benefit.”

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High Springs Playhouse gets upgrades

Photo SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today


HIGH SPRINGS – The High Springs Playhouse has a fresh coat of exterior paint and a fresh set of events listed on the marquee out front.

According to President of High Springs Playhouse Linda Burleson, the fresh coat of Windy Blue, Bracing and Quicksilver colors have people taking a second look at the 1950s structure that is currently featuring the youth production of “The Jungle Book.”

 Robert Karl owner of Karl’s Painting and Home Repair out of Gainesville put some finishing touches on the theater Friday. “It was an old brown and they picked out the new colors,” Karl said. “It’s brightened up and everybody really loves the new colors.”

Burleson said the renovations come from “generous sponsors and donations.”

“It desperately needed it,” Burleson said. “I think we’ve gotten the right reactions. It’s catching people’s eye as they go by. It’s refreshing.”

On the porch of the theater sits a giant bench that once served as a prop from a production of “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.”

“We replaced this ramp,” Burleson said about the access ramp that leads up to the porch. “Our plan is for it to last forever.”

“This took a lot of money,” she said. “Donations came from the High Springs CRA and from the community. People really stepped up.”

The recent production “The Jungle Book” took the stage on Aug. 7 with a sold out crowd.

Set designer Daniel Palmer helped with the stage,” Burleson said.

He crafted the hut from the jungle and “Made it wonderful,” she added. “Best set we’ve had all year.”

 One major interior upgrade are the arches over the decorative windows, said Burleson.

The next project the playhouse is working on solving is leaky air conditioner.

“A few weeks ago, they brought in an air conditioning service that cleaned out the air conditioner,” Burleson said. “We have a bad Freon leak and are Band-Aiding it every weekend getting a recharge of Freon.

“We are scrambling to raise money,” she said. Quotes for a new system are coming in at $7,000 to $13,000.

 Upcoming events include the production of “Harvey” and on Aug. 29, Burleson said “Directors are being invited to come see the playhouse.

“We’re inviting experienced directors who were here, but haven’t seen the building in a while. Others have directed here before we got these seats,” she added.

“Now we have professional lighting, sound, and want to get people back in here to see the changes.”

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County foreclosure sales moving onlinet

ALACHUA COUNTY – The days of Alachua County’s Clerk of the Court and Comptroller J.K. “Buddy” Irby and his staff standing in the lobby of the courthouse near the elevators auctioning off foreclosed properties are numbered.

As of Sept. 1, 2015, will take over the auction process holding them online at

The Fort Lauderdale-based company already represents 28 counties in Florida, and hopes to help increase auction revenue for Alachua County by increasing the number of bidders who can take part in the purchase of foreclosed properties, said CEO Lloyd McClendon.

“We provide this service for many clerks around the state,” McClendon said. “Buyers can avoid parking and other hassles, and do this from the comfort of their home or office.”

Registration is free, McClendon said, and placing a bid is free. “But you need a deposit in order to win,” he added. “You’ll need 5 percent of the amount you intend to win with.”

With no buyer’s premium, McClendon does the math.

“You’re able to win 20 times your deposit. So if you put down $1,000 deposit, the maximum amount of property you can purchase is $20,000.”

According to McClendon, charges the county a $49 transaction fee for every home it sells for counties using its online software and services.

“We’ve done foreclosures in Florida since 2008, using the online foreclosure system with 700,000 cases auctioned so far,” he said.

According to Irby, the idea is that auction participation will be available to everyone throughout the country. And the more bidders in the mix, the higher the selling price could go.

The online auction service will go live on Monday, Aug. 17.

Bidders who want to take a class to learn the software can attend a live training course at the Alachua County Courthouse Center, 201 W. University Ave. at 2 p.m. on Aug. 17.

Realauction is conducting the class and space can be reserved by calling 877-361-7325.

According to Irby, the bank holding the mortgage often ends up being the high bidder.

“They usually bid up to the amount they held the mortgage on it,” Irby said.

“They just want to get their money back. They don’t really want the property.”

“How high the bank will bid so they don’t lose money,” is up to each bank, Irby said.

“Some settle for getting 75 percent of their money back. But nobody knows that but the bank.”

Irby describes the process of what a normal auction goes like.

“We stand at the courthouse,” he said. “My staff or myself goes out and announces the property. It’s been properly advertised.

“It usually starts off at $100, and the next bid may be $10,000 and then we go from there. We really don’t know what’s going to happen.”

This procedure will play out the old-fashioned way until Sept. 1, Irby said. “And we’ll have lots of them,” he added Those interested in searching the database can visit and  click on Foreclosures, “And it list all the foreclosures we have coming up,” Irby said.

“Every now and then, people have gotten a really good bargain. It just depends on who shows up.”

 To close the bid under the current system, Irby said the winning bidder has to deposit 5 percent of the bid with the county.

“They have until the end of business next day to pay. If you don’t have the money, we don’t close the bid and somebody else does the bidding. If they don’t show back up, the money is kept by the court.”

Switching to the new online system has been in the planning stages for about six months,” Irby said. He advises potential bidders to research the properties thoroughly before they bid.

“We tell people ‘buyer beware.’ They want to do their research. What it is, if there are liens or other loans against the property. Research before you start jumping in and bidding.”

McClendon echoes the warning of buyer beware.

“There’s no guarantee,” McClendon said.

“You have to obtain a title search. It’s best if you have an attorney, a real estate professional to help. You really need to do your research, since there’s no guarantees from the clerk’s office. All lot of times, bidders get excited and speed through the warnings.”

The online process does help prevent bidders from fixing the rate on a property, McClendon said.

“Online saves the public time, money, and the clerk’s office resources,” he said. “It prevents collusion. No longer can people get together and ‘fix the deal.’ ”

At the Aug. 11 auction held in the courthouse lobby, four bidders took part in the foreclosure auction process.

One local property investor picked up a 4-bedroom house for $38,000. He said he will miss going to auctions in person because he said he got to know who the other bidders are, and once the process goes online, you won't know who your competition will be, or how high they'll be willing to go.

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Weather wreaks havoc on 2015 World Series

weather 55

SUZETTE COOK/Alachua County Today
Games for the 2015 BabeRuth World Series were on-again-off-again as a storm system lingered over Alachua County throughout the event. Volunteers tarped and tended to swamped diamonds.

ALACHUA – City of Alachua Recreation Director Hal Brady remembers the 1992 Babe Ruth World Series competition well because he said at least 20 inches of rain fell in less than a week.

The 61 teams who arrived in Alachua County to compete in the 2015 Babe Ruth World Series soon found out, that Brady wasn’t exaggerating. The teams faced persistent rain, lightening and flooding of fields but managed to battle through and play out their contests.

 And even though it may have felt like it, no record rainfall was measured during the July 31-Aug. 4 event  said WUFT Meteorologist Jeff Huffman.

 “No records have been set by the recent rain in our area that I’m aware of, but on Monday evening there were reports that as many as five inches fell in a three hour time…over two separate areas of the county (SW Gainesville and near Waldo).”

 “The recent flooding along the Nature Coast has been caused by a persistent area of low pressure sitting just offshore in the Gulf of Mexico,” Huffman added. “Thankfully, satellite and radar data has confirmed that it is finally moving to the northeast, and a more typical Florida summer weather pattern will ensue by midweek.”

 Back up plans went into effect early on in the series when teams scheduled to play in Alachua at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex were bussed down to Newberry’s Champions Park.

 Players and coaches said they had to make adjustment to the slick turf on the fields in Newberry often sliding sooner than usual to catch the bases.

“Best fields we ever played on,” said one coach about the Newberry diamonds. “Ten minutes after the weather, you can get right back out and play.”

Coach Jacques Harris of Gainesville Fast Pitch team said it was the delays that made this tournament difficult for his team.

“They cancelled all the games on Saturday,” he said. “Or there would be a 2-hour delay, 4-hour delay. His team made it to the last day losing to JPR West, the team from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana that went on to win the series in a game that played until 1:30 a.m. on the championship field in Alachua.

For the ground crew back at the fields in Alachua, they played their own game against the rain, rolling, tarping, spreading Turface and Game Saver to absorb water.

“We’ve been in a holding pattern the whole time,” said Coach Bob Bocock from Hamilton New Jersey. “It’s just been raining constantly.

“Some of them are playable and there are some puddles,” said his daughter Pitcher Becca Bocock of the 12U team about the fields.

Alachua sat empty all day on Aug. 4, until the championship game got to take the field.

 JPRD West (Jefferson Parish, Louisiana) took the World Series win away from Mount Olive in 6 to 3 contest.

The other contest winners were 8U: Mannasa, Virginia, 10U: Pitt County, 12U: JPRD East, 14U: JPRD West.  

John Parrish, task force member for Babe Ruth headquarters was holding down the empty fort in flooded Alachua on Tuesday as games played out in Newberry.

“We moved 12U to the turf fields because they drain faster,” he said.

“You don’t plan for a tropical depression to sit on top of you,” he said about this year’s series. “It’s one thing to have an afternoon thunderstorm blow out the fields and then we resume that night and play late. But we had three days of straight rain and you just do the best you can with it.”

While photographers from Glossy Finish wrapped gear in aqua tent bags or garbage bags and rubber bands at fields in Newberry, ground crew members and volunteers were raking water and rolling wet clay in Alachua.

“Thank God between the Newberry facility and ours,” Brady said.

Anthony Tucci, state commissioner for Babe Ruth Soft Ball in Pennsylvania played the role of meteorologist throughout the tournaments .

He had a screen tied in to a staff of meteorologists and monitored the rain and lightning.

“Meteorologists will give us an advance warning and they call us off the field,” he said. “We have their app through Weather Bug.

“Any time we get lighting within 10 miles of the complex we pull them off the field for 30 minutes.”

“We had a lot of weather,” Tucci said about the 2015 series.

“A lot of delays…in trying to facilitate games, we decreased time, limiting games to an hour and 15 minutes, our umpire crews have turned games , kept them moving along.”


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