NEW PORT RICHEY - It would be easy to forget about Gulf this season, because the big-name athletes of last year are all gone. That might not be wise.
Gulf played Ridgewood surprisingly close Friday night in the Rams' 49-34 win and displayed strength on both sides of the ball, giving the Buccaneers some promise in the coming weeks.
'It was kind of a David and Goliath thing here, and our kids just laid it on the line,' Bucs coach Jay Fulmer said.
Gulf held the lead three times during the game, though those times were brief because the Rams would come right back with a touchdown.
Defensively, Gulf did its best to contain Ridgewood running back Byronell Arline, which no team has been able to do completely.
Arline and Gulf running back David Williams were neck-and-neck in yardage until the fourth quarter, when Arline outlasted Gulf's defense and broke out for three touchdowns in the final period.
Two of those touchdowns accounted for 116 of Arline's 340 yards.
After a while, Arline was getting open with only one Gulf defender running after him, and he has yet to find one person who can haul all 230 pounds of him down by himself.
The good news for the Bucs is that they won't have to see Arline again this season, because they're not in the same district as Ridgewood.
And there isn't another running back in Pasco County besides Williams that comes anywhere close to playing at Arline's level.
On offense, Gulf's line was able to give Williams the split seconds he needed to get past the line of scrimmage each time he had the ball.
Williams ended the game with 40 carries for 262 yards and four touchdowns.
'This is probably the best offensive line I've ever coached,' Fulmer said. 'They're blocking and jelling and doing everything they need to be doing.
'And what can you say about David? He's just the catalyst to make everything happen.'
What Gulf's effort did Friday night was give the Bucs hope for their upcoming district schedule.
Gulf is 1-0 in District 3A-8 after beating Wiregrass Ranch 35-7 and has Sunlake, Hudson, Zephyrhills and Pasco all in a row, with a bye week between Sunlake and Hudson before closing the season at East Lake.
Fulmer said during the week that if the Bucs could give Ridgewood a decent game Friday night, they would probably be in good shape for the district because the Rams are so much better than every other team in Pasco.
Even though Gulf didn't get the win against Ridgewood, the Bucs' growth from week to week is a nice consolation to have for when it comes to competing for the playoffs.
'We're going to keep working hard as a team,' Williams said. 'We're not going to let one game stop our progression.'
After the game Williams acknowledged that because Arline out-rushed him, he would have to cut off his dreadlocks per the wager between the two friends and former teammates.
'I guess they're going to have to go,' Williams said.