By Jeff Odom
It had been a long time since the Wiregrass Ranch football team tasted victory.
Nearly three years to be exact.
But the Bulls finally got over the hump and edged Wesley Chapel 3-0 in the first two quarters and Sunlake 7-0 to seal up a sweep in its spring football jamboree May 28, hosted by Wesley Chapel High.
Wiregrass Ranch first-year coach Mike Lawrence, whose team is coming off consecutive 0-10 regular season campaigns after winning a district title in 2010, said he hopes the wins will be a confidence booster to his players going into the fall.
“We’re still lacking a little bit of the things that we need to get done, so we’re going to have to evaluate the tape, and we just want to get better,” said Lawrence, who was promoted to head coach in December after serving as offensive coordinator last season. “A win is good. It feels good for our program to get our first little win, but we’re just going to feel better when we actually play and do some better things later on down the road.”
Wiregrass Ranch needed just a 32-yard field goal from Bryce Wilson midway through the first quarter to get past the Wildcats in the first game.
It was the first time in the program’s seven-year history that the Bulls had ever defeated Wesley Chapel.
“It’s a good thing to be able to get over your rival, but it’s more so beating ourselves than it is our rivalry,” Lawrence said. “You have to have the confidence to be able to beat ourselves. Because if we beat ourselves, that means we’re getting a little more confident, and it’s getting a little better with everything that we do. That way, when we play another opponent, we’re not playing ourselves.”
In the second game, the Seahawks used its rushing attack to wear down the Wesley Chapel defense after starting quarterback Esteban LeWallen did not play because of personal reasons, according to Sunlake coach Bill Browning.
Starting in place of LeWallen, junior-to-be Dayton Feiden threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Joe Jean-Baptiste, Jacob Guzman rushed for a 2-yard score, and Alex Anderson capped it off by recovering a fumble and taking it six yards for one final touchdown to seal the 21-0 win over the Wildcats.
Browning said he was happy to see his team have success, but for now, it’s about gaining experience.
“We’re getting our feet wet,” Browning said. “It’s going to get a lot better, but it was a good start. Defense I thought played very well, and we did some good things offensively, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. … We’ve got guys that are playing in their first varsity competition to gain some valuable experience, and there’s no substitution for experience.”
Wesley Chapel first-year coach Tico Hernandez said he thought his team played well, despite the two shutout losses.
“With the football that we played, I thought our boys did a good job; they fought, they didn’t stop on defense, and they’re a great group of players,” Hernandez said. “Offense always takes time, because you’re going to need more than 20 days to put together a brand new scheme of football.”
In the final two quarters, Wiregrass Ranch needed just a 3-yard touchdown run by John Harris-Scott, and the defense did the rest, to upset Sunlake.
The senior-to-be said everyone is buying into what Lawrence and the assistants are saying, and he hopes it equals the same results come September.
“I don’t know what to say; it’s unexplainable,” Harris-Scott said. “To do this for my team is the greatest feeling in the world. This new coach, coach Lawrence, has put a lot of effort in and all the coaches have. They’re working their heart out. … (The wins are) a big confidence booster for all of us, but we’re not going to get a big head. We’re going to stay humble and do our thing and work hard.”
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