We know, we know. High school football season is over throughout the Sunshine State, but now we are coming up on our all-state awards and we wanted to pose the question to the public: Who is the Football Coach of the Year in Florida?
Winning a state championship plays a part in the nominations, but also programs being turned around after a dismal 2021 campaign also we took into account as well. Plenty of head coaches around the state are more than deserving after putting in countless hours around the clock preparing their teams.
From Panhandle to South Florida, we wanted to throw out 10 names from around the state that meant a lot in guiding their respective teams through the season and also made an immediate impact on the program. Please give our list a vote and let us know if you feel someone was left out.
Jube Joseph, Miami Central: By listening to some of the epic pre-game speeches and quotables after every win, you wouldn’t think Joseph was a first-year head coach of the Miami Central Rockets. You would’ve thought he’s been there for quite awhile. Weather is was proclaiming his team would play anyone at anytime (Yes, even aisle 3 at Walgreens) to being the best team in the United States of America, Joseph oozed of confidence and swagger. He guided the Rockets to the Class 2M state championship and definitely had an argument when it came down to being the best in the country.
Billy Sparacio, Naples First Baptist: Every time in the past that Naples First Baptist would make a run in the postseason, they’d come up against a juggernaut like Champagnat Catholic just before reaching the state championship. In 2022, however, that would not be the case for Billy Sparacio’s program that he built from the ground up. In a truly dominant playoff run through Class 1S, Sparacio led the Lions to a 21-3 state championship win over Ocala Trinity Catholic, notching the school’s first ever title in football.
TaVaris Johnson, Lake Wales: Imagine coming back to your alma mater and being able to win a state championship. Especially that the last time your old school went to the state title game is when you actually played your high school ball there. That was the very case in point for Johnson, who led Lake Wales to the Class 3S state championship over Mainland 32-30. Johnson was on the Highlanders’ 1994 state runner-up team and returned to lead Lake Wales to an undefeated 15-0 season and a state championship.
Bill Castle, Lakeland: Since 1976, Bill Castle has been the head coach of the Lakeland Dreadnaughts. For those of you not counting, that’s 46 years at the helm for Castle. Was 2022 his final run as the lead Dreadnaught? We don’t know, but what we do know is he led Lakeland to its eighth state championship in program history and a perfect 14-0 season. The tears of joy after the Class 4S state championship win over Venice proved that it meant a lot to Castle, whether it’s his last go around or not.
Cornelius Ingram, Hawthorne: Just miles away from where he played his college ball at, Ingram was giving back to his high school alma mater at Hawthorne High School. The former Florida Gator was a rising star heading into the NFL, but injuries derailed a once promising career. Now, Ingram is one of the most promising head coaches in the Sunshine State. Ingram guided the Hornets to the Class 1R state championship over Northview in a dominant defensive effort.
Ryan Schneider, Cocoa: Many might’ve looked at Cocoa’s early losses as a reason that the Tigers might not be able to make a deep postseason run. Well, think again. Despite losing to Jones and St. Thomas Aquinas to start the season, that didn’t stop Schnieder from leading his program to the promise land. The former UCF quarterback navigated the Tigers to the Class 2S state championship over Florida State High 38-31 in an overtime thriller.
Roger Harriott, St. Thomas Aquinas: It will be the ‘Drive for 5’ motto in 2023 for the Raiders of St. Thomas Aquinas and Harriott has made sure the program doesn’t take a dip in any way, shape or form. The Raiders won the program’s 15th state championship and they did it in dominant fashion all season long. St. Thomas Aquinas defeated Homestead 38-21 in the Class 3M final, capping a stellar 2022 season.
Dave Dunn, Columbus: Quite the job Dave Dunn did with the Columbus Explorers in the 2022 season. From start to finish, the Explorers were impressive each and every game. Columbus defeated Benedictine (GA) 41-15 to begin the season and they ended it with a thrilling 16-13 overtime victory over Apopka in the Class 4M state championship game.
Jeff Rolson, Apopka: The challenges that faced the Blue Darters en route to making another state championship game there all along the way. Rolson’s team wanted to make a return trip after clinching the Class 8A state championship last year. Apopka made it back, but despite losing to Columbus, Rolson should be commended for the job he did with getting the Blue Darters back to states.
Travis Roland, Mainland: Roland won a state championship with the Buccaneers as a player and was in hopes of leading them as a player. He almost pulled it off in the Class 3S state championship game. The Buccaneers’ lead man guided the team to playoff victories over Rockledge and Dunbar before taking Lake Wales to the brink before falling 32-30. It was a job very well done nonetheless whether the Buccaneers won a title or not.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @Andy_Villamarzo.