To kick off the first week of the football regular season, we’re taking a pigskin spin on “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Today’s installments include a look at the bay area's newest varsity program.
It’s been two and a half years since Mark Lee was named the athletic director at Weeki Wachee and 24 months since the school’s doors opened for its first day of class. Some players have sprouted 4 inches, bulked up 50 pounds and toiled for two junior varsity seasons since then under Lee, also the head football coach.
The hard work has all been geared toward Friday, when the school kicks off its first varsity season.
“I’m getting chills now,” Lee said.
Especially given the opponent: Central.
Many of the Hornets’ 1,300 students have friends at Central, a geographic rival 6 miles away. Weeki Wachee principal Troy LaBarbara used to work at Central and hired Bears football coach Mike Einspahr.
The schools have united, shaving their heads to support LaBarbara’s 13-year-old son’s battle with cancer. But Einspahr and LaBarbara have also exchanged trash talk leading up to a game that will either give the Hornets their first varsity victory or end Central’s 12-game losing streak on the field.
“This is going to be a good start to a good rivalry,” LaBarbara said. “We’re trying to get the kids up for that game.”
The Hornets aren’t setting their expectations too high for their inaugural varsity season, but they have reasons for optimism.
Weeki Wachee’s JV team lost only once last year. Hard-nosed quarterback David Tinch has gained experience as the JV starter, and running backs Marcus Allen and Jon King have potential to find holes behind Division-I prospect Marcus Applefield (6-6, 235 pounds).
And the Hornets can look elsewhere in the North Suncoast for quick rises to success. Sunlake advanced to the playoffs last season, four years after the school opened, and Lee’s old school, Nature Coast, was in the postseason three years after its first school year.
Fivay finished second in Class 5A, District 6 last fall in its first year of all-varsity football.
Weeki Wachee’s early varsity experiences have been rough. The Hornets lost to Springstead 30-7 in the spring game and were trounced by Crystal River 59-12 in last week’s preseason contest.
“They’re excited,” Lee said. “Now they’ll definitely have something to prove.”