WESLEY CHAPEL — Jaye Miner has a mission.
The Florida Atlantic commit helped the Bulls snap a 20-plus game skid and led the team in tackles (131) last season, so the 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior middle linebacker now has one goal: Get that elusive Class 7A-District 7 win.
“We haven’t had much leadership in the past, so between me and (fellow senior and Florida International commit) Mark (Hutchinson), we’re trying to turn the program around,” Miner said. “We know there’s work ahead still and we’re going to work.”
The Bulls are adjusting to their second coach in as many years, with former Pasco quarterback Arturo Meza taking over for Mike Lawrence. The turnaround — and talent — is evident, but the Bulls know winning in 7A-7 is an uphill battle.
“There were a lot of firsts last year,” Meza said. “First win in a couple of years, first win against (Wesley) Chapel. We are focusing on (Gulf), but I’d be lying if I said we didn’t care or don’t want (the first district win). We want it. We need it.”
The need arises because there’s a good chance Wiregrass, with a student population of more than 2,400, will jump to Class 8A with redistricting next year.
As for now, the Bulls want to stay competitive in 7A-7, which they did last season, including being down just 12-0 to Tampa Bay Tech at halftime, down 13-3 to Freedom at halftime and leading Steinbrenner 17-7 at halftime.
Defensively, it will start with Miner.
“Jaye is rangy and athletic,” Meza said.
For Miner, his mission is clear: “We want to get all (the district wins). Some people listen to that and don’t take us seriously, but we know what we have and we know we’re going to face powerhouse teams we’re not supposed to hang with. But we don’t look at them as powerhouses because they put their pants on the same as us. There’s could’ve, would’ve, should’ve last season and if we fix those things, then we’re right there and even winning those games.”
The Bulls return a number of starters, including experienced quarterback Shane Bucenell, and receivers Mark Hutchinson (FIU recruit) and Zach Davidson. The Bulls will need to establish a running game, with all the top backs gone through graduation.
The Bulls will boast a very good defense led by FAU commit Jaye Miner (131 tackles) and lineman Austin Stroup. The latter anchors a line that needs to play better than last season for a unit that allowed more than 30 points in four games.
The Bulls are on their second head coach in as many years, but they open the season with plenty of optimism. With several starters returning from last season, coach Arturo Meza and his staff have high hopes of finally getting that elusive district win in Class 7A-7. With starters who have more than two years of varsity experience, expect the Bulls to get the win they so desperately want.
♦ About The Bulls
Stadium: Wiregrass Ranch Stadium, 2909 Mansfield Blvd., Wesley Chapel
Class-District: 7A-7 (with Freedom, Gaither, Sickles, Steinbrenner and Tampa Bay Tech)
Coach: Arturo Meza (first season)
Last season: 4-6
Aug. 29: Gulf
Sept. 5: at Hudson
Sept. 12: at River Ridge
Sept. 19: Tampa Bay Tech
Oct. 2: Gaither
Oct. 10: at Ridgewood
Oct. 17: at Steinbrenner
Oct. 24: at Sickles
Oct. 31: Freedom
Nov. 7: Wesley Chapel