HUDSON — Even after Anclote coach Matt Wicks took his Gatorade shower to celebrate Monday’s Class 5A, District 6 tiebreaker wins, the water kept flowing.
“It’s been a long four years,” Wicks said as he wiped his misty eyes in the end zone. “And it’s worth the blood, sweat and tears, for sure.”
The program he built from scratch is playoff-bound, at last.
Anclote earned its first postseason appearance in school history by shutting out Zephyrhills 16-0 and host Fivay 7-0 to claim the No. 2 spot in the district. The pair of one-quarter victories gives the Sharks a trip to Gainesville Eastside on Nov. 16 for the region quarterfinals.
“Unbelievable,” Wicks said.
Anclote (5-4) did it with defense. After failing to string together a drive through the first eight minutes against Zephyrhills (5-4), the Sharks forced a fumble, and junior Willie Barrett recovered it deep in Bulldog territory to set up a 32-yard CJ Peppe field goal.
“Like a fantasy,” said Barrett, who also rushed for 105 yards on 22 carries.
The Sharks sealed the first win with two more turnovers. Kishaun Dampier returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown on Zephyrhills’ next drive, and Barrett took another pick 34 yards for a score to seal the victory.
The Bulldogs were playing without Division I prospect Jordan Roberts and lineman Quinton Foster, who both missed Friday’s loss to Pasco with eligibility concerns. Leading rusher Willie Williams was cleared a few hours before the game after resolving paperwork issues, including — according to Williams’ aunt — questions from administrators that the senior Palm Bay Heritage transfer lives with Bulldogs coach Reggie Roberts. Both Roberts and Williams’ aunt, Sharmaine Richardson, denied the claim.
Zephyrhills’ defeat set up a do-or-die 12 minutes for Anclote against a Fivay team (6-3) that beat the Sharks 41-31 in the teams’ district opener — part of Anclote’s 0-4 start.
“All week it was about payback, payback, payback,” Wicks said. “If we can get there, it’s payback.”
Anclote got revenge with two big drives. On the first possession, the Sharks converted on fourth and 3 when quarterback John Forgione hit Tymere Carter, who broke his only catch of the night for a 21-yard touchdown.
Fivay drove to the Anclote 11 and had a chance to tie the game, but an illegal block in the back and linebacker Terrell Martin’s fourth-down pass breakup in the end zone killed the threat.
The Sharks converted on two third downs during their ensuing 55-yard drive before giving the ball back to Fivay with six seconds left. Dampier intercepted the Falcons’ final pass and slid to the ground to seal a postseason berth for a program only three years removed from an 0-10 inaugural season.
“It’s incredible,” said Forgione, who completed 3 of 4 passes for 38 yards. “I’ve been here for years, and I’ve seen everything.”
Except the playoffs — until next week.