Cynical? You won't be after watching this
It’s been kind of a rough few months, hasn’t it?
Since July, every county in Tampa Bay has had a black eye of some sort. The Class 6A, District 8 saga in Tampa. The Countryside mess. The recruiting violation/sleepover in Hernando. Eligibility questions at Zephyrhills.
Add it all up, and it’s easy to get cynical. I have, at times. Which is why I needed last night.
Anclote beat Zephyrhills and host Fivay in the Class 5A, District 6 tiebreaker. I had a good story to write, regardless of the outcome. If Fivay won, the Falcons would have made the playoffs for all two of their varsity seasons. A Zephyrhills sweep would have meant overcoming the loss of two key players, with coach Reggie Roberts leading his alma mater back to the playoffs.
But Anclote won, and it gave me one of the cooler memories of my career.
The Sharks have been through a lot. Coach Matt Wicks built the program from nothing. Anclote finished winless in its inaugural season. The freshmen then are now seniors. They hadn’t finished at .500 yet, much less tasted the playoffs. They started 0-4 this year and needed the biggest win in school history and some help to get a shot at the postseason.
I can’t adequately describe what happened when Kishaun Dampier intercepted Fivay’s pass on the final play of the game last night. Check out the video below. Hear the screams from the sidelines. Watch the players run onto the field to celebrate and the joy Wicks and lineman Terry Linton share as they hug near midfield.
I don’t think I’ll forget talking to Wicks near the end zone, after his first rounds of hugs were over, after he had addressed his team – the ones who built the program with him – and told them he’d make the trip to Gainesville worth all the work.
Wicks was misty-eyed. The former lineman choked up. He wiped his eyes. He thanked his players for sticking with him, for battling through a winless season and hopeless start to experience something few people expected.
And I no longer felt cynical.