BRADENTON -- When Class 3A foes Cardinal Mooney and Lakeland Christian rocked Bradenton Christian to open the season, it would have been easy for the Panthers to get discouraged.
But those two teams from bigger schools are precisely what head coach Allan Gerber had in mind to harden his club for its Class 2A (urban)-District 5 slate. It's a district that features perennial powerhouse St. Petersburg Admiral Farragut.
"One of the experiences I had coaching in college is the reality of scheduling," Gerber said. "I know a long time ago when I first started coaching in high school is that you have to build the program. And building a program is more than just buying jerseys and helmets and those sorts of things. There's a mentality. You create a culture. And the first couple years here, we needed to create a winning culture. And we had moderate success in doing so. These last couple years, as you raise your level of expectations, playoffs in Florida come to mind. In order for us to be a playoff-caliber team, a playoff-caliber program, we need to play better people."
So while Cardinal Mooney whitewashed BCS 44-0 in the Kickoff Classic and Lakeland Christian routed the Panthers in the regular season opener, BCS took positives from those defeats.
Gerber said his team began forcing the opposition to be one-dimensional.
And that's a direct reason in how the Panthers have started red-hot in district competition, compiling a 2-0 record to sit atop the standings with a pivotal road game on Friday at Largo Indian Rocks Christian.
Everyone has stepped up his game in the past two weeks as the Panthers have cultivated an offensive dynamo in Sinclair Laskett and a strong defensive effort from a host of players, including senior strong safety/slot receiver Austin Ferrer.
Laskett was inserted into the backfield in the second half last week against Tampa Cambridge and reeled off more than 160 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
"I like playing running back because I'm small and I can hide behind the linemen and all," said Laskett, a junior who is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. "And I hit the holes pretty great, so I like it."
Laskett's elusive ability is a contrast to John Giardina, who bruised his way to almost 200 rushing yards in a victory over St. Petersburg Northside Christian. It's BCS' version of thunder and lightning.
Laskett said he has used his basketball skills as a point guard for the Panthers in his vision on the football field.
Meanwhile, Ferrer, a captain, has utilized his ball-catching talents on defense this season with three interceptions in the last two games. That included a return for a touchdown.
"We've really focused on a lot of one-on-one coverage and focused on stopping the run," Ferrer said. "We're really confident that we can stop any run, and I think we've done a good job at it."
Bradenton Christian has yet to make the playoffs as a program, and the season will get tougher each week. But the Panthers have come together after a rocky start and are eager to forge their way to an inaugural postseason appearance.