Area top stars share honors

Chiefland's Cortez Gent and Eastside's Cordera Ferguson are The Sun football players of the year.

MICHAEL C. WEIMAR/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 16, 2005 at 1:47 a.m.
They consider themselves casual friends and 50-mile-apart admirers of each other's games.
Eastside senior quarterback Cordera Ferguson and Chiefland do-everything senior Cortez Gent admit they opened the newspaper on Saturday mornings in the fall not just to check out their own stats, but also to catch a glance at the numbers of other local players.
And quite often, they found themselves impressed with one another.
"He can do a lot of things," Ferguson said of the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Gent. "From what I've seen, he's at the top of the list (of local receivers). I'd love to play with him. I think I'd just have to throw it up and he'd be able to go get it every time."
Gent added he respected the many offensive dimensions the 6-1, 190-pound Ferguson brought to the Rams.
A running and passing threat, Ferguson completed 102-of-192 passes (53.1 percent) for 1,437 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also ran for 492 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 carries.
But perhaps the attribute that most earned him The Gainesville Sun's Class 3A-5A overall player of the year award was his leadership and never-give-up attitude.
"If it's close in the end and we have the ball, we always have a shot with Cordera at quarterback," Eastside coach Kent Johnson said late in the regular season. "He's a winner."
That was most evident by the Rams following up a 2-8 season with a 6-4 record and a district title.
Gent, meanwhile, earned The Sun's 1A-2A overall player of the year award primarily for his versatility and value to the Indians.
A human Swiss Army knife, Gent caught 45 passes for 702 yards and eight touchdowns, ran for 352 yards and four touchdowns, and completed 5-of-14 passes for 202 yards and three touchdowns.
Oh yeah, he played defense, too, making 63 total tackles, breaking up nine passes, and making seven interceptions as a safety/cornerback.
But his senior success (which included finishing as the runner-up for the state 1A player of the year) wouldn't have been possible if it weren't for a lesson Gent learned early in the season.
"In the beginning of the year, I slacked off and showed off some in practice," said Gent, who is making an official visit to Florida Atlantic this weekend. "I had a big head and thought if I just showed up, everything would fall into place.
"I realized you have to practice the way you play. Around the second game, I decided to start working harder every day."
The results showed.
Other award-winners:
  • Class 3A-5A offensive player of the year Santa Fe senior quarterback Antonio Bartee had a year to remember, leading the Raiders to a 7-5 record and the second round of the 3A playoffs.
    Along the way, the 6-1, 185-pounder threw for an area-best 2,006 yards and ran for 531 yards.
    Interestingly, despite the numbers, the athletic Bartee's best college position might be defensive back, and he is being recruited by schools in both spots.

  • Class 3A-5A defensive player of the year Suwannee senior quarterback Bruce Johnson's 61 tackles, 12 pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and two interceptions might not make anyone do a double-take, but the numbers are more impressive when you realize most opponents did their best to stay away from the Miami commitment.
    A 4.4 40-yard-dash burner, Johnson also gets kudos for never leaving the field.
    An effective member of the Bulldogs' offense, Johnson caught 39 passes for 579 yards and three touchdowns.

  • Class 1A-2A co-offense players of the year Together, they go by "Thunder and Lightning" and they provided matchup hailstorms for opposing defensive coordinators.
    Do you focus on bruising 5-9, 215-pound Union County senior fullback Jeremy Brown? Or do you try to limit the ultra-fast Tigers' 5-11, 180-pound junior C.J. Spiller?
    Different teams tried each, rarely with much success, as Brown pounded out 1,547 yards and 16 touchdowns on 217 carries, while Spiller sped for 1,415 yards and 20 touchdowns on 120 carries, a ridiculous 11.6 average.

  • Class 1A-2A defensive player of the year One of the most amazing performances in recent years by a defensive tackle was recorded by Bradford's Letroy Guion.
    A one-man wrecking crew, the 6-3, 275-pounder totalled 89 tackles, 32 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and forced 12 fumbles.
    After leading his team to the 2A semifinals, Guion finished the year as the runner-up for the classification's player of the year award and was a valuable contributor to Florida's win in the CaliFlorida all-star game.

  • John Patton is The Sun's high school sports editor. You can reach him at 374-5074 or at

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