WESLEY CHAPEL — Wiregrass Ranch’s Oscar Colon held the gold and silver trophy aloft. It was the Bulls’ reward for finally triumphing against their rival, Wesley Chapel, a matchup they called the War on 54.
Fans, players and coaches held out their hands, forefingers and pinkies extended to create bull horns, and chanted, “Fa-mi-ly.”
Wiregrass Ranch (4-6) defeated Wesley Chapel (0-10) for the first time Friday night, 35-21. The win ended a three-game losing streak to close out the Bulls’ season.
“It was a good one for our program,” first-year coach Mike Lawrence said.
The seniors, in particular, needed this win, he added. Lawrence said it was a good way to end a difficult year.
Wesley Chapel never gave up the fight. The Wildcats took the first lead with a 60-yard passing play. Scott Edwards connected with Eric Bennett for the touchdown.
The Bulls tied the score almost immediately. Devin Duckett returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
Wiregrass pulled ahead with two field goals and a touchdown in the second quarter. The Bulls’ second touchdown came on a 60-yard pass from Shane Bucenell to James Jackson, but the PAT missed.
The Wildcats fought to keep the scoring gap small. Alex Greer returned a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, and the half ended with Wiregrass just five points behind.
Bennett’s first play of the second half brought Wesley Chapel fans to their feet. He ran back the kickoff 60 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats pulled ahead, 21-19.
A safety with just seconds left in the third quarter tied the score at 21.
The Bulls pushed back. They earned three first downs in the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, and Elias Galvan Jr. rushed 4 yards for the touchdown that pulled them ahead.
The final scoring play was a surprise for Wesley Chapel. The Bulls were still ahead with 2:08 left in the game, and the Wildcats prepared for a field goal from the 19-yard line. Kicker Bryce Wilson faked the attempt and rushed 13 yards for a first down.
Bucenell rushed the final 6 on the next play, increasing the Bulls’ lead with just a little more than a minute left in the game.
Wiregrass Ranch’s James Gibson intercepted a pass on the Wildcats’ final drive.
The Bulls fans who gathered at the front of the bleachers were clad in blankets and sweatshirts as Lawrence addressed them.
“I know y’all are ready to go home — it’s a little chilly,” he said.
He emphasized his next sentence carefully:
“But, again, thank you.”
The high note that ended the season didn’t earn a break for the Bulls.
“We gave away too many games on a lack of focus,” Lawrence said. “We go back to work tomorrow.”