Hillsborough High football coach Earl Garcia said he and his team were invited to the Hooters on Hillsborough Avenue on Saturday evening, where the team met with former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach and NFL “Monday Night Football” analyst Jon Gruden.
Garcia said Gruden and his Fired Football Coaches Association (FFCA) along with its partner, Hooters, are making donations to a number of local programs. The FFCA was started by Gruden in 2008 and has sold merchandise and raised funds for local football programs in areas where “Monday Night Football” has taken place the following week. The organization’s name is tongue-in-cheek, a nod to the Super Bowl winning coach’s departure from coaching with Tampa Bay.
The group’s spokeswoman, Lizz Harmon, of HarmonTampa Public Relations, said in total eight Tampa Bay area programs were invited to the event. Joining Hillsborough High, will be Spoto and Sickles, along with Pinellas County teams Boca Ciega, Largo and Pinellas Park, and Manatee County schools Bayshore and Southeast.
Each program will receive $1,000 in donations, a GoPro camera and other prizes from the FFCA and Hooters along with the opportunity for players to meet with Gruden.
Gruden previously awarded $5,000 to Leto, Gibbs and Gulf High’s programs earlier this season.
“I met Jon Gruden when his son (Deuce) was playing at Carrollwood Day,” Garcia said. “Coach Gruden has done some really great things for area football teams. I know his donations have been a big help and we thank him.”
Dwayne Lawson, Hillsborough — The Terriers quarterback rushed for 209 yards in Friday’s 23-20 win at Tampa Bay Tech including a 70-yard, up-the-middle, tackle-busting touchdown run on top of 169 passing yards and a touchdown throw.
Brandon Jones, Brandon — The Eagles senior quarterback had 210 yards on the ground and touchdowns of 80 and 75 yards in Brandon’s 21-17 loss to Berkeley Prep.
Ray Ray McCloud III, Sickles — The Gryphons’ junior finished the regular season just 48 yards shy of 2,000 rushing yards after running for 267 yards and three rushing touchdowns (22 on the year) in Sickles’ 24-20 win against Alonso.
Josh Battles, Spoto — The Spartans’ junior tallied more than 100 yards in the first quarter of Spoto’s 54-12 win against Leto, finishing the game with 127 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
Anton Crutcher, East Bay — Hard to pick just one, but the Indians senior had a 30-yard catch setting up a Chris Greene touchdown in the first quarter against Strawberry Crest of the three-way district tiebreaker game Monday and then had an interception setting up Chris Carpentier’s game-winning pass to Randen Cortez in the quarter against Plant City to secure East Bay’s first district title since 1973.