HOLIDAY — Anclote’s football program, as with many fledgling programs, has been built around the ground game the past two seasons to take pressure off a green offense and buy needed rest time for an emerging defense.
The Sharks made modest gains after going 0-10 in their inaugural 2009 season, finishing 2-8 last season when they were outscored 417-175. But going into its third season, Anclote may see quite the reversal of fortune.
Area powerhouse Land O’Lakes is in a new district, leaving the runnerup spot in Class 5A, District 6 up for grabs. District champion Pasco is still in the mix, along with the Sharks, Gulf, Hudson, Fivay, Wesley Chapel, Ridgewood and Zephyrhills. Pasco was 11-1 a year ago. The rest? A combined 18-47 and only one team, Gulf, had a winning record at 6-4. (Note: Fivay played a partial varsity schedule in 2010.)
The Sharks are excited about their strength at receiver, where they return standout senior Dondre Daley. Senior Ryan Patterson also has impressed in 7-on-7, and Gulf transfer Chris Gregory is another threat. And they're backed by a stout offensive line.
The guy responsible for making the Sharks’ new aerial attack work? Shaggy-haired junior quarterback John Forgione, who last season passed for a mere 774 yards and two scores, but has no doubt the new spread offense will flourish.
“We all feel a lot more confident going into this season,” Forgione said. “It’s all been about having fun out there when we play. We have three or four talented receivers and we gained a lot of confidence after the 7-on-7 over at USF, when we played teams like Jesuit, Plant and (Lakeland) Victory Christian.”
Many have questioned whether the 5-foot-11 Forgione can become a true passing threat with a team that has been so run happy. But Forgione has put in the work, and not just in 7-on-7 and in the weight room.
He is training with former Tampa Bay Storm quarterback John Kaleo, who has spent countless hours working on Forgione’s three-step drops and has helped him learn how to read pre-snap coverages on the go.
“(Kaleo) is helping John so much with his arm and his footwork,” Anclote coach Matt Wicks said. “I think John knows this is his year to really do well, with receivers like Daley, Patterson and Gregory. Last year helped him tremendously in learning the offense and he has it down pat.
“These 7-on-7s right now are really helping him with his timing and that’s very key to what we’re doing. I don’t put any pressure on John, I think he puts a lot of it on himself.”
The regular season is less than three months away and the expectations are high that the Sharks will make the leap from the district cellar to a postseason berth.
“I feel as confident as I have ever been at quarterback,” Forgione said. “…I’m so ready for the season to start.”