North Suncoast: What we’ve learned in 2016 -already

We continue our barnstorming tour through the coverage area by checking in on Pasco and Hernando Counties. Many things have been happening up north since the offseason began, and changes are-a-comin’ for some programs to say the least. We now go over what we’ve learned thus far in 2016 with regards to the potential impact of some high-profile transfers in addition to the common theme of coaching consistency.

Mitchell's Larry DallaBetta
Mitchell’s Larry DallaBetta

We’ve learned that the offseason is better off being called transfer season in Pasco County for sure. Fivay’s Cyler Doran is making his way to rivals Hudson for his senior season while Michael Penix Jr has left the oldest program in the county–and left the county altogether–by heading down to Tampa Bay Tech from Pasco. We’ve learned that five players–four confirmed–have left Land O’Lakes and there’s probably going to be a fifth. And perhaps one of the biggest “under-the-radar” moments that occurred is Mitchell receiving a transfer from Tarpon Springs in the form of wide receiver Deandre Hopkins. Put together with the progression of wideout Mason Castricone this offseason and the Mustangs’ Larry DallaBetta might be one of the happiest young men in the entire county.

Speaking of DallaBetta, we’ve learned he joins a list of returning starters at the quarterback position that’s rather small in Pasco. Aside from him, Sunlake’s Justin Hall, River Ridge’ Trevor Hawks, and Zephyrhills’ Charles Harrison III are the only “entrenched” starters returning in the county along with Weeki Wachee’s Alec Cromie in Hernando County. Pretty much everybody else between the two counties will be entertaining battles to see who comes out on top. Although more than a few of “the rest” not mentioned probably have a decent idea who they’re starter will be, “we” don’t know for certain who is getting those jobs just yet, so it’s best not to assume.

We’ve also learned that Hernando County–although with just five programs in the county–has the leg-up on the coaching consistency department. All five programs will see their coaches start at least their third year at the helm. Three of the five will be starting their third stint will be Central Chris Sands, Hernando’s Bill Vonada, and Nature Coast’s Justin Worden. Springstead’s Mike Garofano is beginning his fourth, while Weeki Wachee’s Mark Lee begins his seventh as the “dean” and as the only coach that the Hornets have ever known in their existence as a matter of fact.

That’s not exactly the case in Pasco. We’ve learned that seven of the fourteen programs in the county will have coaches either beginning their very first season on the job or their second. Bishop McLaughlin’s Jeff Symer will start season two and is the Hurricanes’ sixth head coach in twelve years. Fivay’s Matt Durchik is beginning his first “full-time” stint after going 3-1 on an interim basis at the end of the 2015 season. Gulf’s Matt Kitchel becomes the Bucs 24th coach in their history dating back to 1930 and is their sixth head coach in the last ten seasons.

Hudson’s Robert Mahler is trying to keep the momentum going in his second year as his Cobras went 5-5 last season after feeling like their should’ve been closer to a 7-3 record. Wesley Chapel welcomes Anthony Egan who coached OL/DL at River Ridge the past three seasons taking over for Tico Hernandez, while Wiregrass Ranch’s Mark Kantor is trying to avoid 19 season-ending injuries in his second season and possibly make some huge noise if they can stay healthy. Nick Carroll is a first-year head coach at Zephyrhills after Reggie Roberts was relieved of his duties. Carroll spent nine seasons at Sunlake prior to moving east.

Mitchell’s Andy Schmitz will begin his third season for the Mustangs and will look to build on their first district championship in school history while Brian Wachtel of Land O’Lakes and Jay Fulmer of Ridgewood are beginning their fifth seasons at their respective schools. River Ridge’s Ryan Benjamin is beginning his sixth as he begins life without Pasco’s all-time leading rusher Chris Schwarz. Anclote’s only known one coach in their history and that’s Matt Wicks who is beginning his eighth season in Holiday leading the Sharks leaving the two “deans” of Pasco County high school football–Sunlake’s Bill Browning and Pasco’s Tom McHugh–beginning their tenth seasons.