The Bloomingdale Bulls are coming off their best season in the school’s 33-year history, in which they won their first district championship, achieved a team-best 12-1 overall record and made the program’s first state semifinal appearance. Bloomingdale boasted a perfect 8-0 regular season as well.

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

The new-look Bulls will have to retool in 2021, having to replace a boatload of talent, with a school-record 11 players signing on National Signing Day in February to play at the next level. They also had two players, former five-star receiver Agiye Hall (Alabama) and defensive back Philip Riley (Notre Dame), sign during the early signing period. They will have to replace star quarterback Tre Simmons (Tusculum University) as well. The Bulls started 11 seniors on defense in the state semifinal against Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Bloomingdale has another tough schedule this season, as they will have to face eight 2020 playoff teams, including Gaither, Jesuit, Newsome, Armwood and Manatee. Nevertheless, Coulson has high expectations with the winning precedent the program has set over the past five years. The schedule will be a big test for the team, but it will make them better in the long run, and with the new FHSAA playoff format, the Bulls will carry a lot of clout playing against the cream of the crop when it comes to the playoff point system.

The current roster does have some experience with 25 seniors. The Bulls will have to rely on those seniors and additional juniors for leadership and playmaking abilities, with a mix of younger players looking to add depth to the squad. The Bulls have also added Wes Wyatt, a new assistant HC/OL coach from Durant, who has been a great addition to the staff. Coulson said that Wyatt brings a different mentality to their offensive line and has been working wonders with their guys.

The Bulls will rely on senior running back Brycnn Bennett, senior slot receiver/running back Ollie Manhertz, junior cornerback Christian Bodnar, senior linebackers Carson Elsner and Garrett Folken, senior defensive end La’montrae Banks, senior nose guard Ashton Brockett and senior outside linebacker Jayden Tamulonis, who will play on the offense, defense and special teams. Senior kicker David Owen has a rocket leg on kickoffs and is an accurate placekicker.

The pass-heavy spread offense will be run by senior signal-caller Sean Dungan, who is coming off an ACL injury that he sustained in the first practice of last season. Coulson said that Dungan has great leadership abilities, football IQ and a strong arm. He was considered a dual-threat QB with great mobility before the injury, so they will have to figure out if running will be an asset for him on a week-to-week basis. Coulson will put the ball in Dungan’s hands and said that he will have to get used to game speed, manage the game and not try to do too much.

Coulson thinks the team’s camaraderie, toughness and winning experience from last year will be the major strengths for this year’s squad. They expect to go out and compete in every game and, hopefully, go as far as they did last year, but take another step forward.

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.