It's back. Through July, teams from Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas counties will be playing in the annual North Suncoast 7-on-7 Passing League. Here are some news, notes and observations from this week's two sites:
Most teams coming off a 3-7 season would be looking to put the previous year away. For Hudson, 2012 created renewed excitement about the Cobras' potential.
Hudson had lost 24 straight, including a 42-10 defeat to Land O' Lakes that was later ruled a forfeit victory, before beating Ridgewood 27-24 in Week 3 last season.
Coach Mark Kantor said rejuvenating the Cobras hasn't been easy since taking over the program last year.
"I knew it would be like rebuilding from the ground up, like building a brand new school," Kantor said. "Being able to do that and have success, especially late in the year, really helped with their confidence going into this year."
Kantor said participation in the offseason program has improved since last year. He added the excitement has stretched behind the football team to the entire school.
"People are looking for us to do great things now because of how far we've come," Kantor said. "We've got a tough district, but we've got a very good coaching staff that's willing to put in the time and effort to make this program better than what it was. . If we take care of the ball, play great defense and focus on the little things we have a chance to be good."
Pain and gain for Wiregrass' Bucenell
In his first season as a starter, Wiregrass Ranch junior quarterback Shane Bucenell was sacked more than 40 times, threw 10 interceptions and his offense was held scoreless on three different occasions.
The Bulls stumbled to consecutive 0-10 seasons, but the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Bucenell said last year was a learning experience.
"It was tough - really tough," Bucenell said. "It's hard enough moving up to varsity, but now I feel a lot more like everything is second nature. Last season, I was really unsure about a lot of things. Now, I'm really comfortable with the system and all the players."
Bucenell connected with several teammates during the first week of the summer league, including receivers James Jackson and Mark Hutchinson and running back John Harris-Scott.
"Those guys are all going to be big for us this year," said Bucenell, who threw for 648 yards and three touchdowns last season. "I'm feeling really good about how the offense is clicking."
Weilant's way back to the Gators
Tuesday was more than just the start to summer league for Ethan Weilant.
For the Land O' Lakes' junior, the date marked his first football competition since a torn labrum in his right shoulder ended his 2012 season in Week 3 and kept him out of the Gators' spring game.
"I'm so excited to finally play again," Weilant said. "I've been waiting awhile for this."
The 6-foot-1, 165-pound Weilant entered last season as Land O' Lakes' starter. He threw for 297 yards and two touchdowns while adding 134 yards on the ground and another three scores before the injury.
"(The coaches) keep telling me that I don't, but I do feel like I've got something to prove," Weilant said. "I've been here for awhile, so I want to be able to show what I can do."
Weilant saw time at wide receiver and quarterback during 7 on 7. He caught the extra-point conversion on the Gators' first drive on a pass from James Pensyl, and the two combined on several big plays during the competition.
"When James and me were at Pine View, he was the quarterback and I was a receiver, so it's like middle school again," Weilant said. He added, "We're competitors trying to get the same job, but we're friendly. I've known him for a long time and we both know it's anyone's job to have."
Gulf's Welch, Peters in the mix
First-year Gulf coach Jason Messamore has turned some heads during his short time as the Buccaneers lead man. It helps that the former East Lake assistant directed his team to 49 points in a spring game loss against Weeki Wachee.
Messamore has implemented a two-quarterback system at Gulf, with juniors Avery Welch and Keshaun Peters alternating snaps in the Buccaneers' spring game against the Hornets. Messamore said both will see a lot of time under center and at wide receiver.
"We're going to continue alternating Welch and Peters at the quarterback position all throughout the summer and fall," Messamore said. "In the process, they will also be learning other positions all over the field."
Gulf is also looking for big contributions from several other players like Deontre Bryant, who is the younger brother of former Buccaneers running back Adrian 'Bubba' Golden, and Raquan Hayes, who made several nice catches against Fivay on Tuesday.
Fivay's Sutton returns
The Falcons had to play their spring contest against River Ridge without all-county running back Davion Sutton, due to the junior being held out because of discipline issues.
Sutton was at 7-on-7 on Tuesday at Fivay, participating and running routes with hopes of showing a renewed focus and stronger leadership skills.
"I have to get my attitude right," Sutton said. "I got a little too aggressive when it came to some things and I have to change that. I have to become more of a leader and get to know all of my teammates better. It's very important that I show leadership this summer."
Fivay will need Sutton, who was a 1,000-plus yard rusher in 2012, to step up this fall as the Falcons graduated several of their top playmakers, including quarterback Tyler Degen, wide receiver Andrew Meyer and tight end Kevin Faulkner.
Kyle LoJacono, Andy Villamarzo