HOLIDAY — Anclote quarterback Brandon Vinkler has gone through extremes— good and bad — in his two first seasons as the starter.
Two years ago, he helped the Sharks win their first district title. Last season, Vinkler and his teammates did not win a game.
"Well, there's nowhere to go but up," Vinkler said. "Last year, we had our heads down a little bit and people were dogging us at school. But we all remained confident, and we feel like we can compete this season."
Last season's fall was to be expected. The Sharks graduated 23 players, including all 11 starters on defense. But after taking some lumps with a young roster, Anclote hopes for a quick turnaround with lineup now among the most experienced in Pasco County.
The Sharks lost just one senior starter from last year's team, Jonte Scott. One other starter, Demetrius Barry, transferred to Springstead. The rest are back. Better still, there are 55 players in the program, the most the school has had in the past three years.
"I'm super excited about this team," coach Matt Wicks said. "We were young and I knew it was going to be tough last season. I thought we'd win a few games. That didn't happen. So we've seen both sides of the spectrum. What I'm looking for now is a happy medium where we can get back to at least five wins and compete for a playoff spot."
Sure, the district is big with eight teams. And River Ridge and Zephyrhills are the overwhelming favorites to make the postseason. But Anclote still has playoff ambitions, especially after a strong showing in the spring.
The Sharks played well against Clearwater Central Catholic in an official's scrimmage with Vinkler throwing a few touchdown passes to tight end Matt Elkins. In the spring game, Anclote routed Springstead 63-32. It was the first time the Sharks had beaten the Eagles, and it was the most points scored in school history.
To get an idea of how big the turnaround was consider that the Sharks did not score 63 points until the seventh game last season.
"We really pushed ourselves to get better, and we came together," said Braxton Johnson, who had 178 yards rushing in the spring game against Springstead. "We want to make all those sleeping on us feel sorry."
Johnson has 1,000-yard potential. And Elkins, a 6-foot-5 tight end who already has an offer from Florida A&M, is a big threat in the passing game.
"It was rough last year," Elkins said. "But we won in the spring and that got everyone excited. We had a lot more guys come out for football that we've never seen before. And there are a lot of freshmen who thought about going to different schools because we were 0-10 but decided to stay.
"Now we're aiming for the playoffs and hopefully get to seven wins, which would be a school record."