BLOOMINGDALE — Jason Stokes may be one of the up-and-coming names in coaching around the area, but last week he came face to face with the biggest name of all, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden.
"It was crazy," Stokes said. "Getting a chance to go and meet someone like that is an honor."
Actually, Stokes was the one being honored. The Bloomingdale coach was recognized by the Buccaneers as the high school Coach of the Week after the Bulls' 7-0 win against Plant City on Sept. 26. Stokes took linebacker Matt Kacer with him, and the two toured One Buc Place, accepted a $1,000 check on behalf of the Bulls program and met Gruden.
"I just got excited watching Matt's face," Stokes said. "His eyes were huge."
Stokes, the Bulls' first-year coach, has managed to right a Bloomingdale ship previously thought to be rudderless. The Bulls, a team that has never seen the positive side of .500 since the program started in 1987, are 3-2 heading into their bye week.
"The kids have bought into the system we're selling them," Stokes said. "They're believing they can win each week, and people are starting to take notice."
Bloomingdale is mostly getting it done thanks to a stout defensive unit. Led by linebacker C.J. Curran and cornerback Justin Mann, the Bulls have shut out Plant City and held an athletic King team to 7 points.
"C.J. is the best on-field leader I've ever been around," Stokes said. "Justin is just an incredibly intelligent football player, and even though he's a corner, he will hit you. I can't wait to put his end-of-the-year highlight film together."
But although the Bulls may be on the right track, Sickles reminded Bloomingdale last Friday that there still was work to be done. The Gryphons beat the Bulls 17-14, scoring a pair of touchdowns on short fields.
"(Sickles) got the ball twice on our side of the field and took advantage," Stokes said.
Stokes, however, was pleased Monday when his players came back with a little chip on their shoulders.
"They knew they let that one get away," he said.
Now comes the waiting. The Bulls will be off tonight as they prepare for Leto — and a chance to take one step closer to history — Thursday.
"They didn't like the taste of that loss, and now they'll have it in their mouths for another week," Stokes said. "And you know what? I like that."
|Tampa Bay Tech (5-0) at Armwood (5-0)||Brandon (1-4) at Newsome (3-2)|
|Last week: TBT beat Spoto 14-6, and the Hawks pounded Jefferson 41-0.
Quick count: Armwood has outscored its past three opponents 124-0. TBT comes in undefeated. The big question is, will the Titans get on the scoreboard?
Wright's pick: Armwood
|Last week: The Eagles lost 10-0 to Durant, and the Wolves beat Robinson 17-0.
Quick count: Brandon continues to stumble, and the Wolves have won two of their past three. A quick look at Newsome's schedule shows running the table isn't out of the question.
Wright's pick: Newsome
|Durant (3-2) at Sarasota (1-4)||East Bay (3-2) at Plant City (2-3)|
|Last week: The Cougars beat Brandon 10-0, and the Sailors lost to Manatee 34-7.
Quick count: The Cougars' defense continues to impress and should have a number of opportunities tonight; Sarasota fumbled nine times in its last game.
Wright's pick: Durant
|Last week: The Indians lost 21-6 against Chamberlain, and Wharton beat the Raiders 44-21.
Quick count: East Bay hung tough with a very good Chamberlain team last week while the Raiders scored almost as many points last week against Wharton (21) as they had in the first four games (26).
Wright's pick: East Bay
|Bishop Verot (3-1) at Lennard (3-2)||Sarasota Riverview (3-2) at Riverview (0-4)|
|Last week: Bishop Verot beat Evangelical Christian 10-3, and Leto defeated Lennard 46-27.
Quick count: The Longhorns are stinging a bit after getting spanked by Leto last Friday. Look for them to make it a long ride back to Fort Myers for Bishop Verot.
Wright's pick: Lennard
|Last week: The Rams beat Monsignor Pace 35-0, and the Sharks lost to Hillsborough 61-14.
Quick count: It has been a rough stretch for Riverview. Two weeks ago it was Plant, last Friday it was Hillsborough and this week it's the vaunted "Rambone." Remember the name Andre Booker, Riverview fans. You'll be hearing it a lot tonight.
Wright's pick: Sarasota Riverview