Gulf has cancelled the final three games of its football season due to a lack of healthy players. Athletic director Bruno Buonsanto tweeted the news on Monday afternoon.
The team, which had only 17 players on its roster, had four critical injuries — one broken leg and three concussions. Some of the remaining 13 available to take the field are younger student-athletes and hadn’t seen any game time yet.
Principal Jeff Morgenstein said Tuesday that it was in the students’ best interest to call off the remaining games of what already had been viewed as a rebuilding year.
Gulf was 0-7 and lost 20-0 last week against previously winless Tarpon Springs. The Buccaneers have been outscored 297-14.
“Safety and well being come first,” Morgenstein said. “It was a difficult decision.”
The Buccaneers were scheduled to play Wesley Chapel on Friday. They also had games at Zephyrhills and Cypress Creek remaining.
One of those games was scheduled to be senior night. Several students took to social media to complain that they were going to lose out on the recognition event.
“That’s not something we’re going to let go of,” Morgenstein said. “We’re working on (scheduling) that actively.”
Zephyrhills planned on having its Homecoming against Gulf next week. With the game cancelled, Pasco County athletic director Matt Wicks said he is trying to find a replacement. This late in the season, that may not be possible. If not, Zephyrhills may have to make the final game of the season against rival Pasco its senior night and Homecoming game.
“We’re still actively looking for a game,” Wicks said. “The Red Seas are going to have to part and the stars are going to have to align for that to work for us. I guess worst-case scenario they could make Pasco their Homecoming game. It’s not ideal to have the 9-Mile War your senior night and your Homecoming game.”
Since 2015, Gulf has won only three football games. The Buccaneers were 1-9 last season. They have also had seven head coaches since 2010. Daniel McLeod is in his first year as head coach.
Morgenstein said he hoped that the younger players who return next year will stay connected with the coaches even in the offseason and help grow the program moving forward.
Wicks also said that the plan is for Gulf to resume varsity football next season. The school did not have a junior varsity program this season. While there are other schools in Pasco County that have small rosters, most are able to field junior varsity teams.
“I wouldn’t say it’s becoming worse, most of our programs do (have junior varsity),” Wicks said. “I would say Gulf and some other schools on the west side have struggled. To be honest, we have expanded and become a bigger county. When you do that you start pulling kids away from schools and into new schools. It’s part of the evolution. It’s all about where kids are going or where they want to go.
“(Gulf) has just struggled. I think the same thing has happened at Tarpon (Springs). It’s the same demographic. Kids in those areas just aren’t into it. The youth programs aren’t thriving either. That’s part of it.”