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Pressed into action early, Wiregrass Ranch’s Rocco Becht delivers

The sophomore quarterback certainly wasn’t expecting to be the starter, but “is growing every day,” his coach says.

WESLEY CHAPEL — This was supposed to be a sit-and-watch year for Rocco Becht. Some occasional mop-up duty in the quarterback spot for Wiregrass Ranch High School was all the sophomore expected, really no worries for someone who grew up getting to understand time on the sideline.

But shortly before the high school football season started, that all went out the window.

Senior Hunter Helton transferred to Armwood. Hey, Rocco, get on in there.

“It was just, ‘Hey, it’s your time now. Let’s go with it,’” recalls Bulls coach Mark Kantor. “He’s done such a fantastic job. He’s a coach’s type of player. Embraces coaching all the time and wants to find ways to always get better.”

Indeed Becht admits needing to improve. Sometimes the game speeds up a little, and Kantor says he’ll “maybe take a chance he shouldn’t take” downfield.

But Becht has turned a potential big blow into a big show.

RELATED: Wiregrass Ranch loses quarterback, receiver to new district foe Armwood

Wiregrass Ranch is 4-0 heading into Friday night’s meeting with River Ridge. Becht has thrown for nine touchdowns, completing 10 passes a game for an average of 155 yards, and the offense scores more than 40 points per contest. He hasn’t been asked to carry the load, but has had no small part in the Bulls’ success.

“We have a veteran offensive line, most of them have been playing for three years. Those guys were going to protect whoever was (back) there. They just said, ‘Rocco, do what you need to do and we’ll keep you upright,’” Kantor said of all-senior offensive linemen Connor Lenczden, Daniel Thompson, Barit Dhungana, Josh Hood and Robert Gibb.

Kantor has impressed to Becht that a 10-for-25 game with more than 300 yards isn’t as desirable as a 10-for-15, four-touchdown quotient. Becht has been closer to that good side, averaging 18 attempts in wins against Zephyrhills, Wesley Chapel, St. Petersburg and Nature Coast.

He is the son of former NFL player Anthony Becht, who suited up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers midway through (2005-07) his 11-year NFL career and kept a home here.

“I do remember some parts, when he was with the Chiefs. I was like 7 or 8,” Rocco said. “It did have an impact for me, even though I don’t remember many details I remember liking the game, watching it.”

Ironically enough, Dad watched Rocco play for the Chiefs, too — Lutz of the Tampa Bay Youth Football League. Between fourth and eighth grade, Rocco suited up for that squad and the South Pasco Predators.

It wasn’t exactly pass-happy football.

“When he played Pop Warner and TBYFFL, the quarterback wasn’t used a lot. They would roll him in for four of five plays. He’d come into the game and everyone knew it was a pass,” Anthony Becht said. “As a dad, I just kind of bit my tongue and let him do his thing. I just preached to him, ‘Team, team, team, keep doing what you’re doing.’ Finally he got his shot in high school.”

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Rocco described it as his “didn’t really like it at the time” stage of football. But since coming to Wiregrass as a freshman, he’s back to the “loving the game” portion. The feelings that originally drew him to the quarterback position, primarily taking that leadership role, were rekindled as a freshman.

Last year as the junior varsity quarterback, Becht threw for seven touchdowns as the Bulls completed an undefeated (8-0) season.

“I saw some great leadership out of him. A knack to stay under control, and make great throws down the field, keeping his eyes down the field. We knew he was going to have some intangibles as well,” Kantor said.

All of that was fine, but it was only supposed to translate into late-game duties this season. Then came the news that Helton was leaving for Armwood, which incidentally is now in the same district and the Bulls will visit there next week.

“Now those qualities have come to the forefront,” Kantor said. “He’s growing every day in practice, asking questions.”

The line, a running game featuring five players already over the 100-yard mark and a big-play defense (39 tackles for loss, seven forced turnovers) have combined to make Becht’s trial a little less by fire.

As the season evolves, undoubtedly so will Rocco’s hold on the X’s and O’s. It helps to have a former NFL player as father and part-time coach.

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Kantor loves the extra help.

“Anthony is a fantastic guy to be around, not just him but the whole family. He’s not one of those dads that’s there, hemming and hawing. He lets you coach his son,” Kantor said. “But when he’s at home, they watch film. It’s like another coach, not on staff but at home. We love having that.”

Because of Anthony’s weekend duties calling college football for ESPN, Friday nights see him on the road. But thanks to wife DeeAnn, and Periscope, he’s actually able to watch live.

“My wife has graciously been doing that, until the county gets a camera up at the school, whatever it is that they’re doing, hopefully that’s soon,” he said.

It’s a sacrifice both are happy to make, considering six weeks ago they figured upon watching him hold a clipboard.

“This is like a bonus year,” Anthony said. “I felt like he was ready. But he’s really taking advantage of the opportunity.”

Football schedule, Week 5

All games Friday night.

Shorecrest at Bishop McLaughlin, 7

Pasco at Dixie Hollins, 7

Bayshore Christian at Merritt Island Christian, 7

IMG White at Berkeley Prep, 7

Admiral Farragut at Carrollwood Day, 7

North Port at Tampa Catholic, 7

Indian Rocks Christian at Out-of-Door, 7

Keswick Christian at Lakeland Santa Fe Catholic, 7

Northside Christian at St. Stephen’s, 7

Steinbrenner at Hillsborough, 7:30

Clearwater Academy at American Collegiate, 7:30

River Ridge at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

Land O’Lakes at Sunlake, 7:30

Wildwood at Hernando, 7:30

Chamberlain at Armwood, 7:30

Bloomingdale at Plant, 7:30

Durant at Newsome, 7:30

Tarpon Springs at East Lake, 7:30

Braden River at Lakewood, 7:30

Palmetto at Largo, 7:30

Nature Coast at Central, 7:30

Crystal River at Springstead, 7:30

Anclote at Fivay, 7:30

Mitchell at Cypress Creek, 7:30

Gulf at Dunedin, 7:30

Alonso at Sickles, 7:30

Blake at King, 7:30

Brandon at Middleton, 7:30

Bradenton Christian at Cambridge Christian, 7:30

Plant City at East Bay, 7:30

Freedom at Wharton, 7:30

Jefferson at Spoto, 7:30

Riverview at Strawberry Crest, 7:30

Seminole at Boca Ciega, 7:30

First Academy at Calvary Christian, 7:30

CCC at Sebring, 7:30

Countryside at Palm Harbor U., 7:30

Gibbs at St. Petersburg, 7:30

Osceola at Northeast, 7:30