After enduring a pair of challenging football campaigns in 2009 and 2010, Gibbs High School hired new coach Antonio Knox to turn the program around.
And how is that going? If you asked the folks at Spoto High School, Gibbs' 5A Division 8 rival, they would likely say the new-look Gladiators will be just fine.
When the two teams faced off on September 16, Spoto came out firing with an 84-yard scoring pass on the first offensive play of the game. But Gibbs responded quickly with a 45-yard completion of its own from quarterback Devante White to wide receiver Gary Simon. Before the end of the first quarter, Gibbs' defensive end Maurice Hall put a hard-earned seven points on the board after picking off a Spoto pass and returning it 55 yards for a score. After capitalizing on a fourth-and-goal pressure situation in the second quarter and holding Spoto scoreless in the third, the Gibbs Gladiators came away with a 19-13 win.
The victory also earned Knox the title of Buccaneers' High School Coach of the Week for Week Three of the 2011 season.
Less than a week after the win, Knox and other school representatives were invited to One Buccaneer Place. On Thursday, Coach Knox, along with Principal Kevin Gordon, Athletic Director Javon Turner, St. Petersburg Chief of Police Luke Williams and Knox's wife Kimberly, visited the Buccaneers training facility and met Head Coach Raheem Morris.
"This is great to come to the Bucs facility and get an opportunity to meet [Morris]," Knox said. "He has a great team, and I'm just honored to be here."
Along with a signed certificate, Buccaneers hat and personalized football presented by Coach Morris, Knox received a $1,000 donation to go towards Gibbs' football program. Though Knox was the recipient of the Coach of the Week honors, he credited the award to a group of hard-working young men and supportive assistants.
"It's not just me," Knox said. "It's my team and the coaching staff. They were really excited about the opportunity for me to come down here to One Buc Place. I just make sure that I'm doing things the right way and doing it in a positive way and having success with it. It's not about the wins and the losses, it's making sure we're doing it in the right way."
The Gladiators have been on the road for the last three games, and will return home on October 6 to host Lakewood High School. The bleachers at Gibbs High School are expected to be full of cheering fans awaiting their team's return home.
"We've been on the road for all of our games so far, and you can see the following has really built around the team even as we've been on the road," Gordon said. "What's exciting about this is as we finish out our road schedule in a week, we come home for our very first game. The momentum is just huge right now."
The Buccaneers will honor 10 high school coaches from Central Florida during this year's prep football season. A Coach of the Year, who receives an additional $1,000 for his football program, will be selected from the 10 weekly winners at the end of the season. The Buccaneers and National Football League's Coach of the Week program aids in the development of youth football, which has a positive influence on young athletes and the communities in which they live.