Mon10202014

Last updateMon, 20 Oct 2014 9pm

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NHS alumni to kick off semi-pro football team

NEWBERRY – As the story goes, the Newberry Wolverines lost their first battle in 1934 when they failed to win enough votes to become the official Newberry High School mascot. But they plan to make a comeback this summer.

Stephen Whitmer, a 23-year-old NHS football alumnus, is co-owner of the Newberry Wolverine Football Club, a new semi-professional football team forming out of Newberry.

He is the current offensive line coach for the NHS varisty football team and played center for the Panther’s varsity squad from 2005 to 2009. He is a former player for Trinity International University based in Chicago and several semi-professional teams that include the Levy County Raiders in Williston, the Racing Raiders out of Wisconsin and currently the Gainesville Gators.

He said that because Newberry was able to bring 1,500 people to each high school game, it fuels the desire for fans to see the same guys who played on Friday, play on Saturday as well -- and he’s not the only one.

Devonte Flagg, a 19-year-old NHS football alumnus, explained that he is just ready to get on the field. “I’m excited,” Flagg said. “I think we’re going to be great.”

Whitmer said that the Wolverines don’t just plan on being an average team.

“I know with bringing myself and Yance Enoch aboard, we’d be able to bring a team to Newberry that we could be proud to show our family,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer and former NHS quarterback Enoch, held an informational meeting at The Blend coffee shop on May 1 for potential players to become familiar with each other and gain an understanding of the new team’s plans.

Tryouts are on June 7, Whitmer said, with the first exhibition game kicking off on Aug. 16 at 3 p.m. at the Easton Sports Complex in Newberry where the Wolverines will take on the Florida Patriots of Tampa . The remainder of the regular-season games might be played at the Newberry High School practice field or another location to be determined.

Brad Carman, director of Parks and Recreation for Newberry, said the Wolverines, “ Have rented the football field area for an exhibition game.”

Whitmer said he’s trying to get the word out about the Wolverines to the community. He has reached out on social media with a Newberry Wolverine Football Club Facebook page that has garnered 426 likes and he represented the Wolverines at Relay for Life and the Spring Fling Festival events. His goal is to get the City of Newberry to sponsor the team.

“Everywhere we go, we get positive feedback,” Whitmer said.

The NHS student government is looking into sponsoring the Newberry Wolverines, according to Whitmer.

NHS teacher Jordan Marlowe, a sponsor of student government association, said that they might find a way to sponsor the team or at least help them find other sponsors.

“The Newberry High School student government association is looking into ways to help the Newberry Wolverines,” Marlowe said. “I think it has potential to be a positive impact on the community for some good family fun.”

Whitmer said that being sponsored would be a big step for the team.

“Ideally, we would love to get sponsored totally for $10,000,” Whitmer said. “That would allow us to get buses for away games, and allow us to buy jerseys for the players.”

Whitmer explained that the Newberry Wolverines belong to the United Football Federation, which currently consists of 32 teams. Other semi-professional football leagues in Florida that include the Florida Football Alliance and Elite Amateur Football League consist of about another 30 teams.

“There’s a huge market that not many people are aware of,” Whitmer said.

He is hoping that his coaching experience will translate to helping the players on the Wolverines. “I’m trying to better people. We’re trying to better the community and better the players.”

Whitmer added that he is taking his past experiences with semi-professional football teams to ensure that the Wolverines will be a success. He said that he is modeling the Wolverines after the Racing Raiders, a semi-professional team out of Wisconsin.

“They provided accident insurance for the players, paid for all of their home and away travels, paid for uniforms, and overall, they were just a big community,” Whitmer said.

He believes they can raise the $5,000 needed so players don’t get drilled with player fees. Whitmer is relying on community support to make the team a reality.

“With Newberry being such a close-knit community, such a football-driven community, with their support, sky’s the limit for this team,” Whitmer said.

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Raiders reach Elite-8 play

W - SFHS vs HPHS Tip-OffORLANDO – The gym was filled to the rafters with eager fans. They were all screaming, donning their black and red, as the Santa Fe Raiders took the floor Friday night in Orlando on Feb. 21.

Their opponent: Lake Highland Preparatory School. Their mission: to win the Regional Championship in the State playoffs for boy’s basketball.

Both teams had made it to be one of the final eight clubs still alive for the state title, with Santa Fe being just one of two publics schools making it this far. Lake Highland came into the game the defending state champions in their division, and highly favored on their home court.

The starters for the Raiders were Denarius Harris, Darius Jackson, Marcus Archer, Nate Curtis and Kham Taylor. The scene was set for a classic “David vs. Goliath” matchup between the two schools.

In the Bible, David takes down the giant and is adored as the resounding hero. However, in this game, David would swing and miss. Santa Fe would play their hearts out for the full game, but it would prove to just not be their night in the end. The final score would read 74-36 in favor of Lake Highland, but there were still times when the game looked to be competitive.

To start the first quarter, four out of the first seven shots the Highlanders made were from beyond the arc, and they jumped out to a sizeable lead early. Michael Albertson accounted for three of these early treys for Lake Highland.

“We knew what they were going to do, they have tremendous shooters,” said Elliot Harris, head coach for Santa Fe. “They are a really great team.”

Another challenge for Santa Fe was their handling of Lake Highland’s full court press. From the start of the game, Raiders saw defensive pressure the entire length of the court, and it forced a lot of turnovers and bad shoots, Harris said.

“We’ve been pressed plenty of times this year, and we handled it much better all season,” Harris said. “I think we let the moment get a little too big early, and we missed some opportunities. We made poor decisions, taking bad shots instead of getting layups.”

Santa Fe fought back, but still ended the first period of play down 30-11. Lake Highland made a total of eight three-pointers in the opening quarter.

The Raiders made a mini-run to start the second quarter, but Lake Highland responded with more bombs from deep.

The first half came to a close with the Highlanders up 50-19. Things were looking tough for the Raiders, who seemed outmatched on this night.

To start the second half, Santa Fe looked to have a little bit of life still, but quickly things returned to the theme of the night, when Lake Highland continued their hot shooting. The Raiders almost kept up with the Highlanders, getting outscored by only three in the period, but still ended the third down by more than 30.

Lake Highland would finish the game with a total of 15 three-pointers, the most they made all season long.

It was a quick fourth quarter with the running clock already in action, but the boys from Santa Fe never stopped fighting.

“I am so proud of my kids,” Harris said. “We have faced some adversity this season, both on and off the court, but they never stopped believing, and it’s quite an accomplishment making it to where we have.”

The Raiders’ season would end on that February night in Orlando, though they left the gym with their chins held high.

“We didn’t play our best game tonight, and I think they know that too,” Harris said. “But these last two weeks we have really come together as a team, and we finish the year as one of the eight best teams in the state, and that is something no one can take away from us.”

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SFC VS South Georgia postponed

GAINESVILLE - The scheduled season opening road double header for the Santa Fe baseball team against South Georgia has been postponed until Monday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. due to weather.

The Saints will now open their season on Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m. against Indian River State College.  Santa Fe President Dr. Jackson Sasser will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

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SFC basketball hosts FSC

Gainesville, FL – The Santa Fe women’s basketball (9-14, 4-4 MFC) team hopes the third time is a charm when the Florida State College-Jacksonville Blue Wave makes the trip to Gainesville on February 8 for a 2:00 PM tip.  FSC-J has defeated the Saints twice this season by scores of 75-74 and 95-50, the latter taking place in Jacksonville.  A SF win would go a long ways towards helping clinch a FCSAA State Tournament berth.

The men (17-7, 1-3 MFC) host FSC-J at 4:00 PM.  This is the second meeting between the two teams this season.  Santa Fe traveled to Jacksonville on January 22 and defeated the Blue Wave 74-56.

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SFC baseball weekend wrap-up

GAINESVILLE – The Santa Fe Saints were back to their winning ways Saturday October 12, taking two games against local travel ball team the Florida Hardballers.  SF won the first game 9-2 and the second 12-0.  Saints pitchers held the opposing hitters to just seven hits and three walks over both contests, striking out 15.

The Santa Fe hitters were equally as successful, pounding out 14 hits to go along with 18 walks.

Jared Shouppe led the offense, going 4-for-6 with a homerun and four RBI.  Andrew Fears was perfect at the plate, finishing 4-for-4 with a double, RBI and three runs scored.

Kevin Martin, Jack Charleston, Walker Burgess, Connor Rooney, and Derek Vail all tossed two scoreless innings apiece.  Nick Dibartolomeo, Chase Julius, Jose Batatino, and Jeremy Graf pitched one scoreless inning each.

The Saints are back in action on Wednesday, October 16 against St. John’s River State College at 2:00 PM in double header action.  SF dropped a pair of games to the Vikings on October 9.

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