STADIUM: Wildcat Stadium, 30651 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel CLASS-DISTRICT: 5A-7 (with Anclote, Gulf, Hudson, Ridgewood, and River Ridge) COACH: Tico Hernandez (first season) LAST SEASON: 0-10
New players key for Wildcats
Wesley Chapel got two transfers that will play vital roles for the team this season. One was Jase Williams, who comes over from Pasco and brings athleticism and excitement to multiple positions, including quarterback. Another is Eric Bennett, who comes over from East Bay and should be a force on defense after having 67 tackles and a team-high 12.5 sacks in 2012. Bennett has already turned heads, including garnering interest from the likes of Northern Illinois, Coastal Carolina and USF.
Despite coming off a poor 3-7 season and a coaching change, the Wildcats bring a vast array of senior leadership that not only first-year coach Tico Hernandez needed, but is proud of. “They’ve really stepped up for us and they’ll really be a strength for us,” Hernandez said. Included in those are Mark LaBarbera, Nalu Fraticelli, Xavier Toro, Nate Love and Alex Greer will be leaders on and off the field as the Wildcats look to reverse fortunes and eye a playoff berth, something the team hasn’t had since 2004.
New attitude, direction
When Hernandez took over, numbers on the football team were down. He and his assistant coaches scoured the hallways for any boys who might want to join the team. Because of that, Hernandez will have nearly 90 players for varsity and JV, and things are looking bright at Wesley Chapel for the first time since John Castelamare retired. Hernandez has instilled a team-first attitude and plans to take the team in a new direction: winning.
With still no definitive starter and the loss of last year’s starter, Ty Tanner, who transferred to Zephyrhills, the Wildcats are still trying to find a signal caller to stand out from the rest. Throughout spring and preseason, the battle has been between Jase Williams, Xavier Toro and last year’s JV starter Scotty Edwards. Hernandez did say that each brings their own dynamic to the mix and he’s trying to find a way to work them into the offense at other positions.
Hernandez feels the offensive line will have its work cut out being more undersized than he would like, however, he says the line is athletic and fast. “I would say our line is about 98 percent of the biggest guys at the school and they’re not big, but they’re strong and hard working and got heart,” Hernandez said. “We’ll work with them and what we got, but I’m not worried.”