Control shifts on defense

Published May 17, 2007

WESLEY CHAPEL - The idea behind Wesley Chapel's black practice jersey likely comes from the cornfields of Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers' first-string defense has been known as the Blackshirts since the 1960s.

Wildcats coach John Castelamare played for Nebraska and is a proud Cornhusker, from his red Nebraska hat to the outgoing voice mail message at work that states, "Go, Nebraska."

Instead of an entire defense, one guy at Wesley Chapel's practices wears a black jersey. He's the one flying around making the crushing hits, the big plays.

Outgoing middle linebacker Vince Chalecki - the 2006 Times' Defensive Player of the Year - wore the black jersey a lot.

Last week, the jersey went to his emerging successor, Ray Rouch.

"He's a hard hitter, " Chalecki said of Rouch. "I don't know if a lot of people know that. I think he'll step up and take control of the defense."

Rouch flanked Chalecki last season as an outside linebacker and picked up plenty of pointers from his good friend during their three seasons together.

When Chalecki wasn't hurt, he was usually leading the county in tackles. He finished second with 143 tackles in 2006 behind Ridgewood linebacker Ben Perry, who finished with 164.

Rouch was seventh in the county with 105 tackles.

"We're fortunate to have Ray Rouch with us, " Castelamare said. "He's just going to step right in where Vince left off. Again, we still have some faces to change so we'll see how it goes on defense."

No one has told Rouch he has the job, though he figured coaches were leaning toward him when he began getting more work at the position.

"I'm very excited about playing in the middle, " Rouch said. "You get to see everything more clearly. You get to be the leader of the team."

Defensive coordinator Bud Hodgens, who has been coaching since 1965, cautions that following Chalecki be will no easy task.

"Vince was an exceptional athlete, " Hodgens said. "He was one of the best linebackers I've been around since I've been coaching.

"Asking someone to step in and do what Vince did is going to be a tough job."

If the black jersey says anything, it's that Rouch is one tough player. It also says he has earned the respect of the coaches.

"I've learned a lot and see how he's taken control of the team, " Rouch said. "Hopefully I can fill that place. There's a little bit more pressure, but as time progress I'll get comfortable with it. I just have to get used to it."

Izzy Gould can be reached at igould@tampabay.com or 727 580-5315.

Pasco County spring football videos are on preps.tampabay.com.

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'Round the county in 12 days 

A team-by-team look at Pasco County football:

Wesley Chapel

Coach: John Castelamare

Last year: Won first two games before dropping five of six. Won final two games, handing playoff-bound Zephyrhills its first loss in eight games, then shut out district rival Mitchell 38-0.

District: Class 5A-5 (Gaither, Mitchell, Wharton, Wesley Chapel)

Did you know? Wesley Chapel is 1-9 in district games since joining Class 5A, District 5. Before the 2006 season, the Wildcats dominated Class 3A, routinely claiming district titles.

Breakout player: Ray Rouch. The former outside linebacker has developed into a bona fide leader and should fill in nicely after the departure of Times' Defensive Player of the Year Vince Chalecki. Rouch was seventh in the county with 105 tackles in 2006. He should enter the fall as the starting middle linebacker and wingback.

Who's back: Starting quarterback Greg Jenkins returns to a team hit hard by graduation. Jenkins has blossomed into a playmaker and has the character to lead. Immaturity proved costly last season, though he seems more focused, setting up what should be a solid senior season.

What's new: Defensive coordinator Bud Hodgens takes over for Tom McHugh, who left for the head coaching job at Pasco. Hodgens is no rookie, rather a veteran of the coaching game since 1965. He coached Robinson for 10 years. He knows X's and O's. He'll stick with a base 50 defense to help ease the transition.

Spring revelation: Castelamare wouldn't bite, though the easy answer is there's lots of youth on the roster after losing players such as Mario Melvin, George Ford and Jon Heiser.

"We've got some new players, " Castelamare said. "I'm not going to mention names right now. We think they're pretty good and we think they're going to help us."

Spring scrimmage: Friday, 7