STADIUM: W.D. “Des” Little Stadium, 5355 School Road, New Port Richey CLASS-DISTRICT: 5A-7 (with Anclote, Hudson, Ridgewood, River Ridge, and Wesley Chapel) COACH: Jason Messamore (first season) LAST SEASON: 0-10
Backfield a key for Gulf
It has been two seasons since Ke’Shaun Peters played, but flashes of brilliance he showed as a freshman are still evident, according to coach Jason Messamore.
Peters is in a tight battle with fellow junior Avery Welch for the starting QB spot, but the coach said both are such gifted athletes that whoever doesn’t win the job will see plenty of playing time — Welch at running back and Peters at wide receiver.
“We’re going to keep (the position open) until one of them separates himself,” Messamore said. “Both of them throw and run the ball well, so it’ll come down to who runs the offense better and who we can afford to play at another position.”
A unit that was pressed into action much earlier than anticipated due to injuries and lack of depth last season is now a matured cornerstone the Buccaneers can build around. Seniors Kenny Hayes (center) and Jason Rayburn (right tackle) will anchor a unit that returns talent and experience. “We’re very big up front with a couple of 300-pounders and others at 280-plus, so that’s a huge benefit for us,” first-year head coach Jason Messamore said. “The kids we had there in the spring really separated themselves from the pack.”
In Gulf’s 4-3 or 4-4 defensive scheme, it’ll be this unit, which will largely be comprised of the team’s offensive linemen, including sophomore Preston Steele, junior Yanquier Bastian and junior Chance Belloise, that will play a key role in improving a group that allowed 42.4 points per game last season. “Again, we’re big and we’re tough up front,” Messamore said. “We didn’t get to do a lot of technique work during the offseason, but we’ll hammer it home now.”
While the defensive line and linebacker units should play much better this season, the defensive backfield is in a state of flux. It remains one of the few areas where the Buccaneers are not settled on starters, with senior cornerbacks Travis Thomas and Michael Confer joining juniors Morgan Smith and Ke’shaun Peters at safety. “Thomas is my utility player, so I can play him anywhere,” Messamore said, “but we need to find some kids that can play there. It’s a concern, because you never want your team to have a glaring weakness going into the season.”
Depth Lack of numbers was a key factor in Gulf finishing 0-10 and costing Tom Carter his coaching position a season ago. Messamore isn’t sure the issue has been fixed yet. A promising start to spring practices — 39 players began drills — evaporated when the Buccaneers finished with just 27. “That’s cutting it way too close,” said Messamore said, who expects to field a team with between 35-40 varsity players, so finding suitable backups to keep starters from playing too many snaps may be an issue. “Because these kids haven’t been in a program where they’ve been held accountable, some of them stay in and buy into the program and some don’t,” Messamore said. “I don’t want to run kids off, but it’s a work ethic. They have to decide how much they want it.”