To honor athletes of Lakeland High School and to also promote Fellowship of Christian Athletes, English teacher and FCA sponsor Stephanie Narramore gathered approximately 350 students for breakfast yesterday. “A lot of other schools around the district have done sports breakfasts for different seasons of the sports year and we had not done any this year,” said Narramore.
While the students ate breakfast, Frank Reynoso, a church pastor and motivational speaker from New York, came to speak to the teens about FCA and God. He has been a part of FCA for more than a decade. “There’s an awesome staff that are really about encouraging God; we love sports, we love what it does, what it teaches us and how it challenges us,” he said.
Reynoso spoke about his past growing as a child in the Bronx of New York. He talked about the first time he had ever been to the movies – a trip to see “Rocky.”
“They started talking about this dude Rocky and all of a sudden this guy is coming out of poverty. I started to relate to him,” said Reynoso.
“At the end of the movie they’re fighting; they got the music going and it’s like ‘this boy Rocky is comin’ off. The movie finishes, they ring the bell, they announce the winner was Apollo Creed. I was confused. I was like how the movie gonna be called “Rocky,” and he lose.” Reynoso told the kids that he learned a lesson that day. “I got a glimpse of something and it was a lesson I was about to learn – you don’t always win.”
He connected with students by telling them about his family life and his struggles growing up. For instance, he said his mother “used to be a drunk,” but turned things around when he was 12 years old by going to church and getting saved.
Once finished with his speech, Reynoso gave students the opportunity to stand as he led a prayer. FCA members also stayed and prayed with some students at the end of the banquet.
“This has been my vision since sophomore year so I am excited that God has brought it to life,” said Lakeland senior Vivian Bentley.
Though this banquet only involved the athletes of the school, senior Tori North advised that this is one out of two major events the club is planning for the year. “We are going to try to do one before the end of the school year with the whole school in the gym,” said North.
Kendrick Stewart is a former Lakeland High School Dreadnaught entering his second season of play for the Lakeland Raiders UIFL arena team. The 6’2,” 280 pound linebacker was a member of the championship run teams at Lakeland High School during the mid-2000s. After finishing up his degree at Florida State University he returned home to continue his journey. While Stewart is a paraprofessional by day at LHS, at night he can often be found in the weight room or on the practice field.
Last season, Stewart had 13 solo and 18 assisted tackles with nine sacks and one interception.
Q: Tell me a little about your educational background.
A: I went to Florida State University and graduated with a degree in sports management, minoring in business and applied for the position here at Lakeland High School. Mrs. Collins was the assistant principal when I was here in 2005 so she just wanted me on staff so I felt like it was a great fit; and I coach football and basketball here at and I played football and basketball here at Lakeland High School.
Q: What position do you play?
A: I actually play all over the field. Running back, defensive end, linebacker. Whereever they need me. But the position I’m usually at is defensive end or linebacker.
Q: Can you describe the difference between arena football and regular football?
A: In arena football we wear tennis shoes because the ground is kinda’ like carpet or turf and we have walls up, like boundaries where you can get flipped over the wall, Whereas in outside football you can just go over the line. You can get flipped over the wall and the field is 50 yards [in arena.] It’s an up and down game. It’s fast-paced. The fans are like right next to the wall so if you get flipped over the wall a fan can get run over and the ball gets thrown out to the stands a lot. It’s faster than the outdoor game.
Q: Where did you grow up?
A: Originally I was born in Bartow and then moved to Lakeland shortly thereafter. I’ve been in Lakeland for a good amount of my life. I went to Blake Elementary and then Crystal Lake Middle and then came to Lakeland High School. So I’ve lived in Lakeland my whole life; and then graduated from Lakeland and went up to Florida State which is in Tallahassee; then moved back down to Lakeland.
Q: How long have you been playing football?
A: Actually I started playing football my freshman year of high school so I haven’t been playing as long as a lot of guys because they played Pop Warner. I never played Pop Warner. I was a baseball player and basketball player when I was younger and then when I was in high school the coach saw me playing basketball in P.E and decided I should come out and try out for the team. I made the team and the rest is history.
Q: What are your future goals for football?
A: I would love to either move up to the CFL or NFL. I mean we have scouts come out to each and every game. If I perform I can definitely move up, so that’s my dream, to move up to a higher level.
Q: Besides football, what else would you consider a future goal for yourself?
A: I would definitely say being a head coach; start out in high school and then work my way up to college. And then if all goes well, be a head coach in the NFL. My passion right now is kids; I love helping out and helping the community and doing everything I can to help people’s lives, so I would definitely want to be head coach one day because you’re molding young men for the future. My coaches felt they did a great job with me so I want to give back and do the same thing.
Q: You have been an athletic person your whole life. Have there been any speed bumps along the way or distractions?
A: Well when I was training to go into the NFL, I pulled my hamstring pretty bad and I was out for a while. In college I also had knee scopes and a shoulder scope. I tore my labrum but I always just bounce back. I had a surgery and then rehabbed it real well because I feel like, in life, there’s going to obstacles. There’s no way around them. It’s what you do after them and I always got up and manned up and did what I had to do to move forward.
Q: What made you want to start playing football?
A: Probably my brother. My brother used to always watch Florida State and use to always talk about Warrick Dunn and Peter Warrick and we would go out into the yard and play tackle football and say we’re this person and that person or Barry Sanders or Emmitt Smith or something like that, and it just kinda’ stuck. I like the contact. I like just running with the ball and hitting people who have the ball. It was made for me I guess.
Q: Once you’ve accomplished your goal of going pro, do you have any other goals after that?
A: I feel like then I would want to give back to the community and where I came from because kids need a mentor to look up to or somebody who’s going to be there for them. A lot of kids don’t have a father figure in their life so if I can step in and help out some kids, that’s my main passion. I didn’t make into the NFL. I didn’t do some of the things that I wanted to but now I’m back helping kids. At the end of the day that puts a smile on my face. I can go home and look at myself in the mirror and say I helped somebody today and that’s bigger than going to the NFL to me.
S: I’m sure you have that perseverance but most people when they don’t reach the top, they just basically give it all up.
A: Yeah and I have known guys I went to school with and teammates that didn’t make it to the NFL and kinda’ turned their life around because they were just banking on going to the NFL. Going to college, I never had that mindset. I was just blessed that I had a full ride to Florida State University. I didn’t expect to even get a scholarship; it was a blessing in disguise. My main thing [now is] to tell all the kids to get your school work done. I graduated with a 3.0 from Lakeland High School and when you’re a freshman, that’s when you have to take care of business. If you wait it could be too late and colleges won’t accept you. My main thing I tell all the guys I coach is get your school work done. Stay on top of your school work.
Q: Besides physical speed bumps along the way, have there been any peer pressure incidents that have happened to you?
A: There’s peer pressure all the time. You have to just wake up and man up and make the decision. There’s going to be people asking you can you go here or can you go to the mall and hang out with your buddies when you have tons and tons of school work and you just have to wake up and just tell them no. Sometimes you just have to say no. Like ‘nah I need to finish this’ or ‘no I don’t think that’s a good idea.’ I mean they are going to talk about you whether it’s good or bad but it’s just up to you to make that decision when and when not to do things because in college there’s going to be drugs and they have parties. You just have to balance your life and you do what’s right. I always say put God first and everything else will fall in line.
Q: So you are not the type of person to wait.
A: I’m not a big procrastinator. If a teacher gives me an assignment today, I would be working on it today. I just like to get it out of the way; even if it’s due in two weeks. I at least like to get a head start. That’s what I tell all the freshmen. ‘Listen, this is not a time to play around and be with your friends. You need to get your school work and let’s get business. Then your senior year is more a relaxed kind of feeling.
Q: What other passion to do you have besides helping out, leadership and football? A secret thing that you haven’t really talked about in public but wouldn’t mind the public knowing.
A: I lost my father when I was in ninth grade. He saw me play my first football game and like… every time I step on the field, I talk to him. I ask him for guidance and I know he’s looking over me. A lot of people complain about a lot of stuff. We were so close. You never know somebody’s situation. You walk around smiling and happy and everything but you don’t really know what’s going on with a person. When I talk to people – when I ask you how you’re doing – I really want to know. I just try to take time to actually know what’s going on or if I can help out; to say encouraging words or at least one positive thing to at least 10 people a day. Just say something encouraging to people because you never know what’s going on.
Q: What did you do to cope with the loss when it happened?
A: My family was afraid that I would get on drugs or that I would slack off in school or just be out in the streets but I didn’t use that as a crutch. I just knew I had to be strong for my mother and just went to school and did what I had to do. Football was an outlet. I could release anger. I just totally didn’t think about things when I got on the field and it’s kind of like that now. It helps me release anger or whatever I have on my mind. It just helps me cope with what’s going on and then get a level head. Football has been a big factor in my life and basketball as well, I love basketball.
I feel like playing any sport builds character. You go through different obstacles. Just like you do in life, you learn discipline, you learn how to be on time, you learn how to be accountable to your teammates. You learn so much about life through sports and a lot of people don’t understand that. When you’re late for practice, you have to do different things. If you’re late to your job, you’re probably gonna’ get fired. It’s helped me tremendously.
Q: What was your favorite moment in football?
A: That’s tough because I’ve played a lot of football.
Q: How about a moment that really meant something to you?
A: I would say stepping up on the podium and receiving my state championship medal here at Lakeland High School and pointing up to my dad and saying ‘This is for you.” I mean I just got the chills and everything; tears of joy. We won state that year so I was pretty stoked. That had to be one of the most memorable moments of my football career.
When it comes to passion and dedication for the sport he loves, 17-year-old Legends racer Dakota Baggette does not show anything less. Give him a greased up motor with four wheels and he is good to go. “I’ve never had a second thought in my mind about racing; it’s my passion,” Baggette said.
Baggette is from Lakeland and currently attends Polk Collegiate High School. Besides watching his dad race, Baggette said what he remembers of his father’s time racing is “cheering him on.”
Legends racing features a 5/8 sized 34 Ford coupe with a 1250cc Yamaha engine. Baggette said that since his dad stopped racing, it has changed because there is more technology to the sport.
What started out as an interest from watching his father, Greg Baggette, race in the DASH series (an early division of NASCAR) and flourished into something much more. “The first time I saw him race, I knew I had to be out there” Baggette said.
Baggette is a 4 time WKA (World Kart Association) Florida State Champion and 3-time WKA World National Champion and a 2012 Florida State Legends Pro Champion among other titles. But, with that much driving, there are bound to be speed bumps.
While taking a lead in a race at Jasper, a go-kart dirt track, Baggette was hit out of the corner and the nose of the kart dug into the ground, causing him to flip multiple times. “That was probably the worst wreck I have ever been in,” Baggette said.
Though the crash may have roughed him up, it did not stop him from getting behind the wheel again. His latest race was in Atlanta, Georgia where he participated in asphalt nationals for Legends cars where he placed third. “I really loved spending the whole week at the track with my friends and family,” said Baggette.
Of course like other drivers, Baggette has big plans for his future. “My future goals would have to be to get into one of the NASCAR series such as ARCA, Camping World Truck Series, and Sprint Cup series.” With a passion as big as his, and the support of his family and friends, there is no telling what Baggette can accomplish behind the wheel.
Five Lakeland High School senior football players could be found in the Media Center taking advantage of National Signing Day Tuesday.
Those who signed include T.J. Simmons, Tre’ Dempsey, Sharard Saddlers, Devon Denson and Bryan Mitchell.
Although Simmons was unable to attend, his mother Pam Willis, attended on his behalf. “I am very proud of him,” she said. “He’s already in Indiana and he likes it up there. It’s a nice place.”
Each athlete chose the following college:
T.J. Simmons – University of Indiana
Bryan Mitchell – Southwest Minnesota State
Devon Denson – Stillman College
Tre’ Dempsey – North Dakota State
Sharard Saddlers – Johnson C. Smith University
Athletic Director Dan Talbot kicked off the ceremony, held at 1:15 p.m., by saying just how proud he was of each of the signees. He also mentioned that there are six more waiting in the wings, who have offers from schools but chose to opt out of signing day. They each have offers from schools already, but are keeping their options open.
“I just want to say that we’re proud of these guys and our entire senior class,” Talbot added. “They showed a lot of leadership this year.”
Dempsey has spent the past several weeks traveling throughout the country to look at colleges who were interested in him.
Prior to the start of the ceremony, he said that North Dakota University is, “a successful program and like Lakeland, they are known for their wins.” That, and the fact that the school is “all about football,” helped lead him to choosing the school.
After Talbot made the introductions, each athlete had the opportunity to say a few words before signing their letters of intent.
“I’d like to thank God, my family and my friends for all their help,” Dempsey said.
De’Mon Peeples, Braxton Huggins, Jonathan Niblack, Jalen Stevenson and Isaiah Walker also have offers but have yet to make a decision.
Where magic happens and dreams come true, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has at least 46,000 joyful guests each day, but is the “happiest place on earth” really what it seems?
Although it may be fun for friends and family, this park holds deep secrets that leave some guests puzzled. This ambiguous enigma is the tale of George, a welder who died during the construction of Pirates of the Caribbean when the park first opened, but is now rumored to be a ghost who wanders the ride.
While attending the Magic Kingdom on Sunday, September 23 my brother and I decided to ride one of our favorite rides first, The Pirates of the Caribbean. Now in the past my brother, Javier Moa, and I have heard of the story of George, but never really tried to call him out. So what went through our minds was, “Let’s do it!”
Our interested little minds thought of everything we could do to find any clues of him, from taking pictures to voice recordings. Once we were on the ride, I had given up and did the last thing we could do. I looked at my brother then said aloud, “George, the day I believe you, is the day you actually make this ride break down!” I left it at that and continued on the ride.
As we meandered through the river ride, I started looking for any clues I could find to make George, a fact. I found nothing. Passing through the scene of the prisoners trying ever so hard to lure the dog with the keys closer to escape, the tale I thought was fiction became fact in my eyes, when the ride suddenly broke down. Chills shivered down my spine and I was overcome with a burst of excitement. I thought that if I apologize to George, maybe the ride would start again, but it did not work. Ten minutes later the ride started up again and we headed for the gift shop.
Beforehand while in line, my brother and I asked a couple of employees about George, but they would not tell us anything. Upon arriving at the gift shop, we asked the merchandisers. One merchandisers told us that you can ask them but the employees that work the line “won’t tell a soul.”
We stumbled upon a young merchandiser by the name of Brett (he would not tell us his last name). Once I asked what the tale of George was, he replied, “Well, what have you heard?” I gave him all the details that I had researched when I was younger and told him what I had heard. The young merchandiser finally said, “I’m not allowed to say much, but yes, George was a man who worked here and then died while working construction for the ride.” Once asked if he believes the tall tale, he said he thinks the tale is a myth.
Another Pirates of the Caribbean merchandiser, Eric the Pirate, says he’s had countless encounters and that he truly believes the ghost of George is real. “He’s definitely here. He’s always here at Pirates. I was here one night with my manager and he said, ‘Goodnight George!’ and then all of the lights went off; strangest thing ever. It was just me and my manager, Steve, and all the lights went off.”
While he was a great help, I had to get an outside opinion, a cast member who did not work at Pirates. My brother then reminded me of the ghost story at the Haunted Mansion – the crow, Lucifer. He used to be the narrator for the ride until Disney thought it was too scary for children. That is when they changed it to the voice in the dune buggies.
As soon I arrived at the Haunted Mansion, I found a cast member and proceeded to make my approach. The cast member’s name was Lori. Like the other cast members, she would not give her last name. She said she thought the ghost stories were all rumors, of no real truth. “I don’t know of any ghosts here. All I know is every morning and evening before we leave, we have to pet the crow on the ride named Lucifer,” Lori said. She also told us that an old cast member who has worked at Disney, “since the beginning,” gives the dog they call Boney, dog biscuits every morning and they mysteriously disappear.
After two hours interviewing cast members, I gave it a rest and enjoyed the rest of the day. As I left the park for the day, I could not help but wonder, still, if there was any truth to George and Lucifer. I guess we will never know.
“My favorite thing about First Friday is the live bands that perform,” Lakeland High School freshman, Austin Isbell said of the city of Lakeland’s First Friday event.
First Friday is an event held in downtown Lakeland that started approximately seven years ago. It is sponsored by Downtown Lakeland Partnerships and is a free event held in Munn Park and around downtown on the first Friday of every month.
Each event has its own theme. February’s theme was “Downtown loves the Arts” which allowed visitors to enjoy the visual and performing arts, with approximately 50 artists showing their work. March’s theme was “Skyward Festival,” and DLP teamed up with Sun n’ Fun to bring the fantasy of aviation to downtown Lakeland.
It featured the chance for guests to create paper airplanes and view helicopter pyrotechnics, hot air balloons, flyovers and more.
First Friday runs from 6 pm to 9 pm.
First Friday featured aviation vehicles, live entertainment, a car show and food and music vendors.
Officials from Lakeland Linder Regional Airport were in attendance as well.
“ We’re here to promote aviation and to tell about our new airline that has started flying, as well as promoting the general aviation side as well,” a representative said.
Attendance for the events range from 2,000 to 3,000 on average. Annette Riddle is a four-year attendee.
“I love the sense of the community,” Riddle’s younger sister, Jennifer, said. “My favorite thing at First Friday is the weird music.”
While Isbell attends to meet up with friends and see the different displays and vendors, he added that he wished, “First Friday had a roller coaster.”
All in all, Isbell said he enjoys First Fridays. “It’s so fun,” he said.