Pro Hockey News

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Voice of the Seminoles Gene Deckerhoff Named Nelson Award Winner

The Knoxville(TN) Quarterback Club has named Jacksonville native Gene Deckerhoff the recipient of the 2014 Lindsay Nelson Broadcasting Award. Named after the legendary national sportscaster that began his 50+ year career in the sports broadcasting profession as the Voice of the Tennessee Volunteers in 1948.

The Lindsay Nelson Award has been bestowed by the Knoxville QB Club since 1998 to "broadcasters that exemplify a passion for broadcasting during his or her career". Gene joins a host of sports broadcasting legends that have received the award in past years, including Keith Jackson, Lee Corso, Larry Munson, Verne Lundquist, Chris Schenkel, Ron Franklin and John Ward.

Gene will accept the award in Knoxville during UT Weekend on April 25.  

Former Head Coach of Appalachian State, Jerry Moore, will be honored as this year's recipient of the General Robert R. Neyland Trophy, which is presented annually in memory of the Hall of Fame football coach by the Knoxville QB Club to "an outstanding man who has contributed greatly to intercollegiate athletics".

Previous honorees include Bobby Bowden, John McKay, and Bear Bryant among many others.

Monday, March 30, 2015

SUNS: Miami Marlins Play Jacksonville at the Baseball Grounds Saturday

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--  The 2014 Southern League Champion Jacksonville Suns will take on the Miami Marlins in a special pre-season exhibition matchup at Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville this Saturday, April 4 at 2:05 p.m. 

Gates open at 11:30 A.M. and the Marlins will take batting practice at 12:15 P.M.

Tickets for the exhibition game are on sale and going fast, so get them now at the Suns box office and online at  Homeplate Box seats are $28.50, Reserved seats are $22.50 and General Admission tickets are $16.50. 

Season tickets for the 2015 Suns regular season are also currently on sale through the Suns Box Office at (904) 358-2846, or online at 

Tickets plans begin at $120 per seat.  Sponsorships and group packages are also available.  

The 2015 season is presented by Everbank, the official banking partner of the Jacksonville Suns.  The Suns are the reigning 2014 Southern League Champions and the Double-A Affiliate of the Miami Marlins.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SPRING FOOTBALL: Green Downs White In USF Spring Game

TAMPA – More than 3,200 fans flocked to the USF Campus on a beautiful spring day to watch the annual USF football Spring Game Saturday afternoon at Corbett Stadium.

USF’s new up-tempo offense gave senior quarterback Steven Bench an opportunity to make a big play and the Green Team starter stepped up with a with a 62-yard touchdown run to lead the Green Team to a 10-9 victory over the White Team. 

Marlon Mack, the 2014 American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, added 83 yards rushing, all in the first half, and 123 all-purpose yards for the Green.

“We divided the team up. Not everybody is playing with who they’ve been playing with all spring long, so it was good,” USF Head Coach Willie Taggart said. “I like to see who really steps up when you’re playing with somebody you’re probably not playing with in the fall, but you still step up and make plays. Usually when you do that, you’re going to be a pretty good player out here for us.”

USF’s defense has shined all spring in the new 4-2-5 system under defensive coordinator Tom Allen and playmakers emerged from both sidelines on a sunny Saturday on campus. Senior linebacker and White Team member Tashon Whitehurst posted a game-high 19 total tackles (11 solo) with a sack and an interception.

USF wraps up its spring next week with weight lifting and a player evaluation period before new talent from USF’s second straight top-rated recruited class in The American arrives in the summer.

“I can’t wait to get back at it already,” Taggart said. “It will be fun to see some of those (new) guys here to get with their teammates and be a part of this.”

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SPRING FOOTBALL: FAU Football Shows Great Strides in Spring’s 1st Scrimmage

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- A balanced day with tremendous improvement was the word coming out of Florida Atlantic University’s open Saturday scrimmage.

“I’m excited that I saw success on both sides of the ball,” said Charlie Partridge, FAU’s head football coach. “There were times when our office was able to finished drives, especially in the later have of the scrimmage. It was good see our defense get some stops. Our offense has had a lot of success this spring. We are nicked up at linebacker. We are being protective of some guys. We are trying to be smart there. So we had some younger guys, some inexperience linebackers - to get some stops is encouraging.”

The young linebackers were not the only bright spot of the game. Newcomer Daniel Parr saw his first action as he joined senior Jaquez Johnson, junior Greg Hankerson, redshirt freshman Jason Driskel and Dom Marino, who all took snaps under center.

“I’m excited about some of the young guys. Daniel Parr shows that he’s got mobility and has a nice touch on the ball,” added Partridge. “Trey Rodriguez had some explosive plays. He had some freshman mistakes also.”

The offense scored twice with Johnson finding fellow senior Derek Moise for a score and Greg Howell punching in another. Defensively, the Owls had two turnovers. Senior Cre’von LeBlanc went up and fought for a ball to prevent a score and come away with the interception. The defense also recovered a fumble.

SATURDAY NOTEBOOK: Soccer Takes Over EverBank Field

The Jacksonville Armada FC is back in action today at 5 p.m. as it hosts NASL foe Tampa Bay Rowdies at EverBank Field. 

The contest is part of the Armada FC Challenge, which begins with Flagler College taking on Jacksonville University at 12:30 p.m. and NASL teams FC Edmonton and Carolina RailHawks at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available by calling the Armada ticket office at 1-844-2-ARMADA or visiting .


Friday, March 27, 2015

NASL: Armada FC Signs Former MLS Draft Pick Barrett

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Jacksonville Armada FC has announced the addition of former Major League Soccer draft pick Akeil Barrett as the latest player to join the Armada FC lineup.

Drafted by Orlando City SC in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft in January, Barrett has been on trial with the Armada FC since the beginning of March and will play forward for the club. He was a standout performer at the University of Tulsa from 2012-14 prior to beginning his professional career.

"Akeil is a young player we are excited about adding to our attack," said Armada FC general manager Dario Sala. "He is a strong prospect for our club that should give us depth up front."

A native of Kingston, Jamaica, the 22-year-old Barrett was a two-time all-conference performer with 14 goals and 12 assists in 34 career starts for the Golden Hurricane. Barrett also spent a year with the University of Akron as a freshman before transferring to Tulsa.

As a youth player in Jamaica, Barrett was a prolific scorer for Calabar High School. He netted 52 goals in his career there, including 15 game winners, and set a school single-season record with 19 goals as a senior. He also played club soccer for Harbour View FC U-20 and Meadhaven FC in the Jamaican National Premier League.

The Armada FC will launch back into action at 5 p.m. on Saturday as it hosts NASL foe Tampa Bay Rowdies at EverBank Field. The contest is part of the Armada FC Challenge, which begins with Flagler College taking on Jacksonville University at 12:30 p.m. and NASL teams FC Edmonton and Carolina RailHawks at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available by calling the Armada ticket office at 1-844-2-ARMADA or visiting .

AFL: Jacksonville Sharks Add Couple of Vets to Roster

JACKSONVILLE – The Jacksonville Sharks announced that the team has added a pair of veteran players, as Jack linebacker Alvin Ray Jackson and offensive lineman Ray McNeil have been assigned to the Jacksonville roster on one-year contracts. Per team policy, terms of the deals were not disclosed.

The 34-year-old Jackson (6’2”, 200) enters his fifth season in the Arena Football League. Most recently, Jackson began the 2014 season with the New Orleans VooDoo, recording 39 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, three interceptions and three pass breakups during 14 regular season appearances. Jackson then joined the Cleveland Gladiators during the postseason, recording a total of 17 tackles and one interception over the course of the Gladiators’ three-game playoff run.

The 30-year-old McNeil (6’2”, 315) enters his fifth AFL season, most recently starting 14 games for the Tampa Bay Storm during the 2014 campaign. Prior to his stint with the Storm, McNeil saw action in 15 games along the offensive line with the San Jose SaberCats in 2013, making 12 starts.

McNeil spent the 2012 season with the Milwaukee Mustangs, making a total of 13 starts in 14 appearances. In 2011, McNeil broke into the AFL with the Utah Blaze before a midseason trade took him to the Spokane Shock. Between the two teams, he made a total of 15 starts that season. 

In other Wednesday transactions, the Sharks announced that Mac linebacker Pierre Turner has been placed on recallable reassignment, and that the contract of offensive lineman Antonio Narcisse has been voided. Following the moves, the Jacksonville roster remains at the League maximum of 24 active players.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

NFL: Jaguars Continue Offseason Adjustments as NFL Owners Meet in Arizona

Florida Sports Wire

NFL owners announced Monday at their meeting in Arizona that the game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills on Oct. 25 at Wembley Stadium in London will be distributed over a digital platform that will be available worldwide.

The game will remain available on over-the-air television in the Jacksonville and Buffalo markets. It will mark the first time the NFL will distribute a national game on a platform other than a TV network.

They also decided to suspend the league's local TV blackout policy for the 2015 season. The blackouts will be suspended for preseason and regular-season games. The NFL will re-evaluate the rule after the season.

There were no local blackouts during the 2014 regular season and only two in 2013.

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS - The Jaguars and free-agent tight end Julius Thomas have agreed to a multi-year contract. Thomas earned his second straight Pro Bowl selection after catching 43 passes for 489 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games this past season. He had 65 receptions for 788 yards and 12 touchdowns over 14 games during a breakout campaign in 2013.

MORE SIGNINGS - In addition to Thomas, who left the Denver Broncos for a reported five-year, $45 million deal, the Jaguars landed former Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick, ex-Cowboys offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, former Packers cornerback Davon House, linebacker Dan Skuta and safety Sergio Brown. With salary cap space and eager to improve a team that has lost at least 11 games in each of the past four seasons, Jacksonville was one of the most aggressive teams on this year's market.

OTHER OFFSEASON MOVES - The Jaguars were awarded fourth-year running back Bernard Pierce off waivers from Baltimore. Pierce, 6-0, 230 pounds, has appeared in 45 career games with three starts for the Ravens after being selected in the third round of the 2012 draft.  He has rushed for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns on 353 carries (3.8 rush avg.) and 29 receptions for 164 yards. Earlier they signed second-year wide receiver/return specialist Bryan Walters, signed exclusive rights free agent offensive lineman Austin Pasztor and released veteran defensive end Red Bryan and signed defensive end Tyson Alualu to a two-year contract.

CALDWELL ON TYSON - “We are excited to get Tyson under contract,” Jaguars general manager David Caldwell said.  “This was a priority for us before free agency officially opened.  Tyson is a durable player who has the ability to play multiple positions along the line and is a great teammate.  We feel like he is continuing to improve as a player and we are excited for his future as a Jaguar.”

JAGUARS EXTENED DEAL WITH PRESIDENT - The Jacksonville Jaguars gave team president Mark Lamping a five-year contract extension. Since being hired for the position in February 2012, Lamping has overseen all business operations for the Jaguars.

KAHN ON LAMPING- "Mark has impressively served the Jaguars and, by extension, the National Football League since I introduced him as our new team president in early 2012," Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. "Our business performance over the past three years has been remarkable under Mark, and his commitment to the Jacksonville community has been nothing short of spectacular. We're all very fortunate to have Mark Lamping as our Jaguars team president today and for many more years to come."

TOP SCOUT - College scout Brian Simmons was honored in Indianapolis by the Fritz Pollard Alliance as the AFC Scout of the Year.  Simmons received the award at the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s annual ceremony at the NFL Scouting Combine. Simmons is in his seventh season with the Jaguars after being named a regional scout for the club on June 1, 2009. 

EVERBANK, JAGUARS TEAM UP WITH HABIJAX - EverBank and the Jacksonville Jaguars are teaming up again with HabiJax to provide volunteers and funding for the construction of a home this spring. Construction began March 20 and has a tentative completion date of May 8. EverBank associates, Jaguars players, coaches, staff and members of The ROAR Cheerleaders will work on the house throughout the building process.

Monday, March 23, 2015

GOLF: Three Top 10s Highlight Dolphins Runner-Up Finish at Bearcat Spring Classic

HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Fla. - Highlighted by top ten finishes from Jessica Welch, Sabrina Rumbaugh and Shania Berger, the Jacksonville University women's golf team took second in a 17 team field at the Bearcat Spring Classic held at the Mission Inn Resort Los Colinas course this weekend. The Dolphins completed the 54-hole, three day event with a 301 team score on Sunday to finish at 917 (316-300-301) for the tournament.

"Getting contributions from the whole team is huge for us. This course had some holes that were really quirky and it took us a couple of rounds to adjust," said Head Coach Jennifer Borocz of the Dolphins big turnaround in rounds two and three on Saturday and Sunday. "Once we got familiar with the course we could see what worked and were able to make the swings we needed with confidence."

Welch earns her fifth top ten of the year as she tied for fifth at eight-over, 225 (78-73-74). She wrapped up play with a two-over 74 on Sunday that included three of her nine birdies for the tournament. Rumbaugh meanwhile closed with a final round 76 after playing the final 10 holes in one-over. She tied for seventh overall at nine-over 226 (81-69-76) as the performance marked her second top 10 of the year and seventh top 25.

"Jess didn't have a good start to the first round, but she is a competitor and fought through to turn it around on the back nine yesterday," Borocz said. "Sabrina had a lot of good opportunities the last two rounds. She hit the ball well and is starting to come into form at the right time of year."

Berger, who has been battling injury all spring, had a career best finish this week tying for 10th. After grinding out 77s in the first two rounds she posted a two-over, 74 on Sunday making three birdies on the day. Berger ended the tournament at 11-over, 228 (77-77-74).

"Having Shania back to 100 percent obviously helps us quite a bit," said Borocz. "She had to fight through to finish on Saturday and had a really solid performance today."

Megan Collins attributed to the Dolphins final round team score with a 77 for her best round of the tournament after playing her final six holes in even par.

"I was really proud of the way Megan fought through on Saturday," added Borocz. "She was pretty ill in the morning before the round, but fought past it to put up a respectable score that really saved us."

Jacksonville has one regular season tournament remaining before the Atlantic Sun Conference Championship in mid-April. The Dolphins will return to action by hosting the Intercollegiate on March 30-31 at Marsh Landing Country Club.

Borocz concluded, "We are all coming into form here right at the end of the year which is where we wanted to be."

Sunday, March 22, 2015

NCAA: UNC Advances in Tournament with 87-78 Win Over Arkansas

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Marcus Paige scored 20 of his 22 points in the second half as North Carolina pulled away for an 87-78 victory over Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Justin Jackson had 16 points and J.P. Tokoto added 13 with eight assists as the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (26-11) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in three years.   They will play the winner of Sunday's game between top- seeded Wisconsin and eighth-seeded Oregon next week in the West Region semifinals.

It was an emotional victory for North Carolina's Roy Williams, who matched his mentor, the late Dean Smith, for the second-most NCAA Tournament wins with 65. 

"That means a lot to me," said Williams, who earned the 750th win of his coaching career. 

Michael Qualls, playing in his 100th game for Arkansas, registered his first career double-double. The junior guard poured in 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. 

SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the fifth-seeded Razorbacks (27-9), who committed 21 turnovers. "We had a bunch of unforced turnovers, which is very uncharacteristic of our team," said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. The Razorbacks had averaged 11.7 turnovers per game. 

Arkansas was in the tourney for the first time since 2008. That year it also was eliminated by North Carolina in the second round. Qualls hit a 3-pointer while being fouled, then made the free throw to complete the four-point play and pull Arkansas within 47-46.

A 3 by Portis put the Razorbacks ahead 50-49 with 14:51 remaining. North Carolina used an 8-2 run to grab a 57-52 lead, but Jabril Durham capped a 7-1 spurt with a 3 and Arkansas led 59-58 with 10:55 left. The Tar Heels then took control with a 17-4 run.

Paige buried two treys and supplied 13 points during the surge that put North Carolina up 75-63 with 5:38 to play. 

A scary moment for the Tar Heels occurred when Kennedy Meeks had a Razorback player fall into his left leg while underneath the basket with three minutes remaining. Meeks, whose playing time was limited because of foul trouble, sat out the rest of the game with a sprained left knee.

"Kennedy has a knee sprain. That's all we're saying right now," said Williams. "We think that's all it is, but we'll get some X-rays or MRIs or both when we get back and find out what it is." 

Arkansas trimmed its deficit to six with 27 seconds left, but couldn't get any closer. 

Tokoto converted his first free throw attempt to make it 83-76. He missed the second, but Nate Britt was able to secure the rebound for North Carolina. Paige was fouled and made both shots at the line to seal the win.                                  

Game Notes: The Razorbacks haven't reached the Sweet 16 since 1996 ... North Carolina carried a 39-36 lead into halftime ... Paige had six rebounds and five steals ... The Tar Heels shot 55 percent in the second half ... Rashad Madden scored 13 points for the Razorbacks.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

NCAA: Xavier Downs Georgia State 75-67, Reaches Sweet 16

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jalen Reynolds scored 21 points with six rebounds off the bench to help Xavier take down Georgia State, 75-67, in the third round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Myles Davis added 17 points in a reserve role for the Musketeers (23-13), who will play Arizona in the Sweet 16.

Sixth-seeded Xavier has made it back to the round of 16 for the seventh time in school history and for the first time since 2012.

R.J. Hunter, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Thursday's upset win over third-seeded Baylor, paced the Panthers (25-10) with 20 points.

The Musketeers controlled the game and shot an incredible 67.6 percent from the floor -- including 7-of-13 from beyond the arc -- in the win.

Kevin Ware's jumper two minutes into the second half tied the game at 34-34. Xavier used a 9-2 run moments later to take a 45-38 lead, then Davis' 3- pointer made it a 10-point spread with over eight minutes left in the game.

Hunter buried a 3-pointer to help the 14th-seeded Panthers close to within 55-51 with 5:50 remaining, but that would be as close as they would get down the stretch.

A pair of free throws from Dee Davis made it an eight-point game moments later, then Reynolds converted a three-point play with 2:24 on the clock that gave Xavier a 64-55 edge.

Myles Davis fired in a 3 with 1:35 left that stretched the margin back to 10 and essentially sealed the result.

Dee Davis and Myles Davis wrapped 3-pointers around a Remy Abell three-point play that gave Xavier a 15-4 lead prior to the second media timeout of the first half.

Hunter hit two 3s later in the half as part of an 11-4 spurt for Georgia State that brought it within two, but the Panthers were held scoreless over the final two minutes of the frame. 

The Musketeers did not take advantage of the drought, however, scoring just two points on a Reynolds dunk that sent them into the break with a 32-28 edge.

Game Notes: Xavier has reached the Sweet 16 five times since 2008 ... The Muskeeteers last reached the Elite Eight in 2008 ... Ryan Harrow, Georgia State's second- leading scorer, returned to the lineup after missing Thursday's game with a hamstring injury to score six points off the bench ... Dee Davis had 15 points in the win ... Georgia State converted 26-of-46 attempts from the floor ... Xavier's bench outscored the Panthers reserves, 38-19.

NASL: Armada FC Primed for Trip to Fort Lauderdale

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- The Jacksonville Armada FC (2-2 preseason) will head south this weekend to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to take on NASL foe Fort Lauderdale Strikers at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Lockhart Stadium.

After a 13-day layoff following its 2-0 loss against the Charleston Battery on March 8, the Armada FC will be ready to get back at it. The club has been hard at work on the practice pitch with intense conditioning and drills. 

The Armada FC defeated the Strikers 1-0 in their previous meeting on Feb. 28 in Jacksonville. Defender Shawn Nicklaw scored the goal for the Armada FC.

The Strikers hold a 3-2 record in preseason play with wins over Florida Gulf Coast University, Florida International University and Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Friday, March 20, 2015

NCAA: Qualls, Arkansas edge Wofford, 56-53

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Neither Arkansas or Wofford led by more than a possession in the second half. It was a fitting way to end a wild day in Jacksonville.

Michael Qualls had 20 points, Bobby Portis added 15 points and 13 rebounds and the Razorbacks edged the Terriers 56-53 in second-round action in the West Region on Thursday night.

Karl Cochran and Eric Garcia missed potentially game-tying 3-pointers for Wofford in the final 10 seconds.

"Thank goodness they ran out of time," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said of Wofford.

The fifth-seeded Razorbacks (27-8) will play the Tar Heels in the third round Saturday at 8:40 p.m. 

There were 18 lead changes and 10 ties in the contest. Neither team led by more than five points.

Qualls went 8-of-9 from the field, which included a trio of highlight-reel dunks. Alandise Harris tallied eight points and eight boards for Arkansas, which came in winning 10 of its last 13 games, with two of those losses coming against top-ranked Kentucky.

It was the Razorbacks' first NCAA Tournament game since 2008.

The Southern Conference Player of the Year Cochran missed his last eight shots from the field and was 4-of-19 overall -- 2-of-12 from beyond the arc. 

He had 12 points and seven rebounds.

Spencer Collins supplied 16 points and nine boards for the 12th-seeded Terriers (28-7), who had won eight straight and 15 of their last 16 contests.

"The score was in the 50s, we took nine more shots and we had eight turnovers. I would bet my last dollar that we would win that game. We didn't, obviously," Terriers coach Mike Young said.

Cochran split a pair of foul shots to stake Wofford to a 51-49 margin with 3:41 remaining, but the Razorbacks scored seven of the game's final nine points.

Rashad Madden and Portis put in layups to put Arkansas in front with 2:12 left before an Eric Garcia jumper tied the game with 1:55 on the clock.

Harris' three-point play on the Razorbacks' next trip down the floor put them ahead for good. Madden found him cutting down the lane and Harris put in the short jumper for a 56-53 advantage.

Wofford, which turned the ball over just three times in the first half, held a 28-27 margin at the break.

The Terriers, though, gave the ball away three times in just over a minute to begin the final 20 minutes and a Harris jumper gave Arkansas a 31-28 lead.

Game Notes: No. 12 seeds went 6-2 against fifth-seeded teams the last two years. Twelve- seeded California, Mississippi and Oregon pulled off upsets in 2013, while Harvard, North Dakota State and Stephen F. Austin won their 12-5 matchups last year ... Arkansas held a 36-16 points in the paint advantage ... Wofford shot just 31.6 percent (18-of-57) from the floor. Three of the four games decided at Veterans Memorial Arena were decided by a combined six points. No. 14 seed Georgia State shocked third-seeded Baylor 57-56 to start the day and fourth-seeded North Carolina fended off No. 13 seed Harvard in the opener of the evening session. Xavier and Georgia State play Saturday at 6:10 p.m.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

NCAA: Jackson's Dunk Helps UNC Top Harvard, 67-65

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.  -- Right when North Carolina appeared to be on cruise control, pesky Harvard was at it again in the NCAA Tournament.

Siyani Chambers' four-point play had just given the Crimson their first lead with just over a minute remaining, but his next shot from beyond the arc helped put the Tar Heels ahead for good. 

Justin Jackson's go-ahead fastbreak dunk with 23 seconds remaining lifted North Carolina to a 67-65 victory over Harvard in second-round action from the West Region Thursday night.

Chambers nailed his straightaway 3-pointer while being fouled on the arm by Marcus Paige with 1:15 on the clock. He sunk the subsequent free throw for a 65-63 Harvard edge. 

Jackson knocked down a jumper at the other end and Chambers was off the mark on a deep 3, leading to a Tar Heels fastbreak.

J.P. Tokoto secured the rebound and outletted to Paige, who hit Jackson with a bounce pass for the easy two- handed dunk and a 67-65 UNC cushion. 

Chambers then missed another trey, this time from the right wing and Kennedy Meeks was fouled going for the rebound.  He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Wesley Saunders' potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the waning seconds ricocheted off the glass and clanked off the front of the rim.

The Tar Heels led by as many as 16 in the second half.

NCAA: Xavier Handles Ole Miss, 76-57

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Matt Stainbrook scored 20 points on 8- of-10 shooting, pulled down nine rebounds and dished out five assists as the Xavier Musketeers handled the Ole Miss Rebels 76-57 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Dee Davis made four 3-pointers en route to 17 points for the sixth-seeded Musketeers (22-13), who are making their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years. Xavier will play 14th-seeded Georgia State on Saturday.

The Panthers stunned third-seeded Baylor earlier Thursday in a West Region matchup.

Stefan Moody ended with 14 points for the 11th-seeded Rebels (21-13), who rallied past BYU in Tuesday's first round. M.J. Rhett and Ladarius White tallied 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The Musketeers started the game on a 16-5 spurt and never looked back. After Ole Miss got within 21-17, Stainbrook recorded a three-point play to spark a 15-4 Xavier run.

Remy Abell capped the burst with a jumper to make it 36-21. The Rebels, who erased a 17-point halftime deficit to defeat BYU, scored the final three points of the first half to get within 36-24.

Rhett opened the second half with a jumper, but Xavier scored the next seven points.  

Davis' 3-pointer gave the Musketeers a 43-26 lead with 17:54 to play. The Rebels never got closer than 10 the rest of the way. 

Game Notes: The Musketeers are one of 11 teams that have made the NCAA Tournament in nine of the last 10 years ... Xavier shot 46.4 percent from the field and went 10- of-23 from beyond the arc.

NCAA: Upset in Jacksonville, Georgia State 57, Baylor 56

JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- Georgia State coach Ron Hunter fell off his rolling stool as he watched his son make a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left.

R.J. Hunter, the two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year, buried a long 3 to cap a 13-0 Georgia State run to end the game, and the 14th-seeded Panthers stunned third-seeded Baylor 57-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.

Baylor did not score after going up 56-44 on two Rico Gathers free throws with 2:53 remaining. R.J. Hunter scored nine straight points to get Georgia State within 56-53.

After Baylor's Taurean Prince turned the ball over, Isaiah Dennis made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a two-point contest. Kenny Chery missed the front end of a 1-on-1 and T.J. Shipes came down with a key defensive rebound for the Panthers. Shipes then got the assist on Hunter's 3-pointer.

Prince's desperation heave from beyond half court was off the mark at the buzzer. Baylor turned the ball over four times during Georgia State's 13-0 surge. Ron Hunter used a scooter to celebrate Georgia State's second NCAA Tournament victory and first since 2001. 

He tore his left Achilles tendon while celebrating the Panthers' victory in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game on Sunday. Hunter scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half for the Panthers (25-9), who will play the winner of Ole Miss-Xavier on Saturday.

Ryann Green and Markus Crider tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively. Prince ended with 18 points and 15 rebounds for the Bears (24-10), who advanced to the Sweet 16 last year before falling to Wisconsin. Baylor jumped out to a 16-6 lead, but Georgia State battled back and tied things up at 19.

The Bears took a 33-30 edge into the locker room. With the score tied 42-42, Baylor appeared to put the game away with a 14-2 run. Royce O'Neale and Lester Medford made 3-pointers during the burst that Gathers capped with two free throws for a 56-44 advantage.                                  

Game Notes: Baylor outrebounded the Panthers by a 40-23 margin ... The Bears turned the ball over 21 times, leading to 21 Georgia State points ... Georgia State improved to 2-2 all-time in the tourney.

Armada FC Inks Former Tampa Bay Rowdies Defender Gafa

The Jacksonville Armada FC has announced the addition of defender Jordan Gafa as the latest player to join the Armada FC lineup.

Gafa should be familiar with the Florida climate after spending the past two seasons with North American Soccer League outfit Tampa Bay Rowdies. He came to Jacksonville as a trialist in January and earned the starting nod in the Armada FC's March 8 match against the Charleston Battery.

"Jordan brings a lot of upside to our team," said Armada FC general manager Dario Sala. "We feel like he gives us the quality depth we are looking for at that position."

A 24-year-old native of San Diego, Calif., Gafa made 14 total appearances with the Rowdies in 2013 and 2014. Before beginning his professional career in the NASL, Gafa played with prolific college program University of North Carolina from 2008-12, where he starred on three-straight NCAA Division I College Cup teams in 2009, 2010 and 2011. In 2011, he helped lead the Tar Heels to an NCAA Division I National Championship.

The Armada FC will launch back into action when they travel south to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to take on NASL foe Fort Lauderdale Strikers at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 21 at Lockhart Stadium.

Tickets are available by calling the Armada ticket office at 1-844-2-ARMADA or visiting

SPRING FOOTBALL: New-Look Noles Open Spring Practice

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida State football team kicked off spring practice on Wednesday at the Albert J. Dunlap Athletic Training Facility and head coach Jimbo Fisher was impressed with the effort of the new-look squad.

The Seminoles, who practiced in shorts and helmets, lost 12 starters off the 2014 squad and are expected to have at least 10 players drafted later this spring.
Fisher has plenty of talented players to build around for the coming fall, however, including All-Americans Jalen Ramsey (junior defensive back) and Roberto Aguayo (redshirt junior kicker) as well as veteran defensive leaders Terrance Smith (redshirt senior linebacker) and Tyler Hunter (redshirt senior safety).

“I thought (they) executed better than I thought on the first day,” Fisher said. “I was very pleased with a lot of things that went on. Again, it was in shorts, but the tenacity of the way we went about things, we had a really good work day and you see a good base to build from and we can go forward.”

Fisher also liked what he saw from redshirt junior quarterback Sean Maguire. The veteran from Sparta, N.J. will have the early lead in the battle to replace Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston after throwing for 304 yards against Clemson’s top-ranked defense in his lone start in 2014.

“Sean Maguire, I was very impressed (with him),” Fisher said. “I thought he had a great day. I thought his temperament and demeanor, you could tell he’s been in the film room and studying things.

“It looked like he wanted that job and was in control of things and (I’m) very pleased from that (standpoint). Again, it’s day one. But I was very pleased with his demeanor and execution and decision-making.”


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Jacksonville Hosting NCAA ‘March Madness’

FLORIDA SPORTS WIRE -- On Sunday the NCAA announced the eight teams for the second and third rounds of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.
Bids went to Baylor University, University of North Carolina, University of Arkansas, Wofford College, Harvard University, Georgia State University and the winner of the Brigham Young University-University of Mississippi first round game.
On Monday the organizing committee led by host Jacksonville University, JAXPORTS, SMG and city leaders kicked off the tournament week by announcing the game-day schedule, a free, open practice, a Fan Festival and Speaker Series, and game-day access and security details.
 “This is a big win for Jacksonville, further showcasing our city as a premier destination for top-tier sporting events,” said Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown.
“These games will bring in fans from across the country, putting Jacksonville in the national spotlight. I look forward to the excitement of March Madness in our city and the electricity the tournament will generate in the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.”
A total of three tournament sessions will take place over two days, with two sessions on Thursday and one session on Saturday featuring the four winners from Thursday. Saturday game times will be announced after Thursday’s action.
As host for the tournament and each of the teams, Jacksonville University is providing administrative, logistical and hospitality services, game-day functions and volunteers.
“We are delighted to once again serve as the host institution for this event,” said Dr. Donnie Horner, chief athletic officer for Jacksonville University. “Jacksonville University is proud to be partnering with the City of Jacksonville, SMG and JAXSPORTS to provide an absolutely first-class experience for participating teams and fans.”
Jacksonville has previously hosted the Men’s NCAA second and third-round match up in 2006 and 2010, also with JU serving as the host institution.

“We are thrilled to once again be hosting the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Jacksonville,” said Alan Verlander, tournament director and executive director of JAXSPORTS. “An event of this scale not only brings visitor dollars and national awareness, it is a point of pride for our city and for local fans. We want all fans to come downtown and be a part of the tournament experience in Jacksonville.”
Alex Alston, tournament manager and director of sales and marketing, SMG and Chief Leonard Propper of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office also spoke at the news conference.

JAXSPORTS Speaker Series
On Friday the third JAXSPORTS’ Speaker Series will feature basketball “Legends of March” including: former JU star center and former player for the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Boston Celtics Artis Gilmore; all-time NCAA tournament career-scoring leader Christian Laettner; and former University of Florida player Chris Richard. Individual tickets to the “Legends of March” Speaker Series are available to JAXSPORTS members for $45, to the public for $50, and can be purchased now or by calling 904-798-1700
Tournament Notes
This is the third time Jacksonville has hosted the NCAA Tournament (2006, 2010) and the national champion (Florida in 2006, Duke in 2010) started their title run here. This is the second straight trip for the Ivy League champion to Jacksonville (Harvard). In 2010, Cornell began its Cinderella run to the Sweet 16. Wofford is making its second trip to Jacksonville for the NCAA Tournament.  The Terriers made their NCAA Tournament debut in 2010, losing to Wisconsin in the second round. North Carolina is making its first trip to Jacksonville since 1985 when they played Jacksonville University in the Jacksonville Coliseum.
Arena Security and Access
Arena doors will open one-and-a-half hours before the first game. Attendees should use the main entrance located on A. Philip Randolph Blvd. across from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. All guests will be subject to bag search upon entry and one set of doors will be designated as an express lane for patrons with no bags. All guests will be asked to exit the building between Session 1 and Session 2 and the arena will then re-open to allow entry into Session 2. There will be no re-entry during sessions.

Tickets to the second and third rounds in Jacksonville are available at

Sunday, March 15, 2015

GATORNATIONALS: Massey Claims His First Top Fuel Win of the Season

GAINESVILLE, Fla.  – Spencer Massey claimed his first Top Fuel win of the season Sunday during the 46th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville.

Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Karen Stoffer (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the third of 24 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series events in the season.

Massey piloted his Red Fuel dragster to a holeshot victory, winning with a performance of 3.882 seconds at 320.74 mph to defending world champ Tony Schumacher’s quicker but losing 3.873 at 313.29 in the U.S. Army dragster. It was Massey’s first win at Gainesville and 18th of his career. The victory moves Massey into a tie with Shirley Muldowney and Darrell Gwynn for 12th on the all-time wins list in Top Fuel. 

"Tony has been running really strong," said Massey, who moved to third in points with the win. "I know that he can step his game up and be deadly when he needs to on the starting line. We’ve got four new members on the team and three of four haven’t won a race. Now they’ve won the Gators.

It was Schumacher’s second consecutive final round appearance of 2015, as he earned a victory at Phoenix in late February. With the runner-up finish he moved to third in points.

In Funny Car, Capps drove his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T to a performance of 4.115 at 311.05 to take the victory over first-time finalist John Hale. The win was Capps’ first of the season, third at this event and 44th of his career (43rd in Funny Car). The win tied him for second all-time on the Funny Car wins list. Following the victory, Capps moves to second in points behind Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan.

“When you’ve got a race car like today, you almost wait for something to go wrong,” said Capps, who last won in Brainerd last season. “I’ve driven for almost 18 years and I feel like I find myself driving the car as if I am driving something that’s just so far behind the other cars. I think that really helped me this weekend.”

Rookie driver Hale was appearing in his first career Funny Car final in only his sixth career start. Driving the ALO Drink Dodge Charger for Jim Dunn Racing, Hale defeated 16-time world champ John Force, Alexis DeJoria and Blake Alexander to reach the finals. It was JDR’s first final round appearance since Seattle 2008.

Anderson claimed his milestone 75th career victory and first in Pro Stock since Englishtown in 2012, when he clocked a 6.538 at 213.43 to defeat teammate Jason Line in an all-Summit Racing Chevy Camaro final round. Anderson’s third Gatornationals win moves him to sixth in the points standings.

“It’s a special day and weekend,” said Anderson, a four-time Pro Stock world champ who had off-season heart surgery prior to the start of the 2014 season. “It was my birthday yesterday so it’s pretty darn cool. A year ago I couldn’t even come to this race [due to the surgery]. It was a great day for Greg Anderson, KB Racing and everyone involved with us.”

Line continued an impressive start to the 2015 season with his runner-up finish. He won the season-opening event at Pomona and this final round result was his 40th career runner-up finish. Line, a two-time world champ, sits second in points.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Stoffer defeated three-time world champ Eddie Krawiec in the final with a 6.900 at 195.11 on her Suzuki Extended Protection Suzuki to claim her second victory at this event. Appearing in her first race since Indianapolis in 2013, Stoffer defeated Steve Johnson, Angie Smith, and Shawn Gann en route to the final. The win was Stoffer’s first since Denver in 2011 and her seventh overall.

“We had a lot of heart and a lot of passion,” Stoffer said. “We don’t have a big budget but we certainly have a big heart. We certainly tried to get some high performance out of it and we were able to do it. The boys worked hard, worked till about midnight each night and gave us a good bike on Sunday.”

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series heads to Charlotte, N.C. for the sixth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, March 27-29, at zMAX Dragway.



GATORNATIONALS: Walsh Claims No. 1 and Win Saturday During J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Don Walsh claimed the No. 1 qualifying position and a first round victory Saturday during the J&A Service NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville. This weekend’s Pro Mod racing, co-presented by the Real Pro Mod Association and Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc., is the first of 10 events on the season.

Walsh powered his late model Precision Turbo Camaro to a top qualifying run of 5.832 seconds at 248.02 mph, marking the seventh time in his career that he’s claimed the No. 1 spot.

“It was great,” said Walsh. “I’m just really happy we have some new sponsors on board and that I’m able to run well for them this weekend. I’m super excited for us to put it all together here at the first race and put together what we had from last year and move it into this year.”

Walsh followed his qualifying success with a first round win. He will race Bob Rahaim in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

Pro Mod rookie Troy Coughlin Jr., qualified second in his Corvette with a 5.876 at 251.46. He then faced Kenny Lang and raced to victory after Lang red lighted. This is Coughlin’s first Pro Mod appearance in his career. He will face Bill Glidden in the quarterfinals.

After not qualifying through the first two rounds, reigning category champion Rickie Smith was able to salvage a No. 7 qualifying position with a 5.909 at 246.30, but lost to Glidden in the first round of eliminations.

The 2011 world champ, Khalid alBalooshi, did not qualify in the inaugural event of the 2015 season. alBalooshi is making a return to the doorslammer category after racing the last three seasons in Top Fuel.

Pro Mod Series eliminations will continue at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.


GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- First round results from the 46th annual AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, the first of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.


ROUND ONE -- Bob Rahaim, Chevy Corvette, 5.946, 242.54 def. Mike Castellana, Chevy Camaro, 5.994, 243.81; T.J. Coughlin, Corvette, 5.884, 251.53 def. Kenny Lang, Camaro, broke; Troy Coughlin, Corvette, 6.050, 246.08 def. Kevin Fiscus, Ford Mustang, 6.514, 181.13; Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 5.922, 245.85 def. Mike Knowles, Mustang, 5.977, 241.28; Bill Glidden, Mustang, 5.946, 242.71 def.
Rickie Smith, Camaro, 5.962, 245.54; Mike Janis, Camaro, 5.906, 247.70 def. Danny Rowe, Camaro, 5.873, 249.21; Eric Latino, Camaro, 5.876, 243.77 def. Steve Matusek, Camaro, 5.913, 248.07; Don Walsh, Camaro, 5.829, 242.45 def. Khalid alBalooshi, Camaro, broke.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Final order after 3 rounds of qualifying in Pro Modified at 46th annual AMALIE Oil Motor NHRA Gatornationals. The first of 10 events in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series.

Psn---Num-Driver, Home Town, Car Type---------------Qual-ET--Qual-Spd-Top Spd

  1 3382 Don Walsh, Wixom MI, '14 Camaro                5.832  248.02  248.02
  2  394 T.J. Coughlin, Delaware OH, '12 Corvette       5.876  251.49  251.49
  3    6 Steve Matusek, Olathe KS, '68 Camaro           5.879  248.29  248.29
  4    5 Danny Rowe, Laguna Hills CA, '68 Camaro        5.882  249.16  249.95
  5    2 Troy Coughlin, Delaware OH, '15 Corvette       5.893  252.43  252.43
  6    8 Pete Farber, Baldwinville MA, '69 Daytona      5.897  247.02  247.02
  7    1 Rickie Smith, King NC, '69 Camaro              5.909  246.30  246.30
  8    9 Mike Castellana, Muttontown NY, '69 Camaro     5.926  242.80  242.80
  9  360 Bob Rahaim, Grosse Pointe MI, '15 Corvette     5.929  243.37  243.55
10  324 Bill Glidden, Whiteland IN, '10 Mustang        5.941  242.23  243.24
11 5011 Mike Knowles, Grand Junction CO, '67 Mustang   5.966  236.30  236.30
12    7 Kevin Fiscus, Jacksonville FL, '12 Mustang     5.973  248.57  248.57
13    4 Mike Janis, Lancaster NY, '13 Camaro           5.973  245.40  245.40
14 1938 Eric Latino, Port Perry ON, '69 Camaro         5.984  245.63  245.63
15 5012 Kenny Lang, Grande Pointe MB, '69 Camaro       5.989  240.00  240.64
16  213 Chip King, Semora NC, '70 Charger              6.005  243.19  243.19

       ------------ Not Qualified ------------

17  327 Khalid alBalooshi, Doha QA, '68 Camaro         6.007  250.00  250.00
18 5200 Steven Whiteley, Grand Junction CO, '14 CTS    6.007  244.92  244.92
19 5087 Jim Whiteley, Grand Junction CO, '69 Chevelle  6.025  242.19  242.19
20 4914 Jeff Naiser, Houston TX, '69 Camaro            6.030  239.87  239.87
21 1109 Gerry Capano, Greenville DE, '63 Corvette      6.059  237.67  237.67
22 6967 Jim Bell, Edmonton AB, '69 Camaro              6.062  232.15  232.15
23 2105 Doug Winters, Pleasant Garden NC, '69 Chevelle 6.174  223.54  223.54
24  701 Clint Satterfield, Albuquerque NM, '68 Firebi  6.180  240.38  240.38
25  303 Dan Stevenson, Bolingbrook IL, '15 Camaro      6.195  242.15  242.15
26 2071 Willard Kinzer, Allen KY, '69 Camaro           6.293  240.59  240.59
27  567 Chris Juliano, Iberia MO, '67 Mustang          6.381  232.39  232.39

Saturday, March 14, 2015

SPRING FOOTBALL: FAU Football Moves into Practice Three and Pads

BOCA RATON, Fla.  – Practice number three of the 2015 spring season was the first to include shoulder pads for Florida Atlantic University’s football team.

The Owls took to the field mid-morning greeted by beautiful weather, incoming freshman here to watch and members of several high school football teams from around the area.

The team worked at a quick tempo from drill to drill and from play to play many times one unit set to go as soon as the whistle blew the last play dead previous unit. And the coach’s film is sure to show several play between senior quarterback Jaquez Johnson, who will wear #32 this season to honor a fallen friend, and senior receiver Jenson Stoshak.

FAU spring practice will conclude with Sat., April 11 with a 1 p.m. Spring Game played in FAU Stadium.

The Owls will open the 2015 home schedule versus Miami. Season tickets start as low as $60 and are on sale and can be purchased by calling 1-866-FAU-Owls. Opponents will not change; however, dates and times may be adjusted as C-USA works to set the 2015 television schedule. 

SOFTBALL: No. 1 Florida Falls to No. 3 LSU, 14-10, to Set Up Decisive Game on Sunday

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 1-ranked University of Florida softball team suffered its first loss of the 2015 season on Saturday, falling to No. 3 LSU by a score of 14-10 in the second game of the teams' three-game series. Florida overcame a nine-run deficit to tie the game at 10 after six innings, sparked by an historic three-home-run performance by junior Taylore Fuller.

LSU (26-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) plated nine runs in the top of the first on seven hits. A two-out single by Lauren Haeger and a walk to Bailey Castro brought up Fuller, who opened the scoring for Florida (28-1, 1-1 SEC) with a three-run home run to right-center field and cut the deficit to 9-3.

Four straight hit batters forced in a run for Florida in fourth, and a bases-loaded single by Kelsey Stewart made the score 9-5. LSU responded with a single and a sacrifice bunt to put a runner at second in the top of the fifth. The runner scored on a single to right, raising the Tigers' lead back to five.

Fuller led off the bottom of the fifth with her second homer, a solo shot to center that cut Florida's deficit to 10-6. The momentum continued for the Orange and Blue in the sixth when walks by Kayli Kvistad and Kirsti Merritt and a single by Stewart set up the Trenton, Fla. native's third home run of the day, a grand slam that tied the game at 10.

Three singles for the Tigers in the seventh set up a two-out grand slam that put LSU back in front at 14-10, producing the final margin.

Friday, March 13, 2015

GATORNATIONALS: Smith After Third Straight NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Championship

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The tougher the competition gets in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, the tougher it seemingly gets for Rickie Smith to retire.

With talent and competitors at an all-time high in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, Smith keeps coming back for more and now the longtime standout is after his third straight NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series world championship.

That quest in his IDG Chevy Camaro starts at this weekend’s 46th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, the first of 10 races during the 2015 season.

“I’ve been doing this for 41 years and it’s kind of been my life,” Smith said. “I love racing and competing and I’ve been fortunate enough to win championship. To pull off two in a row gives you that drive to still know you can do it. Can I pull a third one off? I don’t see any reason why I can’t compete for another championship.”

Smith has shown that repeatedly throughout his marvelous career, performing his best when the competition was the most difficult. He won three races a year ago, including the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, as well as the season finale at Las Vegas, advancing to four final rounds.

But a third straight world championship might be one of Smith’s biggest challenges in his racing career. He will face contenders at all angles, including past champs Von Smith, Troy Coughlin and Khalid alBalooshi, who returns to the class after racing in Top Fuel for the past three seasons.

Other class standouts include Danny Rowe, Mike Castellana, Mike Janis, Steve Matusek and Pete Farber.

“I think this will be the premier season of NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing,” Rowe said. “The teams and cars are outstanding; they’re at an all-time high. Parity-wise, at least based on last year, I think it’s closer than it’s ever been amongst the three combinations - turbo, blower and nitrous - but you’re always waiting to see who picked up over the winter. Gainesville should definitely be interesting.”

That is true in more than one respect, as the entry list for the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series, which will be presented by The Real Pro Mod (RPM) Association and Jerry Bickel Race Cars, Inc. (JBRC) at Gainesville, includes a massive 27 drivers. Coughlin is on that list and will debut a new JEGS Mail Order Corvette, and his son, T.J. will also make his class debut.

“We are definitely ready and looking forward to it," said Coughlin, who made a late-season charge to finish second in 2014. "The new car, it's looking good. It's a neat piece, almost like a piece of art. We've only made about three or four licks on it, but it shows good progress. We need to get it to the finish line. We're capable, the car's capable, and now we just need the cards to fall into the right spot."

Smith might be the favorite in the class, but he certainly knows that is no reason to get comfortable.

“There’s a lot of good cars out there,” Smith said. “A lot of teams have stepped up their program and it’s going to be tough. We’ll have to work our butts off but we’ll be competitive.”

Rowe struggled at the tail end of his 2014 campaign in his Agave Underground Camaro, but he is ready to compete for a championship of his own in 2015.

“We feel like we laid a solid foundation in 2014, and we’re confident we can build on it this year,” Rowe said. “We’ve worked hard over the offseason and, of course, we feel confident going into this first event. In racing, though, you have to be a little bit lucky and a lot of bit good. So, this year we’re hoping we can get little bit of that race day luck a little more often.”

Featuring the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer race cars, the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series offers something for every kind of hot-rodding enthusiast. The growing class is highlighted by historic muscle cars, like ’67 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds and ’69 Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American muscle cars. With more than 3,000 horsepower, the suspended door pro mod cars travel the quarter-mile in less than six seconds at speeds exceeding 250 mph.

NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, March 13 with qualifying sessions at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., continuing with the final qualifying session on Saturday, March 14 at 2:00 p.m. Round one of eliminations is later on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, log on to or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center, (800) 884-NHRA (6472). General admission tickets for children 12 and younger are free with any paid adult ticket. Fans can save by purchasing their tickets in advance. For more information about NHRA, log on to