There is hardly an offseason at small schools. Many of the same students who play football or volleyball in the fall come inside during the wintertime and play basketball.
Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind senior Megan Lockner may have been the best example of that. She was named to the DeafDigest volleyball All-American team after finishing with 123 kills, 141 digs, 35 aces and 39 blocks. The six-footer’s play on the interior for the basketball team led her to be named to the North Florida Conference All-Tournament Team. Lockner was not alone as numerous athletes at FSDB and Beacon of Hope Christian School also played multiple sports.
Beacon of Hope’s boys basketball team finished with a 15-10 record largely due to the playmaking of JJ Pinkney, slashing of William Whitfield and rebounding of Josh Earl — all three of whom also played football for the school.
Many of the same boys who helped the FSDB basketball team finish third in the Mason Dixon Basketball Tournament were among those who gave every sinew they had on the football field.
“The boys had a great time playing ball and meeting new friends,” wrote first-year head coach Eric LeFors after the team completed its season with a 9-13 record. “I’m proud to say that each of our 11 players had decent playing time in all four of our games. Other schools’ coaches kept telling me that they were impressed with our depth.”
Senior Anthony Wallace and junior guard Yahir Rodriguez were named to the All-Tournament team. Rodriguez averaged 13.7 points per game this year to lead the team.
LeFors switched from coaching football to basketball at the school during the 2016-17 year. His gridiron replacement, Christian DeNight, inherited a team that was hamstrung by injuries, natural disasters and more to finish 0-8.
Other highlights for the Dragons included sisters Oceana and Olivia Brown helping the girls 400 meter relay advance to the Region 1-1A track meet; Oceana, a seventh grader, qualifying for regionals in the 100 and 200 meters. Junior wrestler Christian Miranda advanced to the Region 1-1A meet in the 106-pound division and finished the season with a 24-15 record.
FSDB also kicked off its first flag football season with a young core and will look for improvement heading into the 2018 season.
Pinkney’s free throw with 57.9 seconds left in a Jan. 5 game against Harvest Christian not only helped Beacon seal a District 3-2A victory, but was the 1,000th point of his varsity career. Pinkney scored 27 that night to lead the Eagles to a 67-59 win. He finished his senior season averaging 18.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.8 steals per game.
FSDB sophomore Jackson Gilreath beamed with pride as he strode to the podium to collect his silver medal in the Class 1A Adaptive shot put. Gilreath threw 11-0 ¾ to finish behind Cedar Key’s Sam Parks. Gilreath, a St. Johns resident, more than doubled the distance he threw at the District 4-1A meet.
“It was a great feeling,” Gilreath told The Record after receiving his medal. “I felt a lot of confidence. I hope I can come back next year.”
The FSDB football team did not win a game, but it certainly was not from a lack of trying. The Dragons lost by two points to the Model Secondary School for the Deaf on Sept. 10. Despite not practicing for more than a week because of Hurricane Matthew, the Dragons narrowly lost on the road to the Alabama School for the Deaf 6-0 on Oct. 22.
Beacon of Hope completed its second year competing in the Florida Christian Association of Private and Parochial Schools eight-man division. A Nov. 18 loss to Kissimmee City of Life Christian left the Eagles with a 7-4 record. Pinkney, A Warner University football signee, led the team in rushing, threw for 809 yards and added 170 receiving yards. Earl, a senior, accounted for 10 touchdowns, threw for 512 yards and added 296 receiving yards. Senior Johntrell Floyd led the Eagles defensively with 51 tackles and eight sacks.
FSDB’s girls goalball team won a second straight USABA national title in November after a 6-0 run through the tournament. The Cobras came from behind to beat the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impared 7-5 to win their 10th title. Senior Vanessa Coleman and freshman Aaliyah Ferguson both scored 17 goals in the tournament for the Dragons and were named to the All-America team.
Individually, FSDB sprinter Tyre Singleton won the 400 meters at the District 4-1A meet and narrowly missed out on a regional title. The senior advanced to state for a second straight year and finished 12th with a time of 52.90. FSDB wrestler Anthony Hoyt won the District 4-1A title in the 182-pound division, won two matches at the Region 1-1A meet and finished with a 16-17 record.
The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB) is a fully accredited state public school and outreach center available tuition-free to eligible Pre-K and K-12 deaf/hard of hearing and blind/visually impaired students. Comprehensive educational services at FSDB are individualized, specific to the unique communication and accessibility needs of each student for independence and lifelong success. FSDB gratefully accepts private donations to support vital programs that directly benefit students and are not paid by state general revenue funds. To visit the school or to learn more about eligibility for enrollment, contact 1-800-344-3732. For more information, visit www.fsdb.k12.fl.us.