By Jeff Odom
After spending a season away from the Pasco Police Athletic League (PPAL), the Wesley Chapel Bulls youth football and cheerleading program returns with the hope of continuing its run of success.
The Bulls left PPAL before last season to join the Mid-Florida Football and Cheerleading Conference, where the program had hoped to gain more exposure against teams from across the state.
But high travel costs mixed with new interest in PPAL from Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, who was a Division-I Academic All-American lineman at the University of Delaware, made the decision to come back clear to Wesley Chapel program director Doug Johnson.
“It’s been really beneficial to the Wesley Chapel Bulls as a whole to come back, and to support our own community is a definite plus,” Johnson said. “There’s good things to say about Mid-Florida as a whole, but it was time to come back home and with the appointment of Sheriff Nocco, who is getting so heavily involved in PPAL as a whole, just wanting this organization to grow.”
All five classifications — Junior Flyweight, Flyweight, Mighty Mite, Junior Varsity and Varsity — have started preseason conditioning four days a week at the Wesley Chapel District Park. Second-year Mighty Mites coach Kevin Barber is impressed with his roster so far and can’t wait to see how it stacks up against the rest of the league.
“This is my first time in PPAL after coming over last year, but we did play some PPAL teams in the Turkey Bowl and ended up going to the championship game, which was fun,” Barber said. “We have the same group of kids, so I’m happy to face some of those same teams and do good again.”
Tyler Richmond, a multiple position player on the Mighty Mites, said he’s looking forward to a new slate of opponents in his second season with the Bulls, but views each one the same way.
“There’s nothing much (difference) between them,” Richmond said. “They’re all just another team, and I’ve been working a lot to practice and go to conditioning, drinking water (to get ready for the season).”
Johnson said the PPAL community has been great in welcoming his program back. Still, he expects a lot of the area programs to target the Bulls as a team to beat this season. He added, each one of Wesley Chapel’s age groups has the talent on the field and the leadership from coaches to make a run toward a Super Bowl championship.
“The PPAL, I can’t say enough about it,” Johnson said. “It’s changed so dramatically in the five years that I’ve been here. It’s been an amazing transition, and we were eager to come back home and help support this community. The kids are ready to go, and if we don’t go to the Super Bowl at all levels, I’d be very, very surprised.”
For more information on the program and to register, visit www.wesleychapelbulls.com. The deadline to sign-up for football and cheerleading is Aug. 31.
For additional information about PPAL and it’s other organizations, such as the Land O’ Lakes Gators, Zephyrhills Bulldogs or Dade City Pirates, visit www.pascopal.org.