TAMPA — Josh Vizcaino starts his day like most teenagers his age, just a little earlier.
The Plant City native rises around 5 a.m., gets ready for school then travels cross county to attend Blake High for its music program, where he plays trombone in the school's jazz band.
A dedicated student, holding a 5.1 GPA, Vizcaino said he has been playing the brass instrument for eight years and enjoys a lot of styles, with a special affinity for the big band styles of his favorite musician, trombonist and composer Tommy Dorsey.
“I come for the band magnet program,” Vizcaino said. “Well, it was initially what I came to Blake for.”
And yes, band is a big part of Vizcaino's life, including preparing for a school concert in October. But as far as big parts go, Vizcaino is a big part of another program starting to turn heads at the school known for its arts curriculum.
The 6-foot-3, 315-pound Vizcaino is the anchor of Blake's offensive line and a prime example of what second-year Yellow Jackets coach Darryl Gordon is hoping to bring to the school's resurgent football program.
“Josh is our coach on the field during game day,” Gordon said. “We need a guy out there with a great head on his shoulders, he knows the game so well, makes the right blocking calls out there. Having a guy out there like that is huge.”
Blake (2-2) had a tough opening game where mistakes, including 13 penalties and a number of turnovers, proved costly in an 18-6 loss to Brandon, followed immediately by a 32-6 loss to county powerhouse Armwood. However, things have started to go right, and the Yellow Jackets find themselves carrying a two-game winning streak (Leto and Lennard) heading into tonight's home game against King (3-1).
“Those first two games to start the year showed us if your mind is not in the right area what that does to you,” Vizcaino said. “Coach Gordon has really put in a lot of discipline into this team.”
“Everyone is on the same page now, it's about winning football. We aren't in any game to compete, we are in that game to win.”
Gordon said his first season was about getting his team to play together, and the 3-7 result was a start that helped lead to bigger numbers this season. The team attitude has gone from making a name within the “Arts School” to making Blake a name in the Hillsborough County football landscape.
“You find things in your second year to work on that you didn't have time for in your first year,” Gordon said. “We are working on overall things, how we practice, how we game-plan, and these kids are really buying in.”
One of the big steps Gordon has taken is adding a specific coach for his offensive and defensive lines in former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Anthony Davis, who also serves as assistant head coach — a move Gordon said is paying off immediately.
“Anthony Davis deserves a lot of credit for bringing in some focus for our offensive and D-lines,” Gordon said. “He's really got them focused on both sides of the ball, and that is really helping us grow as a football team.”
Davis hopes Vizcaino is the first in a line of players who find specific coaching translating to better play on the field.
“Josh is a very smart player, a true leader,” Davis said. “He is eager to learn and wants to be the best and he's really taking to what he is being taught.”
And it's having an impact, as the Yellow Jackets have put up a combined 110 points in the last two games. With Vizcaino, along with linemen like seniors guards Myrick Dula and Richard Grayson, and the impact of young players like Jaquez Rivers, the line is setting up Blake's playmakers.
“These guys are a band of brothers that are starting to trust each other,” Davis said. “Especially with this offensive line. The things they do aren't going to be in the state book, won't make the newspaper, but we are starting to get these guys to understand that they are the reason why this thing is going forward.”