By Matt Wiley
After tough 2012 seasons for both the Wesley Chapel High (WCH) Wildcats and the Wiregrass Ranch High (WRH) Bulls football teams, next season could be a different story, as both schools have hired new head coaches.
Coming off a winless season is not easy to swallow, especially for the second season in a row. Wiregrass Ranch’s new head coach Mike Lawrence hopes to change all that.
“I’m blessed with the opportunity,” he says. “The most difficult part is getting the kids to buy into what you’re doing. Changing the culture is my top priority.”
Lawrence, who is the third coach in the program’s history and served as the team’s offensive coordinator last season, wants to focus on discipline and execution. “We need to make sure that each player knows their assignments and is playing more physically,” he explains. “We have to learn to trust our teammates.”
WRH athletic director Dave Wilson says that Lawrence was the ideal pick for the position, especially since he was already familiar with the school and the players, and also has experience playing the game. Lawrence played running back at Division 1A Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS, from, rushing for more than 2,000 yards in his four seasons.
“He has knowledge of the game and he motivates the kids,” Wilson says. “He’s worked at WRH for the past year, and we thought he could really help turn the program around.”
Lawrence will be taking over for previous head coach Jeremy Shobe, who resigned on November 12 after leading the team since 2009. After two 5-5 seasons, with a playoff berth in 2010, his last two seasons as head coach were both winless.
Wildcats Want To Win
A few miles to the north and east, the WCH Wildcats also are looking for a better record this coming season, and have hired a new head coach to take the reigns and steer the team in a winning direction.
More than 20 people applied, but Tico Hernandez, an offensive coordinator for WRH for the past two seasons, filled former head coach Ben Alford’s position in December.
Alford resigned to take an out-of-state position after leading the Wildcats for three less-than-impressive seasons, with an overall record of 11-19. Hernandez says he hopes to improve on those numbers.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the players and represent Wesley Chapel High in the community,” Hernandez says. “First and foremost, we need to win in the classroom and get our players’ GPAs up.”
Hernandez says that he has a unique way of both relating to young players and holding them accountable with strict discipline, but also making sure that they have fun.
“I want to get the kids involved in the campus and help (the players) understand the importance of selfless service in the community,” he explains. “Those two things will help lead to success on the field. These guys are the future. I want to make a positive impact on their lives.”