WESLEY CHAPEL - Wesley Chapel coach John Castelamare wasn't happy last week when his Wildcats strung together a week of dull practices.
With Wiregrass Ranch ready to invade Wildcat Stadium tonight, Wesley Chapel had all the inspiration it needed for a much better week.
'Last week they had a good day then a bad day then a good day,' Castelamare said. 'Everybody has that. You have to figure out how to get it out of them, but they made it easy on me this week as far as practicing. They worked hard.'
Unlike most of the teams in Pasco County, Wesley Chapel did not play a Kickoff Classic, which has been common practice the past few years after the Wildcats had a rash of injuries during a preseason game.
While everyone else except Pasco was preparing for a game last week, the Wildcats were just looking forward to the day off.
'Last week I don't think anyone had motivation,' junior tailback Keenen Reynolds said. 'We were going over plays and the Wiregrass offense and defense to give us a look at how they're going be tonight. Coach has been on our tails, telling us to practice harder because the way we practice is the way we play the game. We want to go hard every practice so we'll be ready for the game tonight.'
And being ready is something the Wildcats are taking very seriously against first-year varsity Wiregrass Ranch.
'This team won a week ago, and they had a taste of victory,' Castelamare said. 'I'm sure they feel like they can come in here and do the same thing they did last week.'
Wiregrass decidedly beat Admiral Farragut 34-6 in the Bulls' Kickoff Classic, and that can't help but trigger Castelamare's memories of Wesley Chapel's early days when the Wildcats won five games in their second year and first in varsity.
'I think they did all right,' said Reynolds, who was in attendance for Wiregrass' game. 'The team they played Admiral Farragut, though, I don't think they were on our level. Wiregrass has some good players, but we have good players, too.'
The Wildcats can smell a rivalry brewing with the Bulls even before they have played each other for the first time.
Castelamare said 15-20 of Wiregrass' players were with Wesley Chapel before the school opened, and now the Wildcats carry about 35 players when they used to have 50-60.
Wesley Chapel's depth isn't what it once was, and a minor injury to lineman Patrick Pate caused some shuffling around and adjustments on the line the past couple of weeks. Pate is expected to be back from his thigh injury next week.
But the players they have are ready to go tonight.
'Our defense I think is pretty solid, but we'll see Friday night,' senior lineman Charles Van Zandt said. 'Our offensive line is picking up our blocks. They're doing a pretty decent job with the short notice of injuries. Quarterback Greg Jenkins is doing good, the freshmen are starting to step up and you can see that they're going to make a big difference.'