WEEKI WACHEE- Talk about a change of environments for first-year Weeki Wachee football coach Jacob Gray.
Coming from Jacksonville Bolles, a program that has won 10 state championships under the legendary Corky Rogers, Gray was the special teams coordinator at the storied program and making the transition to being the head coach at Weeki Wachee High School has been interesting. Not used to seeing two to three players deep on offense, defense and special teams is something Gray alluded to at Bolles was something of normalcy.
"I would say it's caused a change in a way how I think about the game," Gray said about the transition from Bolles to Weeki Wachee. "I think I've had a different philosophy. When we like to play these teams who likes to control the clock, we like to control the tempo of the game.The game is entirely different (down here). When we go out there, every team we'd face we had to defend the pass 30 times a game. Everybody could throw the ball. I come down here, there's clock management that exists. We've taken a different philosophy than most teams. We have less kids, but we were in a system (at Bolles). We don't have walk-through days. We have pads and tempo everyday. It's Year 1, any injuries we would've had, we've would've had them. I don't think the big picture stuff hasn't had to be adjusted too much."
The Hornets are coming off a 2016 season in which the program was winless at 0-10 and creating anything positive moving forward was tough after allowing an average of 46.9 points per game. One goal for the team heading into this 2017 season was to nab a win and according to Gray, there's several games that he and his staff feel are toss up matchups in which he feels the Hornets could come out victorious. A game many on the team circled prior to the season was the rivalry match against Central, whom blew out Weeki Wachee 63-28 last fall. The favor was repaid just a couple weeks ago, as Weeki Wachee upended Central 34-33.
"The kids were very amped up about it," Gray said about Weeki Wachee's first win of the season over rival Central. "The rivalry games pull out a little bit more emotion and after winning a rivalry game, they were on an emotional high. We had to make the kids realize that it was a good win, but we have bigger goals we want to realize. We went and looked at the schedule from the get go and we said there's four or five games that are up in the air games. The Lake Weir was a toss up game and Central was another and we won by one."
There's plenty of playmakers around the board for Weeki Wachee on offense, as quarterback Vaughn Sykora (254 yards, 5 touchdowns) has been solid under center and wide receiver Young Shaun has been the No. 1 target for Sykora. Shaun has 10 catches for 254 yards and five touchdowns. Running back Sebastian Class has led the way on the ground, gaining 318 yards and scoring three times. The defense is young, but Gray likes the direction that unit is going in.
"Our quarterback is a little banged up right now," Gray added. "I personally think we have the best receiver in the county and he's played both sides of the ball. Special teams has been interesting. I come over from Bolles and that's what I coached was special teams and having 35, 40 kids maximum, it's really tough to be really effective special teams wise. It's been an interesting adjustment. Defensively, I believe we've put together a scheme that really nobody else around here runs. We're young on defense."
Follow Andy Villamarzo on Twitter @avillamarzo.