NEW PORT RICHEY — The Gulf High football team showed plenty of promise last season.
From the play of quarterback Avery Welch to scoring 54 points in a shootout loss to Ridgewood, the Buccaneers proved they have offensive weapons to compete within Class 5A-District 7.
With Gulf coach Jason Messamore having a full year under his belt, the Bucs feel the next step -- competing in the postseason -- is now a reasonable goal. The return of several key skill position players, along with a solid offensive line, has many at Gulf believing the Buccaneers could turn the corner faster than expected.
“Well, it's good we're heading into our second spring practice,” Messamore said. “This spring has been a much smoother transition. It's also good because we have a much bigger senior class, so we have more leadership on the team. We return our top rusher, receiver and quarterback to the team and ... if Keshaun (Peters) gets eligible, he'll be able to step in and play quarterback and free safety for us.”
The loss of tight end/defensive lineman Jimmy Grubb will be felt, but with several receivers returning there won't be a dropoff in Gulf's passing attack. Wideouts RaiQwan Hayes, Deandre Hopkins and Malik Cobb round out arguably the best receiving corps in Pasco County. If Peters can return this fall, the Buccaneers' offense will have several options to move Welch to running back and receiver.
Another bright spot for the Buccaneers is the size and growth of the offensive line, led by senior Chance Belloise. Gulf's spring game against Weeki Wachee will give Messamore and his staff a chance to gauge the Buccaneers heading into the fall. If everything can stay in place, Gulf could be a dangerous darkhorse team.
“We've been in the weightroom the past couple months now and I've been seeing everyone just get stronger and stronger,” Belloise said. “Everyone has been researching videos on how to get better and improve themselves. We've had good turnouts here at practice and we still have more kids coming off other sports and getting into it. We're just coming together as a team right now and that's the best thing.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.