ATHLETES OF THE WEEK

Columbia's Underwood having season for the ages


Columbia running back Lonnie Underwood, left, taking a handoff from quarterback Nathan Taylor, has rushed for an astonishing 776 yards with 17 touchdowns in only four games for the undefeated and second-ranked (6A) Tigers.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 23, 2013 at 11:19 p.m.

What Columbia running back Lonnie Underwood has accomplished in four games, a lot of backs couldn't accomplish in a season — 776 yards and 17 touchdowns.

On Friday, the junior ran for a season-high 243 yards and five TDs in the Tigers' 66-13 win over Jacksonville Terry Parker in the District 3-6A opener for both teams. It was the second straight game Underwood has scored five touchdowns, doing it in a little more than a half of play.

“He has definitely exceeded my expectations,” said Columbia coach Brian Allen. “What this kid is doing is extremely impressive. He is doing it with a young offensive line. As they get better and have more confidence, Lonnie is going to get better with his ability. It should be really interesting.”

The Tigers (4-0), who moved up to No. 2 in Class 6A, have been dominating since the season started, with its closest contest coming in Tallahassee, a 28-14 win over 7A No. 4 Lincoln on Sept. 5. Underwood had 190 yards on just 16 carries and four TDs in that game.

“With the way he is playing right now, teams are putting 8-9 people in the box, and the kid is still rushing for 190, 200 yards,” Allen said. “He has great vision and great cutback ability. He transitions extremely well. He has the ability you don't see in a lot of backs.”

The third-year coach is mindful of keeping his standout back healthy, not playing him too much if not needed, wanting him prepared for the playoff push.

“He needs to get it done through the first quarter,” Allen said. “I was ready to get him out (on Friday) at the half, but he got in one series in the second half to get his fifth touchdown. I think he will easily get to 30, he already has 17 in four games and needs just 13 more in six ballgames.”

As far as attracting college interest, Underwood is doing just that, according to Allen, who believes his running back would be the best ever to come out of Columbia.

“Everyone I've talked to say they have him on their radar,” Allen said. “I think he will have an opportunity to play where he wants to.

“Lonnie works his butt off and never complains. He runs the same way in practice as he does in games. He has God-given ability and an extreme work ethic, which makes him a special player.”

FOOTBALL

Deshawn Roland, Chiefland: The senior had 189 all-purpose yards (135 yards rushing on nine carries, 3 catches for 54 yards) and scored three touchdowns in the Indians' 34-0 win over Newberry in the District 7-1A opener for both teams. It was Chiefland's first district win since 2009.

VOLLEYBALL

Ebony Harris, P.K. Yonge: The eighth-grade middle blocker had 26 kills, 8 blocks, 3 service points and 2 aces in three wins last week for the Blue Wave.

SWIMMING

Seth Borgert, Gainesville: The sophomore won four events — the 200 medley relay, 200 free, 500 free and 400 free relay — in a dual meet victory over Eastside.

GOLF

Taylor Tomlinson, Oak Hall: The senior had a 37-stroke average for the week, playing from men's tees because the Eagles don't have a girls team this year. Her stroke average for the season is 36.3.

HONORABLE MENTION

FOOTBALL

Darien Gilio, Keystone Heights: The senior linebacker had seven tackles, six assists, one tackle for loss, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions in the Indians' 35-7 win at Umatilla.

Anthony Andrews, P.K. Yonge: The senior running back ran for 136 yards and two touchdowns in the Blue Wave's 58-12 win over St. Francis. He also had a fumble recovery on defense for a TD.

Brock Brower, Bronson: The senior running back/safety had 104 yards rushing on 13 carries with a touchdown, two receptions for 27 yards and a TD, and three tackles and half a sack on defense in the Eagles' 42-12 win at Branford. He also had a 48-yard punt.

Tim Fleming, Lafayette: The senior wide receiver had five catches for 86 yards and two TDs in the Hornets' 41-12 win over Florida A&M High.

Dontarian Evans, Gainesville: The senior had a 63-yard run for a touchdown and also caught a 17-yard pass for a score in the Hurricanes' 34-14 win at Lake Weir. He finished with 115 all-purpose yards.

VOLLEYBALL

Whitney Drost, Santa Fe: The junior outside hitter had 25 kills, 13 digs, 15 service points and 1 assist for the week for the Raiders.

Kelsie Tebbett, Oak Hall: During a 1-1 week that included a 5-set loss to Orange Park St. Johns Country Day and a 3-set win over Newberry, the senior middle blocker went 9 of 20 in kills, with 6 blocks, 10 digs, 7 service points, 3 aces and 4 assists.

Shae Ridgeway, Newberry: The junior middle blocker had 27 service points and 27 digs in a 3-2 win over Chiefland.

SWIMMING

Valon Acosta, P.K. Yonge: The freshman was a double winner in the Blue Wave's victory over Suwannee, swimming her best time in the 500-yard free (6:06.39) and won in the 200 individual medley.

Avery Rocca, Gainesville: The freshman won four events — the 200 medley relay, 200 free, 100 free and 400 free relay — in a victory over Eastside in a dual meet.

CROSS COUNTRY

Matthew Ruppert, Eastside: The senior ran a personal record time of 17:43 at the Alligator Lakes XC Invitational in Lake City on Saturday.

Mia Varner, Eastside: The sophomore ran a 21:12 for the Rams at the Alligator Lakes XC Invitational.

Joseph Janson, P.K. Yonge: The senior finished seventh overall in the boys division with a personal record time of 15:57 at the Alligator Lakes XC Invitational.

Hannah Fetko, P.K. Yonge: The seventh-grader ran a new PR at 23:07 at Alligator Lakes.

Calum McFetridge, Buchholz: The freshman ran a PR 18:31 at Alligator Lakes.

Hannah Wooten, Buchholz: The freshman ran a PR 21:50 at Alligator Lakes.

Carter Page, Gainesville: The sophomore ran a season-best 21:24 to place ninth in the varsity green girls division at Alligator Lakes. The Hurricanes as a team placed first in the division.

Blake Lowery, Gainesville: The sophomore finished third overall in the varsity green division with a PR 16:36 at Alligator Lakes. The boys placed fourth overall as a team.

GOLF

Chandler Blanchet, Buchholz: In three 9-hole tournaments, shot 1-under, even-par and 1-over. In 27 holes of play, the senior carded 17 pars and five birdies.

Athletes of the week are determined by nominations from area coaches. Coaches are asked to call in every Monday between 12-4 p.m. at (352) 374-5050 or email nominations to larry.savage@gvillesun.com

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