WESLEY CHAPEL — Noah Ravenna can remember the game where it all started to turn for the Wiregrass Ranch football team.
Quarterback James Tringali can narrow it down to the exact play.
In Week 5, Wiregrass hosted Clearwater Central Catholic and trailed 24-7 at halftime. Coming out of the break, the Bulls desperately needed a score to stay in the game.
They got it when senior receiver Shaquille Vereen turned a short slant pattern from Tringali into a 45-yard catch-and-run touchdown
From there, the Bulls outscored CCC 21-7 after halftime. And though they fell short of knocking off the Marauders, the second half sparked the team's current four-game win streak.
As did that perfectly executed slant pass.
“(The play) was just exactly how the coaches drew it up,” said Tringali, the Bulls’ starting quarterback for three-and-a-half seasons. “After that, (CCC) bobbled the kickoff and were pinned deep in their territory and we got the ball back on a three and out and scored again. …It just seems like we’ve been rolling ever since.”
After losing to CCC, Wiregrass Ranch sat at 2-3, with an ugly loss to Sunlake and a deflating one to Wesley Chapel on its resume.
But rather than implode, the Bulls could sense better times on the horizon. They haven’t been beaten since.
“Our team pretty much came together during the second half of that game,” senior lineman Jared Cameli said. “You could feel it in the atmosphere of the locker room after the game.”
Three weeks later, the Bulls knocked off district favorite Tarpon Springs to take control of the playoff chase, and they clinched the school’s first postseason bid the following game, comfortably beating River Ridge.
The Bulls’ late-season success has helped ease the pain of last season’s collapse against Hudson, when a last-second loss kept them from making the playoffs.
The Bulls scored three touchdowns to the Cobras’ two but missed on all three of their two-point conversions. Hudson retook the lead and the playoff spot on a 23-yard field goal with 1:18 left.
“It was actually one of the hardest losses of my career,” Ravenna said. “…To this day, I still can’t watch that film. I’ve never seen the replay of the game.”
Tonight, Wiregrass Ranch can pull off the upset of the season and earn some long-awaited respect with a win over undefeated Pasco.
And with the way they’ve closed the season, the Bulls are thinking: why can’t we be the ones to knock off the Pirates?
“We’re looking to win. We’re looking to beat the top team in Pasco County,” Ravenna said. “There’s no holding back for the playoffs. We’re working hard at it all week, and I feel like we’re ready.”