DADE CITY — Grant Starling, for the second-straight season, is taking the helm.
Pasco High coach Tom McHugh said the incumbent senior, and son of offensive coordinator Brad Starling, will be the Pirates starting quarterback when the team kicks off the 2014 season, hosting Sunshine Athletic Conference champions Sunlake on Aug. 29.
“Grant will see the most snaps,” said McHugh, who is entering his eighth season as coach, “but you never know.”
In addition, McHugh said they are moving forward with a running back by committee that includes six players such as Eric Wilson, Jakiah Felder and Brandon Lee.
“We have a plethora of people there,” McHugh said. “We’re still trying to work that out, but we have a lot of options there, too, but we’re going to adjust to what we have and works best. We’re not about trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.”
Moving to the defensive side, which is McHugh’s specialty, there’s high praise for Florida-commit Andrew Ivie and outside linebacker Brandon Debyah. Yet Pasco’s defensive coordinator said he still has spots to fill.
“The main defensive players are there for this year, but there will be a lot of looks because each offense gives us something different,” McHugh said. “I think we have a lot of working pieces on defensive.”
Pasco finished 7-4 in 2013 as the Class 5A-District 6 runner-up and lost in the first round of the region tournament to Citra North Marion.
Bulls under new helm
Wiregrass Ranch’s a Arturo Mezbegan his first practices as the new coach Monday, saying there’s only 17 seniors (and 44 varsity players), and the Bulls are young for a 7A program. However, two seniors are Division I players: LB Jaye Miner (FAU) and WR/DB Mark Hutchinson (FIU).
“We’re probably going to play a little iron-man ball this year because of a small senior class,” said Meza, a former Marine. “We’re going to run the heck out of them and go back to my Marine Corps roots, which is discipline. That’s the big thing.”
Meza said former coach Mike Lawrence, who resigned last month to take an assistant college coach position, instilled discipline into the coaching staff to pass along to the players.
“Maybe we’ll amp it up a little more, but that’s what we learned to be successful, what to live by,” Meza said. “Because we’re also training these kids, not to be just players, but also to be successful young men.”
Wildcats with working numbers
Wesley Chapel is entering its second season under coach Tico Hernandez, and despite going 0-10 last season, Hernandez said player numbers are high (80-90, with about 25 freshmen). He adds optimism is positive because the talent is there and they’re still getting players into college football.
“We’re seeing good results because the kids are working hard, but numbers won’t be a problem,” Hernandez said. “We have kids who want to play football, and I think once school starts, and we get the incoming freshmen, it’ll be even better. The scoreboard is very important, but we’re also getting kids into college, despite playing for a losing football team.
“We have three goals and the pressure is on everyone to get those, which is win Wesley Chapel (by beating Wiregrass), make a run at the state playoff and win in the classroom, too.”
Fivay forming well
The Falcons are coming off a 4-6 season, but coach Chris Taylor continues to remind his players their district is extremely competitive and have to improve as a team if they look to compete in 6A-6 with Land O’ Lakes, Mitchell, Spring Hill Springstead and Sunlake.
“These guys have to understand the history of the teams we go up against in our district,” Taylor said. “We have to just continue to improve here during training camp and heading into the season. We got some player makers and they’ll be moving all over the field for us.”
Fivay’s top offensive players will be wide receivers Christian Coleman and Trenton Soto, whom combined for 13 receiving touchdowns last season. The senior duo will help young quarterback, sophomore Cyler Doran, who doesn’t have a varsity start. Taylor stressed Doran won’t be expected to win games by himself, but to see improvement.
“(Doran) has thrown a lot of footballs here in the past six months,” Taylor said. “He’s not where he would be as to compared to as if he was a senior, but he’s coming along very well. ... Great thing is we’re returning five offensive lineman this season, so we have a lot of experience up front.”
Anclote advancing with youth
The past two seasons produced playoff appearances for Anclote, but that was aided by the upperclassmen, such as running backs Willie Barrett and Trent Crawford. With both tailbacks graduated, the Sharks are looking to fill the void. During the spring, sophomores Dimitrius Barry and Braxton Johnson were tabbed as the next duo and coach Matt Wicks believes both can make an impact.
“He’s probably going to be our starting tailback,” Wicks said of Barry. “He’s just been a beast out there at running back. Braxton Johnson will also be seeing a lot of time at running back and he’s just a sophomore as well.”
Wicks emphasized Anclote is not in rebuilding mode and is focused on defending 5A-7 title, which is a district up for grabs with the likes of Hudson, Gulf, Ridgewood, River Ridge and Wesley Chapel. The team is developing leaders in quarterback Brandon Vinkler and athlete Jonte Scott, who will play both ways at receiver and defensive end.
“We probably have one of the hardest working teams we’ve ever had,” Wicks said. “We have a little bit more of a blue-collar team now. Not as much grumbling as in past years. We’re young and a bit sophomore and junior heavy, but they’re not big-game heavy. They’re athletic enough for us to compete with teams.”