Spring football wrapped up for the area’s high schools two weeks ago, bringing an official end to the 2017-18 sports season for Wiregrass Ranch, Wesley Chapel and first-year Cypress Creek Middle High.
Here’s how the teams fared:
Wiregrass Ranch (WRH)
The Bulls were the only area team to come out with a win in their spring game, as rising senior Grant Sessums threw for three touchdowns and rising junior Dylan Ridolph had a sack and a fumble recovery in a 36-17 victory over Tampa Catholic.
3 Things About Their Spring
Big Boys Come Up Big: Head coach Mark Kantor is excited about how his offensive line is developing. He sees them as being an essential element if his Bulls are going to advance to the playoffs for the third-straight year.
That starting group — Josh Hood (G), Daniel Thompson (G), Barit Dhungana (C), Robert Gibb (T), and Connor Lenczden (T) — had a great spring.
“The offensive line played fantastic on Friday (against TC),” Kantor said. “They are young, but we’re excited to see how they are going to develop over the summer.”
Lenczden is a towering figure, standing 6’-5” tall and weighing in at 285 pounds. Gibb, a rising junior tackle on the opposite side, isn’t a huge guy (220 pounds) but stands 6’-2”, making for a couple of good-sized bookends.
Sessums Ready For Primetime: He will be entering his senior season with 21 games and nearly 250 passes thrown under his belt. Last year, he threw for 1,483 yards and eight touchdowns, and after throwing for three touchdowns against a very good Tampa Catholic team, the thinking is this will be a marquee year for S
“Sessums is a seasoned veteran now,” Kantor said. “We’re excited for him and for what is surrounding him.”
New Names, Not No-Names: Kantor is pretty excited what’s surrounding Sessums, and his enthusiasm isn’t lessened at all by all the talent lost from last year’s roster, like Penn State signee Jordan Miner.
Cypress Creek transfer Keith Walker has explosive speed and versatility, rising junior wide receiver/defensive back Julian Gonzalez played sparingly as a sophomore but scored on a long touchdown reception in the spring game and ran down a Tampa Catholic wide receiver on what looked like a sure touchdown. In the backfield, running backs Mason Buie and Jamar Hicks throw a nice 1-2 punch.
“We’re fortunate to have a lot of multi-dimensional kids,” Kantor said. “We can put them in different places, and it gives us an advantage.”
The Bulls host Clearwater Central Catholic on Aug. 17 in their preseason classic.
Wesley Chapel (WCH)
The Wildcats, coming off a two-year revival, were unimpressive in their spring game loss to visiting Mitchell High. After falling behind 9-0 at the half, they still could not quite muster a scoring drive in the second half before falling 15-0.
3 Things About Their Spring
Making The Grade: The Wildcats lost starting running backs Dexter Leverett and Malik Melvin to graduation, and didn’t have anyone to play running back in the spring. Head coach Tony Egan and company are hoping that rising senior Kris Chandler breaks through to meet grade eligibility requirements for the fall.
Chandler came to the Wildcats as a freshman transfer from New Tampa’s Wharton High. He impressed coaches in practice his sophomore and junior years, but could not get his grades up to speed before this spring.
“He’s probably going to be a two-way starter for us,” Egan said. “He’s a strong, fast, heck of a running back and he might be our best player on defense.”
Rising sophomore Zion Flavien will most likely be the starting quarterback for the Wildcats this fall. Flavien started every game on JV last season, and is 6’-2”, 225. He is eligible, but his parents have held him out of spring football so he can focus on his academics. Tyler Wittish, who played quarterback in the spring game, and Cornez McCrary also are options.
All In The Family: Wittish will make an impact. His older brother Austen, led the county in tackles last season. Tyler has gone through an interesting transition. He was a chunky 230 lbs. as a sophomore offensive lineman. In 2017, his junior year, he slimmed down to 190 and played receiver and quarterback.
This season, he’s back up around 230, but a muscular 230. He benches 300 and squats 450. Egan likes him at defensive end and tight end, but with Wittish’s cross-training, he’s able to play virtually any position.
Blockade: This is the biggest question mark for the Wildcats for the 2018 season. Three of the Wildcats’ guards quit or were kicked off the team leading up to the spring game. In fact, WCH only dressed five offensive lineman for that game. Egan said that his team actually ran a play in the second half with just four on the O-line.
“It ended up being one of our biggest gains of the night,” Egan said. “One of our five guys got injured and the refs should have flagged it, but somehow, we were able to get (the play) off.”
The Wildcats will have rising seniors Seth Petty and Joey DiMarco, but Egan would prefer to use them both full time at defensive tackle.
The Wildcats travel to Land O’ Lakes on August 17 for their pre season classic.
Cypress Creek (CCMH)
The Coyotes were beaten 48-7 by Zephyrhills Christian Academy (ZCA) in their spring game. However, they were missing one of their best all-around players in Jalen Warren, who had a cast for a broken finger removed the day after the spring game. The Coyotes fared much better in the second half against ZCA after falling behind 40-0 in the first, getting two explosive plays from wide receivers Devin Santana and Tim Ford-Brown.
3 Things About Their Spring
QB, Or Not QB: Jalen’s brother, rising junior Jelani Warren, took most of the snaps at QB last season, but head coach Mike Johnson is open to moving him to another skill position to take advantage of his speed and athleticism.
The taller frame of rising senior Trevor Maxwell would make a good substitute at QB. Maxwell played sparingly under center last season, but played the entire second half of the spring game.
“Maxwell only had two weeks of spring practice while playing baseball, but he picked things up quickly,” Thompson said. “With Jelani, it’s two different dynamics at QB. It will be a fun competition over the summer during the 7-on-7 games.”
Black Magic: Rising senior Devin Santana might just be the biggest threat on the offensive side of the football for the Coyotes. He led the team with 10 catches and 134 yards last season, and has the size, speed and hands every coach dreams of at the high school level. Santana had a sparkling play in the spring game against ZCA, scooping up a ball thrown at his feet on a five-yard slant and then turning it upfield for an 80-yard touchdown. If the Coyotes can figure out a way to get the ball in his hands, look out.
You Got Players: When Johnson started the program a year ago, he had a grand total of three players. Obviously, this past spring game was the program’s first, as 36 players dressed against ZCA.
“I’m extremely proud,” Johnson said. “We had 20 days to get the guys ready (for ZCA) and we showed flashes of what we can accomplish.” The Coyotes are still in search of an opponent for the preseason.