The Durant High School Paw Print

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Boyhood Dreams, A Never-Ending Passion For The Game

In 2017, four years removed from their last playoff appearance, Rays’ manager Kevin Cash selected an ebullient former outfielder to fill the void left by the loss of first base coach Rocco Baldelli. Osborne “Ozzie” Timmons was called up from his coaching position with the Durham Bulls to serve, not only as a spirited coach, but as a friend and role model to the young team Cash had assembled.    

“I’m a coach-player,” said Timmons in an interview before his debut as a Major League coach. “I feel like I’m still one of the guys, but I know when to separate it. I can go play cards with you, but I can yell at you three hours from now when you do something stupid in the game. I can separate the two.”   

Before rejoining his former team as a coach, the 6’2 right fielder played five years in the Majors, from 1995-2000, but, like many big leaguers, his days in baseball began in the little leagues, where he played with Durant High School’s principal, Gary Graham.    

“[Playing with Timmons] was two things. Number one, it was a lot of fun because he was always a fun person to be around, both on the field and especially off the field. He is the same as he is now even when he was a teenager and even younger. People gravitated towards him. But, the second thing that was the reason he was fun to play with on the field, was that we won a lot, whether it was little league, high school, or college.”   

Both Graham and Timmons went to Brandon High School and the University of Tampa, playing on their schools’ respective baseball teams until their graduation from the University of Tampa in 1991. While Graham pursued a career in education, Timmons signed his first baseball contract after being drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the fifth round of the 1991 draft.   

The personable coach served four years in the Minors, refining his hitting and defense in right field until his Major League debut in April of 1995, when he was walked by Cincinnati Reds pitcher Chuck McElroy with the bases loaded, earning him his first RBI as a major league batter.    

Timmons would play four seasons in the Majors before finding his way back to his hometown in 2000 when he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays. Timmons played in the outfield and pinch hit until his last game on October 1, 2000 with his final at bat coming in the tenth inning, resulting in a single that led to the Rays’ 3-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox.   

After a few years in the winter leagues, Timmons began his coaching career in Durham  before finally getting the call from Tropicana Field.   

“I’m excited for Ozzie to join our staff,” Cash had said. “He has a track record of connecting with hitters and providing high-quality coaching throughout his career.” 

Graham recalled Timmons’ optimism as early as little league, which has translated to his Major League coaching. Timmons says he keeps the Rays’ players positive throughout the game by “pump[ing] them up to keep them going” with his push up routine for example.   

It started on May 28, 2018, when the Rays were playing the Oakland Athletics and couldn’t knock in a run. Timmons jokingly said he would do pushups for each run the Rays scored. It wasn’t until the 13th inning of that game though that the Rays would score the first and only run of the game and Timmons would do his first set of ten pushups.    

Timmons said his greatest accomplishment as a coach has been watching the players he coached in the Rays’ farm system, such as Blake Snell and Kevin Kiermaier, move up the ranks from the Minors to the big leagues.   

“As a coach, [my goal is] just keeping the guys prepared. You try to learn all the new stuff that’s coming out, so you are always trying to study the other teams so that’s the main thing… My main goal [is] to, every year, get more knowledge, so I can have the guys prepared for when they step on the field.”   

During the offseason, he devotes his time to studying game strategies in order to relay the information to his players, but also uses the offseason to do yard work and ride his bike.  

Timmons is known to spend time in Tampa Bay schools, acting as a coach and mentor. Durant was fortunate enough to be part of his offseason stops last year. Durant students had the opportunity to meet Timmons, who offered advice for students, athletes, and major league hopefuls.  

The 50 year old amiable coach emphasizes the importance of staying healthy and in shape during the off season, something he reminds his players and young athletes of, saying, “Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you.”   

His genuine and lighthearted personality isn’t just reserved for the players on the field. Before games, he walks down the line of fans signing autographs and occasionally playing catch with young fans, proving his approachable and good nature. 

Timmons’ career as a ballplayer and coach is what brought him to his position with the Rays today, but his personality and dedication to the fans is what makes him one of the best and most memorable coaches the Rays have.    

Timmons will return to the diamond on February 27 as first base coach and assistant hitting coach when the Rays begin their Spring Training at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte to defend their American League Champion title.   





About the Writer
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Cross Country Seniors And Their High School Success


After months of early mornings, long practices, and hard work, the Durant Cross Country Team’s work finally paid off as they came out victorious, clinching Durant’s first-ever district title in early November.

The team, composed of thirteen members, has worked together for months to achieve their goal.

“We all put in some really hard work over the summer with a lot of early morning runs at the Dover trails in preparation for the season,” junior Jacob Malinchak said.

After making regionals, the team then went on to districts for the first time in Durant history.

“My favorite thing about being on the team is that all of us are like one big family,” sophomore Jayda Reece said.

Composed of five seniors – Haydon Patrick, Quinton Almand, Dylan Lane, Raven Skousen, and Angelo Leiser – for many, districts were the last time they would ever run together again.

“If it was not for them [the seniors], then I wouldn’t be encouraged to run every year. I am really grateful for all of them,” Reece said. “They really brought the team together.”

Haydon Patrick 

Haydon Patrick joined the cross-country team his freshman year and played a pivotal role as one of the team’s leaders.

“I look up to Haydon specifically because he was a team player and one of our best runners,” Reece said. “He had encouraged me to try my best when I was the only girl running with them, and I think that is really important as a member of the team.”

Always motivating others during long runs or on the sidelines, Patrick has positively influenced the team during these past four years.

“Haydon has taught me a lot and is very inspirational and nice to me,” freshman Gehrig Graham said.

“He’s just one of those guys that everybody likes, and he has got everything figured out,” freshman Mason Ritenauer said.

During his high-school-career, Patrick held a personal best of 17:11. His consistent times and hard work allowed him to become one of the district winners at the last meet.

After high school, Patrick plans to commit to Nova Southeastern University to get his law degree.

Quinton Almand 

Like Patrick, Quinton Almand has been on the team since his freshmen year. Seen as one of the most grounded players, Almand has pushed himself to be the best he can both on and off the field.

“He’s honestly the most caring, genuinely good person I have ever met,” Riteanuer said. “Like no matter what you need, he has always got you, and he is always there to talk.”

“I look up to Quinton a lot because he is a teammate who always keeps a level head. He’s very humble when he wins and is a high-level student at the same time,” junior Aidan Maroney said.

Quinton finished his last year with a personal best of 18:50.

In the future, he plans to get his master’s degree in computer science at the University of Florida to pursue his interests in the research aspects of programs like augmented and virtual reality.

Dylan Lane 

Dylan Lane began running his sophomore year after motivation from his coach, Craig Shimkus, and friend Jordan McClellan. He quickly fell in love with the sport and works hard to motivate others and do his best.

“He is like the glue of the team, always friendly and good for a laugh,” Malinchak said.

“The thing that stands out about Dylan is that he is a jokester; the guy that keeps everything light,” Shimkus said.

Lane finished the season with a personal best of 19:06.

In the future, he wants to attend the University of Florida to become a nurse. He was also recently accepted into the University of South Florida’s medical school.

Raven Skousen 

Raven Skousen joined Durant during his junior year but has been running since he was a freshman.

With a personal best of 18:05, Skousen’s hard work and dedication towards the team have played a primary role in their journey to districts.

“He is the type of guy that goes without quit. Day in and day out, he is always doing his absolute best,” Malinchak said.

In the future, Skousen wants to get into the military academy to later join the United States armed forces.

“He has already been granted his recommendation for the military academy. I am sure he will be pursuing that either in Indianapolis or West Point,” Shimkus said.

Angelo Leiser  

Angelo Leiser started running with Durant his sophomore year. Over the past three years, Leiser has built strong bonds and relationships with his team, and considers them his cross-country family.

“Angelo is a talented student who balances the hustle and bustle of work, school, and running while fixing and decking out his car in only the best gear. He was a true inspiration and friend to me in my first year of high school, and I cannot imagine it without him,” freshman Keira Tabacco said.

“Angelo is someone who has faced adversity during his years of high school but has stuck with everything; he has stuck with everything he has put his mind too,” Shimkus said

Leiser continued to excel in his final year and ended the season with a record of 19:12.

After high school, Leiser wants to attend either the University of South Florida or the University of Florida for neuroscience or aerospace engineering. He also plans on continuing ROTC during college.

The Team

The heart and soul of the team is the coach Craig Shimkus, whose work and dedication guided the team in their victory.

“Our coach, Coach Shimkus, held many summer practices for us and continued to encourage and make sure we were ready for the races,” Malinchak said.

“He has helped me become faster and enjoy the sport; he also gives me workouts to do outside of practice,” Gehrig said.

Shimkus, seen as a mentor both on and off the field, has always encouraged everyone to do their best in all aspects of life.

“Shimkus has really been the rock for all of us. He is there when we need it, but also knows how to challenge us and push us to be better runners,” Reece said. “He is always here to help me out no matter how many times I get shin splints.”

“Mr. Shimkus has impacted my life in a major way. He is always looking out for me when I am having a bad day or a bad week, and he is always looking to help us improve and get better,” Maroney said.

“Coach is probably, secretly, one of the kindest and most caring guys you will ever meet,” Ritenauer said. “[In practice], we were always trying to give him [Shimkus] a hug as a joke, and he would always laugh and back up. Then, when we won districts, he gave me a big hug, and it said so many unspoken things about how much he cares and wants us to succeed not only in track but also in our own lives.”

As a coach, Shimkus has tried to instill a close dynamic between the team beyond just running.

“My favorite memory of the senior class is our trip to Tallahassee last year. Just getting the guys away from campus and seeing a different side of them. I wanted to get them to see some different things that they have not had a chance to see before,” Shimkus said.

The team is seen by its members as a family, with everyone ready to encourage and support each other.

“If it were not for them, I would not be encouraged to run every year. I am really grateful for that and all of them,” Reece said.

“It is not like any other team I have ever been on. It is more of a family,” Ritenauer said.

“We all like hanging out with each other. I have learned a lot, and our team is a really close-knit group. I would like to give props to our seniors as they have taught me a lot and put in a lot of hard work to achieve what we want,” Malinchak said.

From cheering on the sidelines during races, naming a rock as a mascot, and taking pictures on haybales to celebrate their record-breaking victory, the memories made by the team these past few years will never be forgotten.

As they graduate from Durant, if Shimkus could leave one piece of advice to the seniors, it would be consistency.

“Remember, life is about consistency. We talk about it every day in terms of running; you have to be consistent to make gains, and life is that way. You have to do things on a consistent basis. If you are not consistent, you are not reliable, and that is a hard way to be in life.”

About the Writer
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Allie Sigl, Design and Social Media Editor

Allie Sigl is a junior at Durant High School and the Design and Social Media Editor for the PawPrint Newspaper. Around school, Allie is the community service...

Why The Heartbreaking Loss Of Blake Snell Might Be A Good Choice For The Rays

Why The Heartbreaking Loss Of Blake Snell Might Be A Good Choice For The Rays

On December 28, Rays fan woke up to the notification that pitching star Blake Snell would no longer be part of the Rays’ pitching rotation. The southpaw, who had been with the Rays since his major league debut in 2016, was traded to the San Diego Padres for two right handed pitchers, Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox, and two catchers, Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt.

While the trade of their ace felt like betrayal to Tampa Bay fans, the loss of a fan favorite is not a new situation, as the Rays are notorious for their heartbreaking trades (remember when they traded Chris Archer to the Pirates in 2018?) While fans in Tampa Bay may feel blindsided by the trade (which is exacerbated by the loss of Charlie Morton) there may be a glimmer of hope when looking at the players obtained in the trade.

It’s no secret that the Rays are desperate for a catcher. They lost Michael Perez at the end of the season, forcing them to sign Mike Zunino, whose 2020 season batting average was a disappointing .147 (for those discounting the abbreviated 60 game season, his 2018 and 2019 batting averages were .201 and .165 respectively). The trade with the Padres gives the Rays two catchers, one prospect and one big-leaguer.

The Rays acquired 22 year old prospect Blake Hunt in the trade, who may provide the Rays versatility on the field with minor league experience behind the plate and as a first baseman. Since Hunt has only played in single A, he may serve his 2021 season in the minors, but gives the Rays the option of another catcher if Zunino faces injuries or slumps during the season.

Francisco Mejia, a top prospect in 2018, had an impressive rookie season the following year, boasting a .265 batting average over his 79 games, but his 2020 campaign was cut short by a hand contusion and slump, allowing him only 17 games to post a .322 OPS. Despite his slow start in the majors, Mejia is predicted to bat .236 in Tampa Bay during the 2021 season (Baseball Reference’s projections for Mike Zunino have him falling short of the Mendoza line once again, with a projected .194 average).

Without Charlie Morton and Blake Snell on the mound, the Rays hand the ball to Tyler Glasnow and Yonny Chirinos, who spent his 2020 season on the injured list. With only two starters filling the spots on the rotation, the Rays will turn to their unconventional bullpen and opener days if they fail to find consistent hurlers to take the mound.

With this trade, the Rays may look to employ Luis Patino to fill middle innings. Patino tossed a 5.19 ERA throughout his limited pitching time during his 2020 rookie season, but gave up only three homeruns over 17.1 innings.

The fourth player acquired in the Snell trade is right hander Cole Wilcox, who played for the NCAA Georgia Bulldogs. Wilcox was signed as San Diego’s third round draft pick this year and, according to evaluators, has a promising slider that may earn him a spot in the Major League’s bullpen. However, Rays fans may have to wait for Wilcox’s debut until the 21 year old works his way up the minor leagues.

Although the San Diego Padres have added an experienced pitcher to their ranks, the addition of Snell comes at a cost. Snell is set to earn $10.5 million in the 2021 season despite his rapid slump since 2018 (In 2018, he had 21 wins and an ERA below 2.00, but struggled to find half the number of wins in the 2019 and 2020 seasons combined and doubled his ERA), which increases to $13 million and $16 million for his final two years before free agency. And the Rays are known for holding one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.

“[The trade of Snell] takes a meaningful piece away from our 21 club, but the return itself, the proximity of two of the four players in this deal, gives us a lot of confidence along with the talent we have in house and the amount of time we have this winter that we’re going to be really good this year,” assured Erik Neander.

About the Writer
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Sophomore Maggie Lauber Dominates On Durant’s Basketball Court

Two weeks ago, sophomore Maggie Lauber, starting point guard against Leto High School, dominated on the court with an impressive 24-point game and five steals. After being named player of the game by Coach Al Mitchell, Lauber approached her next game against Leonard High School hoping to continue her exceptional performance-and she did. In last week’s game, she scored 28 points with three steals earning her the title of player of the game in two consecutive weeks. 

Despite only being a sophomore, Lauber has become co-captain of the varsity team through her “dominant play,” according to Mitchell. While her stand out performance may have won her the title, her dedication and devotion to basketball is apparent by the level of skill she portrays on the court. 

Lauber has been playing basketball with her father since she was in first grade, but it was not until middle school that she became serious about her sport.  After playing three years in middle school at Boca Raton, Lauber and her family moved to Plant City, where she enrolled in Durant.  

Hoping to continue as an athlete and basketball point guard and shooting guard, Lauber tried out for Durant’s Lady Cougars’ basketball team and made the varsity team as a freshman. 

“it was really fun. I was really excited. At first, I was really nervous, but once I got to know the team and everything it felt really nice. It was like a second family, said Lauber  

Lauber’s athleticism and passion for the game immediately caught Coach Al Mitchell’s eye. 

“She is quick, she is explosive, she’s very athletic [and] a gifted basketball player because of her athleticism. She works hard [and] is very dedicated. And she is also very skilled, she has worked hard and you can tell in her level of skill that she is able to play at,” Mitchell said about Lauber. 

Since her freshman year, Lauber and Mitchell have developed a strong player-coach bond, which has allowed them to communicate with simple looks from Coach Mitchell directing Lauber during the game. The non-verbal understanding allows Mitchell to advise the best play from the sidelines and their mutual trust allows Mitchell to correct Lauber to make her a better player. 

“I trust anything that he tells me because he’s right about it…I know he is,” said Lauber. “I trust what he says because he’s a really good coach.” 

Lauber’s performance and success on the court is a testament to the importance of player-coach bonds. Through Mitchell’s coaching and dedication to his players, Lauber has developed and refined her skills as an athlete, making her an invaluable part of the Lady Cougar Basketball team. 

About the Writer
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Zahid Valencia

Zahid Valencia, a wrestler from Arizona State, shocked the wrestling world heard about Valencia will be suspended for using substances right after he won gold at the Matteo Pellicone International. Although it was a recreational drug and not a performance enhancement drug, Valencia was still suspended. Arizona will now had to rely on a new starter (Austin Clayton) for their last two competitions of their season. The Pac 12 championships were coming up soon and it was unclear if he would wrestle or not. If he was not able to wrestle he would no longer be able to wrestle at the NCAA tournament.

Valencia had a 3-0 record that led to dual victories. Valencia wrestled at 184 pounds and was ranked No. 1 for his weight class. Valencia was also a two time NCAA champion while wrestling in the 174 weight class. His overall record was 121-3, one of the highest amount of wins in ASU history.

His season record was 20-0. While Valencia was suspended for use of drugs, he was also not able to compete in the U.S. Olympic Wrestling trials. Losing Valencia as a starter for 184, ASU had a major disadvantage for winning the NCAA Championship. ASU’s coach Zeke Jones said. “Our goals remain the same, we want to kick some butt. This is still a really exciting group of guys. That’s why I’m keeping my chin up.”

Even though ASU lost a major contributor to the team, they still had multiple nationally ranked wrestlers including his brother Anthony Valencia who wrestled at 174 weight class. In his 2017 season, Valencia earned No.1 seed by being undefeated. He had to wrestle Mark Hall from Penn state, where he had lost and placed third in the championship. That was the same place Zahid Valencia made a name and reputation for himself.

About the Writer
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Riley Thomas, Business Manager/ Photo Editor

Riley is a Junior at Durant High School. He is the new Photo Editor and Business Manager for the PawPrint Newspaper. He also wrestles for Durant and loves...

Durant Football Players Forced To Quarantine


After a 13-10 loss last Friday to the Newsome Wolves, more unfortunate news was delivered to the Durant Cougars.

Over the weekend, multiple starters from Newsome tested positive for Covid-19. Durant’s seven offensive starters, who came in direct contact with Newsome’s players, were forced to quarantine after Coach Michael Gottman received a call from Principal Gary Graham informing Gottman of the situation.

The seven players that came in contact with the Newsome’s players were instructed to quarantine for two weeks, in ordinance with Hillsborough County guidelines, and attend school through e-learning, which Gottman said was going well.

Due to the student athletes required to quarantine, Durant’s game against Bloomingdale, originally scheduled for September 17, was moved to the Cougars’ by-week on October 9. While Gottman expressed his concerns regarding his starting lineup, he was optimistic of the situation, referencing the backup lineup that will now have the chance to start the next game

“I do like the fact that we are getting seven other people prepared to play, [but we are] definitely going to miss the seven offensive starters, because of quarantine, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s kind of the hand that we’re dealt, and we’re going to play the cards and try to win a football game Friday night,” said Gottman.

Gottman assumed Durant’s football team would have to deal with exposure to the Coronavirus at some point but did not realize it would be the first week. The team had been taking safety precautions during practice, such as social distancing and wiping equipment with a cleaning solution after workouts.

Durant and Newsome are not the first high school teams to be quarantined because of a potential Coronavirus outbreak. Jefferson and Hillsborough High Schools’ football teams were forced to miss opening night, as a number of players had tested positive.

Despite the four teams already impacted by the virus, District Spokesperson Erin Maloney said it is still important for the teams to play. The emotional and social benefits from high school sports are vital to success both inside and outside the classroom setting.

“School is about much more than just going into classrooms and getting good grades. There’s a social, emotional aspect as well,” said Maloney.

The Cougars will face East Bay at Durant on September 25 for the second game of the season.



About the Writer
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Lily Belcher, Editor in Chief

Lily Belcher is a junior at Durant High School and is the Editor in Chief for the PawPrint. She is freelancing for the Osprey Observer this year and hopes...

Congratulations to all the girls who made the JV cheer team


Congratulations to all the girls who made the varsity cheer team


Wrestling Is Family For Durant Grad Hendon Haley


Hendon Haley

Hendon Haley is a senior at Durant High School. His passion for wrestling started about 12 years ago when his oldest brother, who was a freshman at Durant at the time, introduced the sport to Haley. Haley, along with his three older brothers, has wrestled ever since.

In the wrestling season of 2019, he was Hillsborough county champion, regional champion, and placed fourth in the state of Florida. Haley is most proud of his success at the state tournaments.

“It’s the biggest thing that I’ve gotten out of all my hard work,” said Haley. “That is something I’ll never forget and something very important to me, it was really everything I wanted.”

This past year, Haley was again a Hillsborough County champion, but he also was district champion, placed third in regionals, and was a state qualifier.

“Something that motivates me would definitely be my brothers because they have always been there for me in the practice room and they’ve done very well themselves in high school,” said Haley.”

— Hendon Haley

“The hardest part about wrestling is that it is an individual sport. It is one hundred percent up to you and how you perform as a wrestler,” said Haley.

Haley has been able to progress over the years and create a positive mindset going into his matches. He strives to be the best he can be and is supported by the motivation from his brothers.

“Something that motivates me would definitely be my brothers because they have always been there for me in the practice room and they’ve done very well themselves in high school,” said Haley.

Haley came into high school naturally motivated to either match or top his brothers in wrestling. He says that it is good to look up to people who are the best at what you do and learn from them. Haley also looks up to Jordan Burroughs, Olympic athlete and four-time world champion freestyle wrestler.

He has wrestled for Durant wrestling since his freshman year and was the captain for the 2019-2020 wrestling season. All four of his brothers were also captain of the Durant team. He takes the role of being a captain seriously and works hard to make sure the team strives for success.

“It’s a very important job and that’s how you build teams, you got to start with good leadership,” said Haley.

Haley has plans to attend Florida college, a Christian college in Temple Terrace. He doesn’t plan on continuing wrestling in college, but he wants a role in the wrestling community as either a coach, referee, or as someone who helps individuals with wrestling techniques.

Haley will miss his wrestling family after high school. He plans to keep in touch with teammates and attend Durant wrestling tournaments.

“We have one of the longest seasons of any other high school sport, so to be together with guys like that every day in the room for so long I’m going to miss that family aspect of just being there and grinding through hard times,” said Haley.

About the Writer
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Adamari Jaimez, Staff Writer

Adamari Jaimez is a senior at Durant High School. She has been part of journalism since her freshman year, involved in both the yearbook and newspaper...

Sommer Has Big Plans After Graduation


Colby Sommer

Colby Sommer, one of Durant’s senior star lacrosse players originally started out as a baseball player. In fact, Sommer started lacrosse after seeing a series of lacrosse vine videos in middle school. The vine account, “Best Lax Edits,” edited videos of players, and highlighted exciting lacrosse moments during games. Sommer was hooked.

Sommer started playing in seventh grade at Fish Hawk Fields. Since starting the sport, he has made lacrosse a big part of his life by continuing with the sport all throughout high school and even earning a scholarship to play in college.

Sommer received a scholarship to St. Andrews University to play lacrosse. He was offered eighty percent financial coverage, along with an athletic dorm, a job in sports media department, and a food card.

Firefighting is, as Sommer says, his dream job.”

— Colby Sommer

However, Sommer has unfortunately faced some serious hardships that dramatically changed his plans for the fall. This season, Sommer collided with his teammate during one of their away games. While running down the field, he went headfirst into his teammate’s chest. After being rushed to the hospital, Sommer found out there was severe damage to his neck and spine.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Sommer could not stay long at the hospital, so he was sent home earlier than expected. He went home with crutches, and a neck brace to support the injuries from further damage. After many visits to the doctor and surgeries to help with residing injuries, Sommer is now completing physical therapy to help with regain full movement.

Although there has been much progress, Sommer will not be able to play lacrosse for his upcoming college season. Instead, he plans to stay home to recover from his injury while building a videography business. After fully recovering, Sommer wants to go into the fire academy to become a firefighter and attend Hillsborough Community College to continue schooling.

Firefighting is, as Sommer says, his “dream job.” Helping others has always been one of his priorities, especially throughout high school when many people need it most. Although SAU offered Sommer a student coaching position for the team, Sommer has decided to focus on this next path in the fire academy. He says he is “forever grateful for the opportunity” at SAU but is excited about his next steps with the fire academy.

About the Writer
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Marina Hawkins, Social Media Coordinator, Photo Editor

Marina Hawkins is a junior at Durant and is the Photo Editor and the Social Media Coordinator for the PawPrint newspaper. She is also part of the Varsity...

Senior Ahmad Fitts Leaves a Baseball Legacy at DHS

Senior Fitts at bat

Senior Fitts at bat

Durant senior, Ahmad Fitts, is an accomplished baseball player at Durant High School. He’s excelled on the field with a .342 career batting average and .964 OPS. Some players put up numbers like that and get a big head, but not Fitts.

“Fitts, in general, is one of the greatest people to be around,” said junior and Durant second baseman, Javier Quintana. “He never boasts and never puts anyone down.”

Quintana wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Junior and Cougars’ pitcher, Zander Fisk, also described Fitts as a great teammate. “He is good friends with everyone on the team and hardworking on and off the field.”

Even the coaching staff had good things to say about Fitts. Coach Keith Farina, assistant to Head Coach Butch Valdes, described Fitts as a “quiet kid who works his butt off.”

Fitts has enjoyed his time at Durant thoroughly. “I loved just being around the whole environment and my brothers,” he said.

“Fitts, in general, is one of the greatest people to be around.””

— Javier Quintana

Fitts talked about one of his teammates who made a big impact on his life–Durant class of 2019 player, Brendan Queen.

“When I was a freshman and watched Queen play he seemed like a pretty good player,” Fitts said. “Then my sophomore year, Queen ended up getting moved to the outfield and I really got to know him well.” Playing with Queen, and the many other guys he’s shared the field with at Durant, has been “just fun all around” for Fitts. “My experience playing for Durant has been so great, I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

Fitts also has enjoyed his coaches at Durant. He liked having Coach Valdes around. “Valdes really makes you tough both physically and mentally.” Fitts insists, “When you really get to know Valdes, he’s just a buff teddy bear.”

Coach Scolaro is also a favorite of Fitts’. “He is one of the funniest coaches I’ve ever had” but also “knows what it takes to be great.” He addded, “Scolaro takes a lot of time to help each player be better at what they do.”

The feeling is very mutual from the coaching staff. “It’s been a pleasure to coach him,” Coach Farina said. “He’s a polite and respectful kid who only wants to continue to learn and improve his game.”

Fitts’ great attitude, top tier talent, and fantastic work ethic all paid off as last fall he committed to Florida Southern College and will be a part of the Mocs’ program there. Fitts was able to take a deep breath after he committed.

“I was so relieved because getting recruited is a very hard and stressful process,” he said. “When you finally find that school that’s for you it’s the best feeling.”

Unfortunately, during the winter, Fitts tore his ACL and was told by doctors he could not play the remainder of his senior season. Thankfully the injury hasn’t affected his relationship with Florida Southern. “They just want me to take my time and get healthy,” said Fitts.

The rehab for Fitts has progressed as planned. “For the moment I can’t exactly run or do anything extreme, but I walk normally and can do minimum weights,” said Fitts. He isn’t worried about his recovery–he is excited about returning to the sport he loves. “I will return better than ever.”

Quintana thanked Fitts for his positive attitude and leadership on the team, and then added: “Fitts, I’m up.”

About the Writer
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David Fackson, Staff Writer

David is a junior and is a Staff Writer for the Durant PawPrint Newspaper. He is a huge baseball fan, specifically a Rays fan who loves writing about the...

Star Football Coach Don Shula Dies

With 33 years of coaching for the NFL, Shula left behind an astounding lecagcy and will be missed by the NFL and fans.

Courtesy of AP Photos

With 33 years of coaching for the NFL, Shula left behind an astounding lecagcy and will be missed by the NFL and fans.

On May 4, 2020, the sports world lost one of the greatest coaches in football. Don Shula passed away at the age of 90 years old. According to ESPN, the Miami Dolphins released a statement to the public stating “he died peacefully at his home.” 

Shula, a professional football player and coach, was best known for leading the 1972 Miami Dolphins to a Super Bowl victory. They went undefeated during the regular season and in the playoffs with a record of 17-0 that year. Shula is also the winningest coach in NFL history. In a 2007 interview, Shula stated “I was putting my legacy on the line with 16 wins and zero losses, it would’ve been a disaster if we lost the Super Bowl.” 

After winning the Super Bowl in 1972, he coached the Miami Dolphins the next season and ended that season with 14 wins and two losses. The Dolphins would go on to win the 1973 Super Bowl Championship game by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24-7. In 1974, the Dolphins would once again come in first place during the regular season, but fell short in the AFC Championship game to the Oakland Raiders. 

Miami Heat President Pat Riley said “He was tough, courageous, and an authentic leader with great integrity in his pursuit of perfection, which he achieved!” 

Shula started his football career as a defensive back in 1951 with the Cleveland Browns. He also played for the Baltimore Colts and the Washington Redskins. For a short period of time, he was the defensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions. He then went on to be the head coach for one of his former teams, the Baltimore Colts and then coached the Miami Dolphins. He coached the Baltimore Colts for 7 seasons and the Miami Dolphins for 26 seasons. 

Shula won two Super Bowl’s with the Dolphins and was a four time Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year. In 1993, Shula was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year. He had 328 regular season coaching wins and 19 in the playoffs. Shula coached three quarterbacks: Johnny Unitas, Bob Griese, and Dan Marino, who all went on to go into the Hall of Fame. In 1997, Shula was inducted into the Hall of Fame. In 2019, Shula was revealed to be on the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All Time Team. 

His legacy shows that he will be missed by many people and had a very successful life.

About the Writer
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Jordan Dabbour, Business Manager

Jordan Dabbour is a junior at Durant High School and is Advertising Business Manager for the PawPrint newspaper. He is an avid sports fan, and loves to...

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