NEW PORT RICHEY — New home bleachers. Brand new weight room. New home and away uniforms. Oh yeah, and a new head coach.
That new leader of the Gulf High Buccaneers football program is Sean Eperjesi, who was formerly leading the Gulf Middle School Bucs. From winning the middle school’s first conference championship since 1976, Eperjesi now turns his attention from one Gulf program to another in hopes of changing the culture of the Buccaneers.
In 2006, Gulf finally snapped the longtime drought of not reaching the state playoffs while under Jay Fulmer. The program reached the postseason again in 2008 and once more in 2014. Outside of those years, the Buccaneers have suffered through a lot of losing during that time. Count up nine losing seasons since 2010 and that’s part of the battle Eperjesi is up against.
“Since I’ve taken over in January, the response has been great,” Eperjesi said. “The numbers are not always what we want them to be but even in our spring game, we had 19 kids dress and we had 27 to 30 kids there.”
It’s building up the player participation numbers that has been the big focal point for Eperjesi and his staff. Gulf just a couple years ago had to end its season due to low numbers in the program and were unable to finish the 2019 campaign. The news stunned many around the Tampa Bay area as the Buccaneers were just a few years removed from reaching the state playoffs.
“Through that transition from spring to summer, we have had 30 to 35 kids and at tryouts we’ve had around 50 players,” Eperjesi said. “I feel that we should be able to field a full varsity and junior varsity. I can’t say I’m not pleased about where we are at.”
The renewed interest of players coming into the program has brought hope that Gulf’s rebuild may be a turnaround happening sooner rather than later. One reason to see optimism is the skill players that Gulf will have on its team, as the Buccaneers have a bell cow at the running back position. Hudson transfer AJ Blanton comes in as one of the county’s top tailbacks after rushing for over 700 yards last fall.
Blanton won’t be alone by himself as a skill position player, as teammates Angel Ortiz, Angel Rodriguez, Keynote Adams are among others that are expected to step up for Gulf this fall. The Buccaneers play within Class 5A District 9 with Anclote, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Gibbs and Clearwater, with the latter being the preseason favorite to win the district. Gulf has games on its schedule that should be winnable and that brings more and more belief that the turnaround could be right around the corner.
Players to watch
RB, Alexander Blanton
ATH, Keynote Adams
ATH, Angel Rodriguez
ATH, Angel Ortiz
OL/DL, Delfri Guzman
Head coach: Sean Eperjesi, 1st season
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.