Springstead High School hosted the first annual North Suncoast Media Day on August 6 in the ‘Greg O’Connell’ gym.
At Springstead’s ‘Greg O’Connell’ gym on Aug. 6, local high school student-athletes and their coaches gathered for a formal press conference as a prelude to the kickoff of the high school football season. Before entering the gym, all press attendees received media passes, and the stage was set and prepared. Tables and chairs were staged in front of black curtain backdrops, and video cameras were carefully placed for the live feed.
Sports correspondents in Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties covering high school sports were invited to this event to ask coaches and three selected student-athletes representing their high school football program questions before the season kick-off. 21 teams took part in the event.
Springstead Athletic Director immediately jumped at the opportunity to host this event when sports writer Andy Villamarzo proposed the idea.
“When I saw his (Andy Villamarzo’s) poll on Twitter, I was immediately excited and offered to host. The thing just picked up steam from there. We have some tremendous coaches and student-athletes in our area and have for some time. They deserve all the recognition they can get and I wanted to be a part of making sure it happened!” Springstead Athletic Director Dustin Kupcik explained.
Kupcik said that the media day event gave players a taste of the responsibility that comes with playing at a higher level.
“They need to understand that being a team leader comes with great responsibility. Your actions, and in this case your words, hold a lot of weight around campus and around town. This weight only grows as you climb up the ladder to college and the pros. It’s a cool experience for the kids and hopefully creates a bigger buzz about the upcoming season, but more importantly, it’s a life experience,” Kupcik stated.
The following coaches and players attended the event: Representing Springstead High; Coach Mike Garofano, Nick White, Cross Licht, and Jordan Novometsky. Representing Central High; Coach Jim Pusateri, Peyton Chancey, Evan Spears, and Keyshawn Simmons. Representing Hernando High; Coach Earl Garcia III, Sam Stemberger, Jordan Willimas, and Christ Tolbert. Representing Weeki Wachee High; Coach Chris Cook, Nick McMurray, Joseph Chavis, and Riley Henchey. Representing Nature Coast Tech; Coach Cory Johns, Brady Nowlan, Ethan Fahey, and Caleb Murray.
One on One Interviews
Central High School
New to the Bears den, Jim Pusateri has over 30 years of football coaching experience and set some guidelines and a new direction for his team.
“Obviously, it’s a change of culture and to bring more aggression to the team, more discipline to the team, more organization to the team, and I think they’ve already started to buy into that,” Coach Jim Pusateri said. “I truthfully believe that we are going to surprise the heck out of a lot of people. I really do believe that.”
The three players on the Central Bears roster who were representing their teammates at the North Suncoast Media were asked how they felt their team is geared up for the season:
Peyton Chancey remarked, “I feel like with this new coach, he brings in the discipline to this team that we haven’t had in a long time, and to be honest with you, it’s starting to pay off the more we practice.”
Evan Spears stated, “The new coach being here has brought a better atmosphere. I see improvement every day. It should be a great season.”
Keyshawn Simmons added, “I feel like everybody is coming together and ready to win.”
Weeki Wachee High School
It’s season three for Hornets head football coach Chris Cook and what he instills in his players first and foremost is being a good person. He said, “When that happens, all the football just kind of falls into place.”
“I think from day one as a coaching staff we make character, academics, and being a good human being way more important than football. With that message, we’ve begun to have better numbers in the program. I think we are going to have 80 plus kids in the program this year which might be a record number for the school. People are starting to hear and see the message we’re trying to give to these kids,” Coach Cook said.
The three players representing the Hornets, all seniors, were asked- How do you feel about this upcoming season.
Nick McMurray said, “I want to step up for the team, and I want to help everybody and help us get our first winning season; that’s my goal.”
Joseph Chavis responded, “This year is different. This is our last year. You have to work a lot harder, yeah last year was fun, even though the season was shorter, but we are definitely working a lot harder and will make a difference.”
Riley Henchey stated, “Basically, I feel like coming off of last season was disappointing not to be able to play other schools, go to different areas. I definitely think going into this season we are a lot hungrier. We are starting to come together as a team. We all look after each other like a brotherhood.”
Media Day Experience
The event was meant to mirror media events and press conferences on the college or professional level and many commented on the importance of this experience.
Hernando High football Coach Garcia said, “There’s some good things happening in this region. There’s some good football teams and good football players. It’s neat they get a chance to get out there and get their school’s name out.”
Sam Sternberger remarked, “I think it was pretty good to get exposure for players that don’t usually get out on the board.”
Christopher Tolbert said, “It was a good experience, it’s like looking at the TV watching the NFL conference, I felt kinda like a celebrity. I would do it again.”
Jordan Williams said, “It was a good experience.”
Nature Coast Tech football coach Cory John said, “It’s very interesting to listen to all the other players and all the other coaches and what they go through, how they prepare. It’s good for the kids and gives them a chance to talk about the season and see what they learned themselves. It’s good that we, us, in Hernando County finally have something like this.”
Brady Nowlan: “I thought it was a great experience. It was one of those things where you can get with your team and understand how everyone’s thinking and how other teams are thinking so, it gets you prepared for the season and gets you opened up to how the teams run. It was great.”
Ethan Fahey: “This is definitely new to us because we have never done it before and think it’s good because you get to see what you are going to go up against.”
Caleb Murray: “I thought it was really fun. This is my first time ever doing something like this. I was glad I was chosen to do this.”
All those coaches and student-athletes representing their high school football program here in Hernando County have one goal, to have a winning season. They are all redefining, reorganizing, and preparing to be on the field to face their opponent.
The North Suncoast Media Day event was organized by sports writer Andy Villamarzo and Springstead’s Athletic Director Dustin Kupcik and aired live by Gulf Coast Sports Network and sponsored by Glory Days Grill.
Event organizers Andy Villamarzo and Springstead athletic director Dustin Kupcik were happy with how the event turned out despite minimal planning.
“It’s always tough to put on these kinds of things when you have time to plan,” Villamarzo said. “It was even tougher when you have just about one month to put everything together, bring all the schools to one place and get media as well. Big thanks goes out to Dustin, Gulf Coast Sports Network, Glory Days, Erica Vilkus, all the coaches and players that attended and media as well. Without everyone involved, the event doesn’t happen.”
Many areas throughout the state of Florida have their own media day events, as Orlando, Miami, Gainesville, Jacksonville and Daytona Beach recently had media days take place. It was decided that the time was right for the North Suncoast to have their own.
When many asked if this would take place again, Villamarzo stated yes.
“I mean, I don’t see how we couldn’t be running this back,” Villamarzo added. “It was a very well run event. There are several things we need to refine to make everything go more smoothly, especially with how questions are asked and everything. But what was important for this year was we got it off the ground and next year’s event can be that much better. We have something to build on.”