HOLIDAY — Moments after wrapping up a two-hour practice Thursday morning, Anclote football coach Matt Wicks was already thinking about his next task.
It was time to set up the weight room.
"The weights are still in boxes," Wicks said.
Welcome to Wicks' world.
As the coach of a first-year program at a school that will open to students for the first time Monday, the 35-year-old Georgia native has the luxury of working with a blank canvas.
But with that comes many challenges.
"It's got its pluses and minuses," Wicks said.
The positive? He can shape the program any way he wants.
Well, let's begin with the following:
• The roster is short on numbers, meaning most players will have to play on both sides of the ball.
• The team (or school, for that matter) will not have a senior class this year.
• Only a handful of Sharks have varsity experience.
• Anclote will play a full varsity schedule, with a preseason game Aug. 28 at Bradenton Bayshore and the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against Lakeland Victory Christian.
"You know," Wicks said, "we're still learning how to practice."
That said, Wicks and his staff are excited about what lies ahead. So, too, are the players, a youthful group of 25 that is likely to include three freshman starters.
"I can't wait to run out on the field," Sharks junior Phil Linton said. "It's going to be one of the best feelings in my life."
Linton's situation illustrates perfectly what life is like at a first-year program. A year ago, he was a junior varsity nose guard at Mitchell (Anclote pulled students mostly from Mitchell and Gulf). For part of this spring, he played fullback.
Now, he's the team's starting quarterback.
Teammate Marlow Bradham, a junior running back, is thought to be the only Anclote player with starting varsity experience. Bradham, who played at Mitchell last year, suddenly finds himself as the veteran on the team.
"It's a big difference playing with older guys than playing with younger guys," Bradham said. "I've got to help them out."
To their credit, the Sharks aren't making excuses.
In fact, despite the team's many hurdles, Linton for one thinks Anclote can be competitive from the start.
"If we play 100 percent every week," he said, "I think we have the talent to win games."
Keith Niebuhr can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4156.