By Kyle LoJacono
The high school football season is still weeks away, but the Wiregrass Ranch football team already scored its first victory of the year.
The Bulls took first place at the third annual Northside Christian Lineman’s Challenge on June 11 at the St. Petersburg private school’s campus. It is the second time Wiregrass Ranch has claimed the title at the event, following a win in 2009.
“We knew what events to expect because we’ve been in it before, but this was an entire new lineup of players, so they were unaware of how it worked,” said Bulls football coach Jeremy Shobe. He then added, “We’re proud of these young men and knew that they would do well. We know their true potential and it is a good confidence boost for us going into this season.”
Shobe said he likes the Northside Christian event because it gives the linemen a chance to have real competition during the summer. The skills position players can play against other teams in the 7-on-7 summer league, but the players up front go months without any real opposition from the spring game in May until summer workouts in August.
“We focus on every group and develop each unit to their full potential, but we wanted to give the linemen some love because they don’t get to play 7-on-7 and have fun all summer like the skill players,” Shobe said.
Wiregrass Ranch sent six players to the challenge: Edmond Boateng, Ben Botteron, John Coyne, Travis Manecke, Justin Scamardo and Jacob Sniezyk.
“It was really nice to get out there and show what we can do,” Boeteng said. “It was really good to get a chance to work together there. We all love being around each other and this just shows what working hard does. Everyone has been working hard to get better this summer.”
The event measures player’s skill, strength and ability to work as a unit. Some of the competitions at the challenge included bench press, five-man sled drive, plate stack, farmer carry, tire flip, medicine ball toss and team relay.
The victory comes as a bit of a surprise, as the Bulls are replacing several linemen, including Noah Ravenna who signed the program’s first Division I scholarship to play at Jacksonville University in the fall.
Boateng, a senior-to-be, was named the Most Valuable Lineman at the event despite it being the first time he had participated in the challenge.
“That was very humbling,” Boateng said. “It shows me that I can do this as long as I keep pushing.”
Shobe said of Boateng’s work at the challenge, “I’m happy for Edmond and it’s good for him to see what we expect from him, and what he can become if he believes in himself, his teammates and works hard.”
Both Boateng and Shobe predict the victory may give the Bulls momentum going into the fall season. Wiregrass Ranch moves up in classification into Class 7A-District 7 this year with five Hillsborough County teams.
“We know the challenges that lie ahead for us and are working hard and are anxious to compete in our tough schedule and new district,” Shobe said. “We believe in each other and will always work to be our best.”
Wiregrass Ranch will play its kickoff classic preseason game on Friday, Aug. 26 at home against St. Petersburg at 7 p.m. The Bulls first regular season contest is at cross-town rival Wesley Chapel on Friday, Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m.