Wiregrass Ranch became the North Suncoast’s first head football coach opening Monday, when Jeremy Shobe resigned after four seasons.
I don’t want to make this about Shobe, and I hope you don’t, either. I’m a student of the Joey Knight School of Thought, which opposes the idea of criticizing high school coaches who get paid pennies an hour for the work they do. I don't think that's fair.
But I do want to discuss something: How good is the Wiregrass Ranch job?
First, the positives. The Bulls have some athletes in the halls. The cross country programs are both headed to state. The baseball team finished 19-7 last year, and the basketball team was 17-11 and made the playoffs. The tennis and soccer teams are strong, too. I don’t think it’s outlandish to think that, despite an 0-20 record the last two seasons, Wiregrass’ football program can’t follow that success.
The Bulls were young this fall. They should have 16 returning starters next season, including a good (soon-to-be) junior quarterback, Shane Bucenell. That youth meant some struggles this year, but it could mean success next fall.
“Somebody’s going to be in a great situation,” Shobe said.
Wiregrass’ schedule has been brutal, too. Aside from Pasco and Sunlake, I’m not sure how many county teams would do well in a Class 7A district with Hillsborough County foes. Add in the fact that the Bulls played non-district games against the Pirates and Seahawks, plus Zephyrhills, Countryside and rival Wesley Chapel, and the 0-20 record makes a little more sense.
Don’t forget that the FHSAA will redraw its districts before next season, so maybe things will change for the Bulls.
“I feel like if we were in a Pasco County schedule, it’d be a lot different situation we’d be in,” Shobe said.
Now the negatives with Wiregrass. It’s hard to change a culture of losing, and back-to-back winless seasons can take years to fix. Mark Kantor has done a tremendous job at Hudson, but his team finished only 3-7 with five losses by at least 30 points.
And there are probably some reasons the Bulls went winless. The schedule was rough, yes, but only three of their 20 losses were close. Wiregrass Ranch was outscored 801-107. That suggests some other problems, too.
So how good is the Wiregrass Ranch job? What’s the program’s potential if it stays in a district with Hillsborough County teams? What about if it moves back into a district with North Suncoast programs?