Two of the best boys high school soccer players in Hillsborough County – Gaither's Zach Wheeler and Jordan See -- are off to college with several other Cowboys from the 2010-11 state semifinal team.
Many folks looked at the exodus and thought coach Eric Sims had a major rebuilding job on his hands.
Not so fast.
Gaither, which jumped to a 5-1 record to start the season, is looking plenty strong, and after a few football players get done with their playoff run, the soccer team could get stronger.
"I think our little ride of flying under the radar is over," Sims said. "I don't think we can hide from anybody any more."
Leading the way are returning sweeper Jacob Snidle, defender Justin Santos, midfielders Jonathan Lopez, Cesar Ticora and Tarek Assaad, forward Paul Barrett and converted keeper Carlos de Oliveira, who played last year in the field.
"I wouldn't say these guys have the firepower and quick-strike style of last year," Sims said. "But they play a controlled game and it's a good style of soccer."
Two nice additions have been forward Jonas Bukh, a foreign-exchange student from Switzerland, and freshman Jhonathan DaSilva.
In his first six games, Bukh, who is quick and highly skilled, had five goals and two assists. DaSilva, meantime, also has great skill and could end up being one of the county's premier players over the next four years, Sims said.
Maybe more than anything, these Cowboys are strong defensively with Snidle, Santos and de Oliveira as the last line of defense.
Ultimately, can this group be as good as the 2010-11 version that made it to the state semifinals?
"(Six games into the season) I wouldn't say we're as good as we were last year," Sims said. "But this is a hard-working group who plays very well together. By the end of the year, who knows?"
Especially after a couple of football players, including quarterback Alex McGough, get going on the soccer field.
"It could get pretty interesting," Sims said.