North Suncoast teams wrapped up their rainy 7-on-7 passing league this week, with six teams competing at Land O’Lakes and five battling at Anclote.
Some of the highlights:
Two players on Wiregrass Ranch’s roster could transform its offense. Senior wide receiver Jordan Viches and sophomore quarterback Shane Bucenell have the ability and chemistry to make the air attack for the Bulls a highlight this fall.
“I was told by Coach (Jeremy Shobe) that I need to be a leader for this team on and off the field,” Bucenell said. “I am trying to be a lot more positive and confident. I can’t hang my head when I throw a pick. I have to bounce right back.”
That confidence has been a key to developing his skills as a quarterback and a rapport with receivers like Viches. Bucenell tossed two touchdowns in Tuesday’s 16-10 victory over Wesley Chapel, including one to his senior receiver.
Viches looks ready to step up as the leader of the receiving corps, catching four passes for 56 yards and a touchdown in the win as well.
Mitchell makes it work
While the Mustangs aren’t veering from coach Scott Schmitz’s wing-T offense, they’ve still used 7-on-7 games to work on their schemes. Even if that means ignoring open seams or going for dump-off passes instead of deep balls that are open in the summer but won’t be with full teams in the fall.
“We run what we run,” Schmitz said. “If the defense is trailing them, we’re gonna give them the ball, and we’re gonna make them tackle. It’s a heck of a lot tougher to tackle us than to touch us.”
The abridged summer league has helped some of Mitchell’s key players develop. Running back Dan Barber, who was sidelined with an ankle injury for much of last year, broke a long catch-and-run for a score Tuesday. Defensive back Josh Lamb had a pair of interceptions.
And new starting quarterback Taylor Schneider showed accuracy and arm strength that will complement the ground game.
“The good thing about him is, he’s really competitive and he listens to everything,” Schmitz said. “He’s an extremely coachable kid. As a coach, you live for those guys.”
Pasco coach Tom McHugh has used this league as a means to get his new field generals reps throwing the ball. McHugh is armed with the task of replacing Jacob Guy, the Pasco County record holder in both single-season touchdown passes (42) and passing yards (2,672).
Senior Jajuan Henry started the spring game and threw 7-of-8 for 106 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 76-yard score. He played solely on defense last season, but has experience at quarterback prior to that. While his athleticism will give him an advantage, his versatility also makes him an option at other positions.
Grant Starling, a sophomore, led the Pirates’ junior varsity team to a 7-0 record last season, winning games by an average of 33-0. Starling is still developing maturity and good decision-making in the pocket, but he showed good chemistry with Division-I recruit Janarion Grant on Tuesday and finished 6-of-8 passing for 38 yards and a touchdown.
The final candidate is junior Ben Chandler, who started the summer game against Wesley Chapel and finished 1-of-3 for 6 yards.
New players on the radar
Malik Johns, DB, Pasco: The junior accrued 18 tackles, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and two pass deflections in limited action last season, but his ball skills make him a good threat whenever he is on the field. He picked off Fivay quarterback Eric Vitale and broke up two more of his passes Tuesday.
Eric Vitale, QB, Fivay: The junior backed up Tyler Degen last season, but Vitale has been seeing more snaps in 7-on-7. Tuesday he started and played every offensive down for Fivay against Pasco, going 6-of-17 for 71 yards and one interception.
Brandon Vinkler, QB, Anclote: Don’t expect the freshman to steal the starting job from John Forgione, but Vinkler looked good Tuesday. With Forgione on vacation, Vinkler impressed coach Matt Wicks with a string of six straight completions.
George Cordova, WR, River Ridge: Cordova was the Royal Knights’ second-leading receiver last year (186 yards) but has the talent for a breakout senior year. He made a juggling catch from quarterback Josh Maisel on Tuesday.
Genaro Ramirez, RB, Gulf: What Ramirez lacks in size, he makes up for in speed and toughness. He made a key two-point conversion catch over the middle on a throw from quarterback Chris Klyap this week.
Jamie Hamby, WR, Hudson: A kickoff collision knocked Hamby out of the spring jamboree at Anclote and sent him to the hospital with a spinal contusion. But he’s back on the field and snagged an interception Tuesday.
“The defense takes more away from this than the offense does, but getting your hands on the football is not a bad thing. (David Emmanuel) did not have good hands, but he’s been extraordinary since last year. This league may have something to do with that.” — McHugh on 7-on-7
Compiled by staff writer Matt Baker and correspondent Derek J. LaRiviere.