Though the circumstances that brought them together are different, for Avery Welch and Ke’Shaun Peters the 2013 season, and spring practices that preclude it, represent an opportunity for redemption. If they both find it, the Buccaneers football team, and its new leader, could well be on their way toward restoring a once-proud program.
“Me being a new coach, I told the kids we’re wiping the slate clean,” said first-year coach Jason Messamore, who, following successful stints as an assistant at East Lake and Clearwater Central Catholic, takes over for Tom Carter. “I just ask the players to put the team first and do their job. From there, things will fall into place.”
For a team that went 2-18 the past two seasons, including 0-10 in 2012, any positive is welcomed. For Welch and Peters, two of Gulf’s most talented playmakers, the opportunity to put the past behind them is just as refreshing.
“After half the season went by and we hadn’t won a game, we lost a lot of guys, and I had to play the entire game — offense, defense, special teams, kick return,” Welch said. “I never got off the field. Now, I’m really excited and I think a lot of guys are. We’ve got a new coach that’s had a lot of success and lots of guys want to be here. There’s a whole different mindset with us.”
For Peters, talent was never the issue. He started the Buccaneers’ second game of the 2011 season at quarterback and scored his team’s only touchdown in a 26-9 loss. His athletic ability, strong arm and elusiveness were evident right from the start until he was dismissed for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Peters sat out last season, saying he “missed playing football, missed my teammates,” but now is ready to fulfill lofty expectations that followed him as a freshman.
“I’m excited to get back on the field,” Peters said, “and I’m ready to do whatever I’ve got to do to help this team win.”
Welch and Peters will begin the spring competing for the starting quarterback position, but Messamore said whoever didn’t get the starting nod would see plenty of playing time and plenty of touches with Welch at running back and Peters at receiver. Having a pair of talented, multi-faceted players in the same offensive huddle is one of the few luxuries Gulf hasn’t enjoyed the past several seasons.
But it’s one Messamore fully intends to exploit.
“We know we need to give them the ball as much as we can, but we also know we’ve got other talented players who can make plays,” Messamore said. “We’re going to put (Welch and Peters) in the best position to succeed. If we do that, we’re going to have success as a team.”