The Land O'Lakes offense broke the huddle from its end zone Friday, lining up within a few steps of the goal line. Wesley Chapel's five-man front had its collective ears pinned back at the prospects of a safety.
Moments after the snap, sophomore quarterback Joe Weatherford was hauled down by Khalil Madani and Mark Revelia for the final two points in a 15-0 win.
Madani, the Wildcats' center who with tackle Danny Tolley anchors the offensive line, caught a breather on the sidelines the play before that. One inquisitive look from defensive coordinator Tom McHugh and Madani strapped on his helmet and headed for the defensive huddle.
"(McHugh) kind of gave me that look and I said, "I'm fine,' " Madani said. "That was my first safety, my first sack. I hope I get another."
Those two points reflect the effectiveness of Wesley Chapel's five-man front that rotates eight players in and out of games.
That rotation, along with the linemen's stellar play, has enabled the Wildcats to post two shutouts in three games. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect season for the defense came on Bryan Thomas' 48-yard touchdown run in a 58-7 win over Zephyrhills.
"Our line's pushing people around," said quarterback/safety Anthony Rawson, who could easily be talking about the offensive line but that's another story.
Wesley Chapel had six sacks against Land O'Lakes. The Wildcats had eight apiece in wins over Zephyrhills and River Ridge. For the Wildcats, rushing the passer and clogging the middle is not a one-man job, like when 2002 graduate Jason Boyd set the county record of 35 sacks.
It's all about the team and that team effort is fueled by Jon Cofino, Jeremy Lee, Robert Newborg, Jacob Simmons, Josh Winfrey, Madani, Revelia and Tolley.
Newborg is the county's sack leader with four, followed by Lee and Simmons with three each.
Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare credits McHugh and defensive assistants Brian Colding and Tony Lister for his team's smothering defense that takes on Hudson's high-powered offense tonight at Cobra Stadium in Class 3A, District 9.
"McHugh, Lister and Colding; they drive those guys," Castelamare said. "They teach them right, from A to Z, and they listen. They understand that we can't have a big play happen against us."
So far, Thomas' scoring run has been the only big play.
"And we've got to stop that," Castelamare said.
An effective line notwithstanding, the linebackers and secondary cannot be overlooked. Linebacker Vince Chalecki, second in the county in total tackles with 34 tackles and five assists for a total of 39, crowded the line and was rewarded when he suddenly found the ball at his face mask.
"I just tried to jump up and knock it down," said Chalecki, who reached up to grab the ball before being gang-tackled at the line of scrimmage.
Antonio Melvin, another outside linebacker who was academically ineligible for two seasons, has also contributed. He's fifth in total tackles.
"He's learning fast," Castelamare said. "He's a very tough kid with speed, and he's very aggressive. It gives you depth."
In the secondary, Aaron Dickler, Chad Hatfield, Chalecki and Rawson each have one interception.