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Wiregrass Ranch’s offense showed slight signs of improvement in Mike Lawrence’s first year as offensive coordinator.
The Bulls hope the positives are just beginning.
Wiregrass Ranch has promoted Lawrence to become the third head coach in program history, the school announced Tuesday morning.
“This is where I’m supposed to be,” said Lawrence, 37. “These are the kids that I’ve worked with for the last year. I don’t want to let these kids down.”
Lawrence has a strong football pedigree. The Miami native rushed for more than 100 yards in seven games at Kansas State and ranks fourth in Wildcats history with 2,265 yards. He spent a decade playing minor-league football before becoming a high school assistant with stops at Dunedin and others.
Although the Bulls made it to the playoffs in 2010, Lawrence inherits a rebuilding project and a North Suncoast-worst 22-game losing streak. He said the biggest initial task is to change the program's mentality.
“I want to teach them and show them what the possibilities are if they put their minds and physical abilities to the test," said Lawrence, who has served as an offensive coordinator but never as a head coach at any level. "That’s why I want to be here. This is my family.”
Wiregrass Ranch has had success in its young program. It finished 5-5 in 2009 and made the playoffs the next fall under coach Jeremy Shobe. But the Bulls struggled after jumping to Class 7A, District 7 with Hillsborough County programs like Tampa Bay Tech and Gaither.
They finished winless each of the last two seasons while being outscored 801-107. Shobe resigned shortly after his fourth season ended with a 23-17 loss to Zephyrhills.
Wiregrass was more competitive last fall thanks in part to a solid, young nucleus and a Lawrence-led offense that proved more effective. The Bulls increased their scoring (from 46 points to 61) and decreased their shutouts (from five to three) with Lawrence as coordinator.
Wiregrass Ranch selected Lawrence from a pool of 28 applicants, including former Tarpon Springs coach Atif Austin, former Blake coach Micheal Burns and Wiregrass defensive coordinator Adamm Oliver.
“We are very excited to have Coach Lawrence lead our football program,” Bulls athletic director Dave Wilson said in an email. “He has a lot of experience and will bring excitement and energy to our team.”
The school will host a meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday in the cafeteria for students to meet Lawrence, who also works in Wiregrass' ESE department.
Lawrence will be the third coach in the program history, after Ricky Thomas and Shobe.