LAND O’LAKES — From the very first play Friday night, Land O’Lakes asserted its presence over Wesley Chapel in preseason action.
A botched snap, recovered by the Gators, set up a 27-yard flea-flicker touchdown from quarterback Ethan Forrester to Jacob Neary.
Forrester has established himself as the starting quarterback after competing with Chandler Tucker in the spring. He passed for 171 yards, completing 11-of-17, and ran for another 37 yards, including a 20-yard scamper for a score that put the game on ice for Land O’Lakes with a 26-0 win.
"Ethan right now is the starter. He did a heck of a job in camp, both of them did. Chandler has been playing well, but right now Ethan has the edge," first-year Gators coach Chad Walker.
The larger story, however, is the continued success of senior running back Kyle Leivas. He is the leading returning rusher in Pasco County and also is the only runner who amassed more than 1,000 yards last season who is back. Leivas finished with 17 carries for 184 yards and a touchdown, with a large chunk of those yards coming on three explosive carries of 46 (on his first carry), 48 and 52.
On offense, two other Gator playmakers stood out. Jacob Neary caught two big plays for a total of 62 yards, and tight end Jimmy Sandifer caught five passes for 71 yards as the go-to target for Forrester when yards were needed through the air.
The Gators saw success on both sides of the ball, picking up 392 yards of total offense while holding the Wildcats to 61 yards.
"I’ll take a shutout over anything," said Walker, asked what he was most impressed by. "If the offense can’t score, it’s hard to lose."
One bright spot for Wesley Chapel was freshman cornerback Adrian Ramsey, who undercut a throw on a goal-line stand at the end of the first half and returned a kickoff for 56 yards. Coach Anthony Egan said that "he’s a spark plug and is going to be a good player for us" and that Ramsey has a chance to earn reps on varsity.