Coach: John Castelamare (11th season, 60-44; 23rd season overall, 100-124)
Class: 3A, District 7
Stadium: Wildcat Stadium, 30651 Wells Road, Wesley Chapel
Playoff history: 2001-04
Last appearance: Lost 30-19 to Jesuit
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Building blocks of a good season
A. Linemen: The hallmark of any Wesley Chapel team is big, beefy, strong linemen. That's the case again with the Wildcats in 2009. Some of the preseason was spent trying to get the group to mesh. They are led by center R.J. Nixon, who is as big and dominant as they come. Jacob Battin, Kyle Rutkowski, Dante Barry and Damien Garvey will make up the remainder of the line.
B. Jacob Fisher: The middle linebacker is a nice mix of speed and strength. The two-year starter stands 6-foot-1, 225 pounds and registered 93 tackles, two sacks and two fumble recoveries in '08. He's cut from the mold of past linebackers such as Wildcats assistant Vince Chelecki and has the team's coveted black practice jersey, symbolizing the defense's toughest player.
C. Chris Pierre-Charles: This 6-1, 237-pounder is a versatile weapon on offense and a Division-I prospect. A solid blocking tight end, Pierre-Charles had 279 receiving yards and 16 tackles. He gives the Wildcats some intangibles that make the offense go.
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Three potential pitfalls
1. Passing game: The Wildcats lost starting quarterback C.J. West and receiver Mitch Wozniak to rival Pasco. That opened the door for a competition led by sophomore Keegan Tanner. "He's not a big kid but he's bright and tough," coach John Castelamare said. "It's going to be tough to be put in this role. He's going to have to step up pretty quick." Also being considered are senior Mike Vizza and Jordon Primus. The Wildcats' offense threw for 1,111 yards in '08.
2. Backfield: Despite the loss of Tampa Catholic transfer Hunter Joyer, Castelamare believes the Wildcats will have a solid backfield. From Jon Mahan to Devin Piper to Diamon Bagwell, Castelamare believes the Wildcats can sustain the loss of seven transfers. "They're so young and untested," Castelamare said. "We have only one varsity player from last year. But I think they will be a good group."
3. The first game: "We're going to find out right away if they can be competitive," Castelamare said. "We're playing Clearwater Central Catholic and we're going over there. We'll see how they do with this."
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Extra credit The X-factor
Last hurrah? If this proves to be Castelamare's final season as head coach then perhaps he could use it as a rallying cry. What better inspiration than to win for the head coach?
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Opposing coach's quotes
"(John Castelamare's) teams have always been strong no matter what. I would say Wesley Chapel's always going to be contender." - Zephyrhills co-interim coach Greg Mathis
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C; The Wildcats should benefit from moving into a new district, but they'll still have plenty of competition. If Wesley Chapel can find a reliable quarterback, running back and receiver, the Wildcats could surprise some people.