Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

Cypress Creek jumps right into varsity football

WESLEY CHAPEL — It might have seemed like an innocuous comment after their first fall football practice, doubling as their first appearance with what resembled an actual team.

But the eager Monday gathering of Cypress Creek Coyotes would do very well to heed the simple words of Kevin LaChance, the first-year program's running backs/linebackers coach.

"I know we're moving you around in a lot of positions. Learn them all," he said.

With roughly two dozen in uniform Monday, the math was obvious: The bulk of the Coyotes will be compelled to endure playing both sides of scrimmage.

It may be that type of year for the Coyotes, in several sports, but at least they know it.

"Next year we should be good," Jehlani Warren said. "We're going to take this punishment, this season, but next season we're going to be ready."

Warren isn't exactly skipping past his sophomore season, though. The former Wiregrass Ranch student showed considerable poise on his first day as Coyotes quarterback.

"You're going to see some real Ironman football," head coach Mike Johnson said. "We're going to put 11 out there and play to the best of our ability. We're not going to quit for anybody."

Johnson, most recently an assistant at Stewart Middle in Zephyrhills, was at Wesley Chapel High before that, after moving here from Illinois in 2010. He assisted for the Wildcats teams that hovered around .500, before rolling to a 7-2 mark last year.

With players from Wesley Chapel, as well as Wiregrass Ranch just off a playoff year, Johnson has justified optimism once the expected first-year lumps are taken.

"It's great to see what (Chapel has) done since I've left here," he said. "They went through some hardships, and now look where they're at. Small goals at first (but) definitely, we have that same opportunity here, to grow, grow, grow and hopefully get there."

The athletic facilities, however, are already at full growth. Much like experiencing the school itself for the first time, you feel as if you're in the middle of nowhere — and then …

A vast expanse of incredible.

"If I was coming here, I'd be licking my chops. The weight room is phenomenal," Johnson said.

It's a big room. Athletic director Wendy Rogers, a college athlete herself and a basketball coach at three colleges, practically runs out of breath listing its features.

"State of the art," she said. "They've got four elliptical machines. Four adjustable benches. Four competition weightlifting benches. It's amazing."

And just wait until the players can actually get into the football stadium. It's a glorious vista — not quite the tree-lined beauty at River Ridge, but close. And the field is surrounded by what will be the first rubber track in Pasco County.

"They have to paint it. Still hoping for the first week in September," Rogers said.

So if players have to walk across a mat to get to the field, it'll go down that way. The preseason game is at Fivay, and the first home tilt isn't until month and a half after that.

Until then, plenty of room elsewhere — a rather large practice area sits just south of the football/softball/baseball fields, and there's that weight room.

"We just have to get stronger," said running back Keith Walker, formerly of Chapel. "I'm having to run a lot more; we'll see how that goes. It's something I'll have to get used to."

The other thing is the nickname. It came down to Coyotes or Ducks, and the area's elementary school students actually did the voting.

"I wanted Ducks," Walker said, noting the school's color scheme matches the University of Oregon Ducks.

"I'm cool with Coyotes; I don't want to be no Duck," Warren counters.

Regardless the name, the color scheme is pretty cool. And, keeping with the not-backing-down approach of football, all of the Coyotes teams will play a full varsity schedule, despite given the JV-only option.

Without giving everything away, Johnson's first practice revealed a variety of offensive plays, such as the option with a few deep passes by Warren. Johnson's career started, uniquely, as a player-coach at Eureka College (2005-2009) after he suffered an injury.

So he's used to overcoming adversity, something that might come in handy this season. Despite Monday's turnout being barely more to fill both sides of the ball, it was already a big jump over the handful who turned out in the spring, when there was no Cypress Creek.

"We didn't have great numbers in the spring, and I think that's just due to kids (being) confused," Johnson said. "Now that we're kind of fully here, the kids are excited. They're positive, and we're looking forward to getting it going."

     
 
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