Pete Just (left) of Palm Harbor University High and Cory Moore of Lakewood High were awarded the last two Buccaneers High School Coach of the Week honors
Six days apart, the Spartans of Lakewood High and the Hurricanes of Palm Harbor University High faced challenges that would help define their seasons. Fortunately for both varsity squads, they were equal to those challenges, thanks in large part to the steady leadership of Head Coaches Cory Moore and Pete Just, respectively.
For leading his team to a stunning comeback victory over Largo High on October 16, Moore was named the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' High School Coach of the Week for Week Seven. Just took the same award for Week Six after guiding the PHU Cougars to their first ever win against Countryside High.
On October 16, Moore's Spartans faced a true test against county power Largo, which carried a 15-game regular season win streak into the Thursday night contest. Down 24-6 with only seven minutes remaining, the Spartans mounted a remarkable comeback. QB Jacquez Jenkins led the surge, throwing a touchdown to WR Bernard Reedy and then scampering 15 yards to the corner of the end zone on the ensuing possession. After a defensive stop, Jenkins engineered another impressive drive, connecting with Reedy three times before finding teammate Marcus Jackson in the end zone for a 7-yard score. The Spartans sealed the deal with a 24-yard interception for a touchdown by Jackson, advancing Lakewood to 5-1 on the year.
The previous week, on October 10, Palm Harbor University High needed overtime to reverse the tide in its rivalry with Countryside. Thanks to a four touchdown effort by Hurricanes' QB Sean Shelton, over 100 yards rushing by RB JaTyuan Landing, and gritty play down the stretch by the offensive and defensive lines, PHU earned its third victory of the season, defeating the visiting Cougars 28-21. The Hurricanes, having lost their first two contests by a combined 73-13 margin, are now 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the district — just one win away from tying the best win total in school history.
Both coaches were invited to One Buccaneer Place as a result of their Coach of the Week selections. Along with their guests, they were given a tour of the Bucs' state-of-the-art headquarters, allowed to watch the team's morning walk-through practice and greeted afterward by Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Gruden.
Moore was accompanied on his visit Lakewood Athletic Director Javan Turner. Gruden congratulated Moore and Turner on their school's big win over Largo and talked coaching strategies and the different approaches to maximizing a player's potential on game day.
"The biggest thing to see is that [Gruden] has a passion for the game," noted Moore at the conclusion of the visit. "You could just feel the fire he has about play-calling and management. It's awesome.
"I'm very thankful to be here as the Coach of the Week so now when I go back to my team, I can share the experience that I've seen personally and also let them know that we're making strides as a program and that what we're doing is working."
Just brought along Defensive Coordinator Mark Haye, Defensive Backs/Wide Receivers Coach John Digregorio and Just's brother, Nick, for his visit to the Bucs' facility. When that group met with Gruden, the Bucs coach emphasized the importance of staying focused in football and expressed his appreciation for high school coaches, something that Coach Just took to heart.
"We really appreciate what the Buccaneers did and appreciate Coach Gruden being so hospitable to us," said Just. "It's a great thing for high school coaches to know that their work is appreciated."
Each winning coach received a signed certificate and a personalized football presented by Gruden, as well as a donation of $1,000 towards their school's football program. The donations should make an impact at both schools.
"This is the opportunity for my guys to eat a little better, maybe get some things that they may need throughout the duration of the season," said Moore. "That money can be used in a lot of areas for our football program. My guys will be very appreciative of the donation."
Added Just: "Our kids just have been working extremely hard and it all starts with them," said Just. "The reason I'm here is because they work so hard and they play well and they listen to what we do, so we are appreciative of our team as well."
The Buccaneers will honor ten high school coaches from West Central and 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 ten 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.