BROOKSVILLE- Hernando High School will once again be in the search for a new head football coach and this would be the program’s third head coaching search in four years.
Earl Garcia III told the Hernando Sun that he will be stepping down to accept an opportunity closer to his home in Tampa on Monday afternoon. Garcia III will be joining Plant High School as an associate head coach and will assist on defense. The Panthers are coming off a 6-4 season under head coach Hank Brown.
“We did about as good as we could with what we have. I think I left it better than what we found it,” Garcia III said. “I do want to thank most of the administration. They had my back and let me do my thing. I had an opportunity to do something that was closer. One thing I had a sneaky suspicion of is, kids are kids. The kids were great and worked their butts off.”
The Leopards went 13-7 in Garcia III’s two seasons as a head coach. Both years Hernando reached the playoffs (2020 every team qualified for postseason play due to coronavirus). Hernando went 6-5 this past 2021 season in Class 4A, eventually losing to Bushnell South Sumter in the regional quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Garcia III replaced Rob Kazmier, who stepped down after the 2019 season, going 5-5.
It looked like a good pairing between Garcia III and Hernando for the long term, as the Leopards were able to upend County bookend Nature Coast 27-20 in the regular season, renewing what has been a fierce rivalry between the two schools. Yet, the wear and tear of commuting back and forth between Hillsborough County to Hernando County for Garcia III became the main factor.
“Football-wise, it’s a little bit less diverse. Up in Hernando County, it’s a bit of a throwback,” Garcia III added. “The learning experience, I can’t say enough of how good my staff was. Without a staff, your opportunity to be successful is very low. I had to basically replace 85-90 percent of my staff from Year 1 to Year 2. Being able to rely on staff is the key.”
Now the Leopards will open up their head coaching vacancy in the midst of an off-season that already sees some neighboring programs also searching for head coaches. Dade City Pasco just appointed Alphonso Freeney as their next head coach, a former Trinity Mitchell assistant. Other schools still looking for a head coach nearby are Holiday Anclote, Spring Hill’s Bishop McLaughlin, and New Port Richey River Ridge.
Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.