Travis Ugarte has played all over the defensive side of the field ... as well as on offense.
WESLEY CHAPEL - As a sophomore, he was a cornerback and safety. As a junior, he played every position on the defensive line, dabbling as a 160-pound nose guard.
Travis Ugarte's defensive checklist is now complete. The senior made his debut at middle linebacker, leading Wesley Chapel in last week's victory against River Ridge with a game in which he seemed to be everywhere. Truth is, he has been.
"I know every position," said Ugarte, who also moonlights as a wingback on offense for about 10 plays per game. "Defensive backs have to have some speed. Linebackers have to have some weight, and defensive linemen have to have both. (Linebacker) is my favorite position. There's more action here."
This isn't just a Bert Campaneris in pads. Ugarte is Wesley Chapel's utility infielder, malleable enough to fit any hole. Ask Tom McHugh, and he's a defensive coordinator's dream come true.
"In my way of thinking, he's the most valuable player I have because I can put him anywhere and I don't have to worry about him," McHugh said. "I can put him there, and I don't have to train him. All I have to do is tell Travis one time, and he has so much football sense, he catches on."
Entering this season, Wesley Chapel had major holes to fill at linebacker, where Chris Roberts and Maurice Standifer, two of the county's top three tacklers, had graduated. McHugh was hesitant to put Ugarte in a position he hadn't played before, but then he realized that was the senior's strength.
"I wasn't sure if he could play linebacker, but I watched him running track and saw him running hurdles," McHugh said. "I thought, "As athletic as that kid is, I could put him anywhere I want him to be."
Everything came together for Ugarte last week. First, he caught a touchdown, coming out of the backfield to make a leaping grab of a 4-yard pass. Two possessions later, Ugarte scooped up a fumble and ran 27 yards for a touchdown.
"Everything just fell my way," Ugarte said.
He wasn't done. He had a sack, another tackle for a loss and another huge play on the goal line. River Ridge scored late in the third quarter to cut Wesley Chapel's lead to 14-12. But Ugarte intercepted a shovel pass on the two-point conversion. He finished with 18 tackles, breaking the school's single-game record, and coach John Castelamare nominated him for the Gridiron Player of the Week, which is announced during tonight's Ch. 8 news at 5:30.
Wesley Chapel (2-0) needs the same kind of night tonight as it travels to Zephyrhills (2-0) for a district showdown with the Bulldogs, who beat the Wildcats last year on the way to a district title. Pasco also is 2-0, but for Ugarte, tonight's game is the one the Wildcats need more.
"I think this game will determine the district champion," Ugarte said. "Last year, we just had a lot of mental errors. This year, I'm very confident going into this game."