Senior Alex Greer has the perfect analogy.
“(Assistant) coach (John) Holley said it perfectly the other day,” the 6-foot-2, 190-pound defensive end said. “We’re like a fist — each finger is an individual, and if you go into a fight, you can’t do anything with each individual finger, but if you bring them together, you can do damage.
“We can do a lot of damage. If we can come together and get our chemistry right and get a lot better, we can go much farther than before.”
For the Wesley Chapel High football team, it’s about becoming more of a team, about “reuniting” as a family. It’s what first-year coach Tico Hernandez has preached since December when he got the nod to coach the Wildcats after spending last season as an assistant at Wiregrass Ranch.
“We’re focusing on family right now,” Hernandez said. “We have 40-plus on the roster, but we’re trying to build now and into the summer to be ready for the fall. … But we’re not just here for football. We’re here to work with the players and plan fun activities with them. We’re here to build good young men in the community, so, in the future, they may or may not be football players, but they’re good husbands, fathers, friends and sons.”
The Wildcats players are in the midst of transitioning from individuals to a core group of players that should be led by strong, veteran defensive players, such as Greer.
“Look, I’m blessed to be here and have a great coaching staff that wants to be here for the kids,” Hernandez said. “The kids see that, then they see what we expect of them and have risen to the occasion.”
A family-all-together philosophy has been embraced by all players, especially by senior defensive back Mark LaBarbera, who spent his sophomore season with Hernandez at Wiregrass Ranch.
“We’re still the same players, only the coaches have changed,” LaBarbera said. “We’ve really come together as a family, and that should be the first step to getting better. Before we beat other teams, we have to beat ourselves and come together. It’s never been like this before because now everyone is giving 110 percent.”
The players are taking notice because the team feels it can be successful and that’s thanks to Hernandez, who has brought chemistry to its players. And while Holley, who Hernandez brought over with him from Wiregrass, may have said it best, it’s Hernandez who knew right away what the returning players needed.
It turned out to be just perfect.
“We know that success has been lacking here — we know that,” Hernandez said, “and we know we have to build, we still need some more numbers, but we’re all working hard at it. … They’re be good days, and we have to limit the bad days and just keep building on what we’re doing right.”