Spring football features several new coaches in the area

Football on FieldBy Olivia Granaiola
Twitter – @oliviagranaiola

High school football teams in North Central Florida saw quite the coaching shakeup during the off-season. The Prep Zone was able to get in touch with four of the teams that brought in new coaches. Here’s what to expect from them this upcoming season.

Trenton Tigers – Ben Jacqmein

A new coach is the second major change for the Tigers in two years. Last year, the FHSAA punished Trenton for a rules violation by moving them up from 1A to Class 4A, meaning they would take the field against larger (and oftentimes, more experienced) teams than they had in the past.

Still, the team was able to go 8-4 overall, as well as 5-1 in the district. Trenton did have a playoff appearance, but exited after the first round, following a 49-7 loss against Dunnellon.

This year, the Tigers brought in Ben Jacqmein as their head coach. Here are Coach Jacqmein’s top three quotes heading into the season.Ben Jacqmein Trenton football coach

On his new position…
• “The transition to head coach has been relatively smooth. I have a great staff that is eager to get after it and works hard.”

On playmakers…
• “Our young boys are going to have to step up to play the skill positions. Junior Wyatt Langford is one of the best running backs and linebackers in the area. He will be the bell cow on offense, with quarterbacks Sophmore Jacob Guthrie, Senior Blake Hall, and Sophmore Caleb Morgan. We are led up front by 6 foot 5 312 pound senior Levi Hooper, and 6 foot 1, 280-pound Center/DT Jacob Morgan. Senior Cole Hafner is expected to make a huge impact on both sides of the ball, as well as Sophomore Jordan Fulmer.”

On Spring…
• “Spring is going very well. We have been trying to get these young guns ready to take on the work of leading a football team. We have been adding some new things on offense and defense, and are focusing on doing everything full speed. The effort and intensity has been incredible. We look forward to next Monday where we get to hit and distinguish who the real football players are.”

Gainesville Hurricanes – Patrick Miller

At the end of last season, Gainesville High School was a top-100 team in the state. The ‘Canes went 8-3 last year, with a 4-1 district record. But, a 34-14 loss against Vanguard in the first round of the playoffs forced an early leave. Then, their coach decided to pursue other opportunities.

Following five years and four playoff berths under Mark Latsko, Gainesville High School looked to the Swamp to replace Latsko, who stepped down in March. The school hired former University of Florida linebacker, Pat Miller, to lead the team.  Miller served as GHS’ defensive coordinator the past two years so the transition was a smooth one for the ‘Canes.

Photo credit:  Gainesville Sun

Photo credit:
Gainesville Sun

Here are Coach Millers’ top three quotes heading into the season.

On his new position…
• “It’s been good. Being around some good coaches has help with my preparation, players are adjusting to new expectation very well.”

On playmakers…
• “We have eight returning players on offense to include starting QB Luke Matthews and WR Jaylen Kelsey. On defense, DT Gental Hunt returns from a 14 TFL season, along with the team’s leading tackler in D’Verik Daniel.”

On Spring…
• “We will concentrate on being more productive in our running game.  We have 76 kids out for the spring.”

P.K. Yonge Blue Wave – Marcus McDonald

In a similar scenario to GHS, former P.K. Yonge coach Kent Johnson retired after five years with the program. However, five years did not mean the same thing for the Blue Wave as it did for the Hurricanes. Johnson left with an overall record of 15-31. In 2017, the team went 2-7.

The Blue Wave bring in Marcus McDonald, a former defensive coordinator at Newberry.  Here are McDonald’s top three quotes heading into the season.

Marcus McDonald PKY football coach

On his new position…
• “Even better than I expected. I’ve got eight great coaches in all. Guys who I know are great at their jobs. I’ve been fortunate to have these people around me that can help me be the best I can be. They make my job easier.”

On playmakers…
• “We’ve got some great kids, who can play ball. Nick Maccioli, Jacari and Jacobi Byrd, Israel Wilcox, Carter Kutchko, Adrian Bloodworth, AJ Small, Javari Seabrooks, and Isaiah Malone just to name a few.”

On Spring…
• “Right now, we are rebuilding everything, starting with fundamentals and how we practice. This first week, we have improved each day. I’m amazed at how much information these kids are digesting so quickly.”

Trinity Catholic Celtics – Andrew Thomas

Trinity Catholic finished 2017 with a 6-3 record, which was the only winning record under former head coach Joe Sturdivant’s three-year tenure.  They also missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

Following Sturdivant’s departure from the program, the Celtics brought in a familiar face. Andrew Thomas, who went 60-5 in five years with the Trenton Tigers, is back in the area after leaving Trenton in 2015. Thomas brought two Class 1A state titles to his old school, but it will be interesting to see what he can do at his new school. Expectations are high.

Andrew Thomas TC football coachHere are Thomas’ top three quotes heading into the season.

On his new position…
• “Our strength as a team has grown a great deal. I’m just being patient right now and trying to est what we want this program to be again which is a championship level program. “

On playmakers…
• “Very young squad.  We only return four starters – Corey King, King Redd, Sam Kwatkowski, & AJ Ocon. And that’s on both sides of the ball.”

On Spring…
• “The work ethic and buy in so far of how we are going to do things going forward has been tremendous! But, my goals are to establish our basics on both sides of the ball and to develop physicality. My springs are built around toughness.”

And there you have it. Four new coaches at four seasoned programs in the area. The teams will start padding up today, as today marks the first allowable day of contact for Spring football.