Tampa’s two most prominent Buccaneers teams spanned parallel universes over the weekend, with triumph, travel bags and red-eye returns the common denominators.
And more miles — a bunch more — are forthcoming.
Two days before Tampa Bay earned its first win at San Francisco since 1980, Berkeley Prep’s Bucs ventured 402 round-trip miles — to Jasper’s Hamilton County High — for their first playoff win since 2004.
“Our players were tremendous in terms of preparation and getting ready,” said Berkeley coach Dominick Ciao, whose team rallied in the second half for a 29-22 win. “I don’t think anybody thought we could go up there and win in Jasper, Fla., and we came away with a great win and played a great team.”
After an on-campus team lunch, the Bucs boarded their charter bus at 12:10 p.m. Friday. Roughly two hours later, they stopped at O’Leno State Park in High Springs for a pregame meal of sandwiches, fruit, energy bars and Gatorade.
A catered meal, coordinated by the team parents, awaited the Bucs after the game. They returned to campus around 1:50 a.m. “By the time we got unpacked, it was probably around 2,” Ciao said.
This Friday, the out-of-town task becomes more daunting, for both Bucs teams. The trips will be shorter, but the challenges much taller.
Tampa Bay travels to Baltimore to face the Ravens. Berkeley (9-2) heads to Class A juggernaut Fort Meade for a playoff rematch at Frank S. Battle Field. Fort Meade (10-1) topped Berkeley 27-20 in overtime on Oct. 22.
That trip will span 126 round-trip miles for Berkeley. If they win, the Bucs conceivably could have a state semifinal contest the following week in Boca Raton.
“This is another challenge, it’s what it is,” Ciao said. “We don’t talk about travel, we talk about this is what we’ve got to become.”
The Bus Boys
By the time they return from Friday’s Class A region title game at Fort Meade, the Berkeley Prep Buccaneers will have traveled more than 1,000 miles this season.
Opponent/Date Round-trip miles
Lake Highland Prep (Sept. 16) 182
Fort Meade (Oct. 22) 126
Winter Park Trinity Prep (Oct. 29) 206
Indian Rocks Christian (Nov. 5) 46
Hamilton County (Nov. 19) 402
Fort Meade (Friday) 126
Total (through Friday) 1088