Wiregrass Ranch was less than 30 minutes into its first practice of the fall when players broke their huddle with a startling declaration after back-to-back winless seasons.
We will win.
“The mind-set that we’ve had over the past couple years is, they doubt themselves when they have all the ability to be better,” first-year coach Mike Lawrence said. “The ‘We will win’ sets the tone, reminding them why they’re on the field, what they’re playing for.”
His Bulls are playing to break a 22-game losing streak. Wiregrass has been outscored 801-107 the past two seasons, which prompted the departure of coach Jeremy Shobe in the offseason.
When Lawrence started practice Monday, he continued the discipline-focused foundation he learned as a running back at Kansas State under Bill Snyder and began to install in the spring.
An uneven line of bystanders prompted a timeout. Untucked shirts led to scoldings. A tardy assistant was called out in front of the team.
“If we can’t do the little things,” Lawrence said, “it’s not going to matter.”
If the Bulls doubted his philosophies in May, they believed Monday. A strong showing in the spring game erased any skepticism.
“That was a game-changer,” senior WR/DE James Jackson said.
Wiregrass has never beaten crosstown rival Wesley Chapel in the regular season but shut out its neighbor for a 3-0 victory in one spring game. The Bulls followed that performance with a 7-0 win over Sunlake, a program that has established itself as one of Pasco County’s best with 27 wins over the past three seasons.
The confidence gained from the first victories in 30 months continued when Wiregrass’ 70 players strapped on their helmets on a muggy Monday afternoon — and could linger into the autumn.
“It made us buy into it even more,” senior RB John Harris-Scott IV said. “We were buying into Coach’s philosophy, but now we know it can be done.”