At the breakfast table in the Giles homestead in Zephyrhills this morning, the trash talk started heating up. In reality, it began about two weeks ago, but now passions are at their peak.
The subject is tonight's critical Class 4A, District 9 football game between arch-rivals Pasco and Zephryhills high schools. The game, which pits two of the county's top teams, carries significant meaning in the district race, but it also threatens, at least for today, to send the Giles family into a whirlwind of emotions.
Ricky Giles Jr. is a starting tight end and defensive end for the Zephyrhills Bulldogs. The junior, who stands 6 feet and weighs 180 pounds, began the season as a role player and has come on as one of coach Tom Fisher's leading contributors. He will be important to the Bulldogs' game plan.
Ricky Giles Sr., his father, is an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the Pasco Pirates. He rejoined the Pirates coaching staff after the school hired long-time friend Ricky Thomas at the start of the season. Also the baseball coach at Pasco, Giles Sr. stands 6-3, weighs more than 300 pounds, and is an athletic icon on the Dade City campus.
So tonight's game offers this story line: enemy against enemy, playoff obstacle vs. playoff obstacle and, of course, father vs. son.
"He started talking smack to me since the end of the Ridgewood game," Giles Jr. said. "He's trying to get me all hyped up but I'm not buying it."
"I made it clear to him that Friday night I am not his daddy," Giles Sr. said. "I don't know him. I told him that we're going to run right at him and through him."
The situation is extremely unusual, Fisher admitted, but the Bulldogs have taken steps to help the younger Giles pull through.
"I told his teammates that this is a pretty unusual situation and that they were not to razz Ricky at all," Fisher said. "I told them to each think about going up against their dad and that shut them up pretty quickly."
Said Giles Jr.: "I got something to prove. I want to score at least two touchdowns and get a number of tackles behind the line. I want him to know I'm out there."
"He can talk all the talk but I told him that Friday night we're coming with our guns cocked," Dad replied.
The hostility is not serious, but the desire to outdo each is at a premium.
"I understand that he has a job to do and I know deep inside it's hard on him," Giles Jr. said. "But he knows I have a job to do as well and I plan on doing it."
"Talking is fine, but you have to be able to back it up," Giles Sr. said.
Giles Sr., who has been coaching football at Pasco for a number of years, lives in Zephyrhills so his son attends Zephyrhills High. Dad played for the Bulldogs in the early '70s and had another son, Reggie Roberts, suit up for Zephyrhills in 1989. Dad has not seen Ricky Jr. play at the varsity level because the two are always at different venues. The misfortune has not been a problem for either party.
"I would rather somebody else coach him," Dad said. "I don't like the idea of coaching my own son. I think I would more likely want him to be perfect and that would put a lot of pressure on him. He would have to be perfect, and that's not realistic."
"He can't coach me," junior said. "He'll try too hard to make things perfect."
Both know that tonight their teams have to be perfect. With Tampa Jesuit leading the district at 3-0 with two games left, Zephyrhills, Pasco and Hudson are deadlocked at 2-1 and vying for the runner-up spot. The top two teams advance to the playoffs.
That puts the winner of tonight's game in the driver's seat for a playoff spot. The road is uphill for Hudson, which hosts Jesuit tonight in a game it isn't expected to win, and still has to face Zephyrhills.
"The guys have really adapted to coach Thomas' system and we have had some of the best practice days in a while," Giles Sr. said. "This is going to be a real big game and to me, right now, we're a bit deeper than they are in skilled positions."
That is particularly so at running back. The Bulldogs mainly depend on senior Mike Barber. Occasionally, Gary Steele gets significant yardage on the fullback carry up the middle, but against Pasco it is Barber's load to carry.
By comparison, Pasco features a fleet-footed trio of the county's best. Seniors Cleo Stinyard and Morgan Evans and sophomore Norman Graham will provide the Bulldogs defensive front with constant concerns.
"These guys don't need any extra motivation from me," Fisher said. "When it comes to Pasco, I don't have to say a word."
And as far as individual incentive goes, Giles Jr. has the most. Win or lose he has to deal with dad the next morning.
"He told me that no matter what happens tonight, he's going to have yard work for me tomorrow," Giles Jr. said. "If we win, it'll probably double. But if we lose, I'll have to hear him talking for a while."