HOLIDAY — Fresh off winning the Class 5A-District 7 football championship in November, Anclote High has been the look of a team in rebuilding mode.
Anclote has 22 graduating seniors, a backfield that needs to be revamped and the most inexperienced team coach Matt Wicks has had since starting the football program in 2009. But Wicks said his team is not backpedaling for one second.
The Sharks have their sights set on defending the 5A-7 title and that road begins this spring, including the spring game May 22 vs. Spring Hill Springstead, another team rebuilding after reaching the 2013 postseason.
“We look at it as our time to defend,” Wicks said. “We’ve built the program to win the district and it’s our right to defend the title. That’s one thing I really like about our spring game is Springstead is a tough team and Mike (Garafano) coaches his kids up well.”
A 32-0 loss to Tarpon Springs is how Anclote finished last season, but since then have said goodbye to several of the program’s best players in the school’s short history, including Willie Barrett and Trent Crawford who combined for 2,057 rushing yards.
Anclote does return a familiar face to the backfield with quarterback Brandon Vinkler, who will head into his second full season as the starter after throwing for 746 yards last fall. Running back Jonte Scott, however, saw limited touches with 195 yards on 28 carries.
A youth movement is what Wicks and crew are expecting, with rising sophomores Braxton Johnson and Dimitrius Barry entering Anclote’s Power-I attack. Johnson and Barry played well on junior varsity, according to Wicks, and he believes the two can be just as productive as Barrett and Crawford in the Sharks’ run-heavy offense.
“I absolutely think Braxton (Johnson) and Dimitrius (Barry) are the second coming of Trent (Crawford) and Willie (Barrett),” Wicks said. “Dimitrius is a hard runner and he’ll get his yards. Dimitrius reminds me more of Trent and Braxton reminds me more of Willie. Jonte (Scott) is one of those kids that doesn’t complain at all. He just goes out there and plays. He’s a kid you don’t have to worry about and he’s very trustworthy.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him Twitter @avillamarzo.