Photo courtesy of Fred Ocasio. The Bulls had a perfect 8-0 regular season.

It was a year of firsts for the Bloomingdale High School football program. The Bulls won their first district championship in the school’s 33-year history, achieving a team-best 12-1 overall record, capped by the program’s first state semifinal appearance in the school’s history. Bloomingdale boasted a perfect 8-0 regular season as well.

The Bulls were led by Head Coach Jake Coulson in his second season. Coulson has an outstanding 21-4 record since he was promoted from defensive coordinator to the head man after the 2018 season. He was named the National Football Foundation Tampa Chapter’s Billy Turner 2020 Coach of the Year. He was also named Dairy Farmer’s Football 7A, District 15 Coach of the Year and Big County Preps’ Coach of the Year.

Within the last 10 years, the Bulls have risen from one of the worst programs in Hillsborough County to arguably the best. In the 2020 season, Bloomingdale had one of the toughest schedules in the county, facing powerhouse programs such as Tampa Bay Tech, Plant City, Lakeland and Armwood, defeating them all.

Bloomingdale effectively became the cream of the crop when they beat Armwood twice, once in the season opener 15-14 and for the second time in the regional semifinal 24-14. Prior to the 2020 season, they had never beaten Armwood before. Coulson attributes this turnaround to hard work, talent, continuity and, most importantly, a culture change.

Bloomingdale had its most talented group of players ever, led by Alabama signee, senior wide receiver Agiye Hall, who transferred from Armwood. Agiye did it all for the Bulls this season—he punted, played defense and was the team’s leading receiver, wracking up 51 receptions for 1,028 yards and 13 touchdowns. One of his biggest highlights was catching a 46-yard Hail Mary as time expired to win the game against Tampa Bay Tech 25-22 early in the season to keep the team’s perfect record intact.

“He’s a playmaker,” said Coulson. “Obviously everybody knows about him, he’s a freaky specimen at 6’3” and 200 pounds, running a 4-4. That’s very rare in the NFL, let alone at the high school level. He was not just a ‘me’ guy, he was a ‘we’ guy, and he really bought into what we asked him to do.”

Another star player for the Bulls was Jefferson transfer senior quarterback Tre Simmons. Simmons not only was the team’s leader as the signal caller, but he had the stats to back up his on-field play as well. The dual-threat QB completed 153 passes for 2,490 yards and an eye-popping 27 touchdowns, while carrying the ball 96 times for 400 yards and seven touchdowns. He is currently deciding between several college offers.

“Tre came to us and has had a great attitude from day one,” said Coulson. “He’s hardworking, hard-nosed and loves to compete. Anybody that knows Tre will say that he’s a crazy competitor and that he set the tone offensively for us as the leader.”

Other players that signed in the early signing period for college football include cornerback/wide receiver Philip Riley (University of Notre Dame), nose guard Jordan Guerad (Florida International University), cornerback Jayden Williams (Florida Atlantic University) and safety Britton Pascoe (North Dakota State). According to Coulson, many more Bulls will sign on National Signing Day on Wednesday, February 3, including Simmons.

Coulson also credits his undersized offensive line as a major part of the team’s success. What they lacked for in size was made up with heart, tenacity and coachability. Derrick Mahoney, Lance Walker, Carson Wynperle, Isaiah Lowery and Javon Hall anchored that unit. Javon, who had never played offensive line before, converted from a defensive lineman to replace the Bulls’ senior starting right tackle, who sat out this season due to COVID-19.

“I’m proud of what we overcame and did with COVID and all the distractions; through all that, we fought through it and had a great season,” said Simmons.

Coulson knows that he, along with the entire Valrico community, will have high expectations for the future of the program, and he wholeheartedly accepts them.

“The standard, in my opinion, at Bloomingdale has changed,” said Coulson. “We were state semifinalists and we need to get back there. I don’t know if that happens next year or the year after, but the thing with winning football games is that you change standards and when you set those, others hold you to them.”

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