Photography by Cheryl Clanton
It’s not easy stepping into the shoes of a head coach for a football program that has plenty of expectations. That’s the challenge first-year Hernando head coach Rob Kazmier faces, as he takes over a Leopards’ squad coming off a season in which they won a district championship and reached the Class 5A playoffs. We asked Kazmier 5 questions about this upcoming season.
AV: You head into your first fall camp as head coach. What are your feelings, expectations heading in?
RK: I am truly blessed to have this opportunity at such a historic and tradition-rich program. The administration, the faculty, the staff, the alumni, the whole school is extremely supportive of this program and proud of the history here. It was always a goal of mine to coach at a true community based high school. Hernando High School certainly is just that. I have very high expectations. First off, I couldn't imagine a better coaching staff than the one we have assembled here. It's a great group of guys with a wealth of experience and we all mesh very well. We just graduated a large senior class, but I don't expect much of a drop off. Hernando is a program in a talent filled community that should simply reload year in and year out. That is the goal. We will continue to instill strong values and work ethic in order to develop and prepare our student-athletes to be successful week in and week out both in the classroom and on the field. This will create the culture needed to become a perennial playoff team with the ability to make a run every season.
AV: Is it playoffs or bust for this Hernando group?
RK: Though we return the key components of our backfield, we will be experiencing youth movements at basically every other position group, especially our offensive line. Our program feels very sophomore heavy at the moment. With that being said, our expectations are still certainly very high and we do plan to be hosting a game on November 9th.
AV: What gains do you feel the players made this off-season?
RK: Our summer focus was to get stronger and faster. We pushed our team very hard, and we had fun doing it, so the gains became obvious. Coming off of a district championship is huge. Morale is through the roof and our kids are extremely proud to be Leopards. Due to this, the roster is swelling and attendance is excellent. Expectations amongst the players is higher than ever. The way that guys like David Hale Bronson and Israel Fields push one another is special.
AV: Who improved the most this off-season?
RK: It's hard to key in on any specific player or group. We strongly promote multi-sport athletes. We have many wrestlers and track athletes that push themselves very hard consistently year-round. We had a solid spring and an excellent summer. Roster numbers are up and attendance has been great. We bonded well this summer and the players are definitely all in. One thing that is encouraging and infectious is to have so many kids that put everything they have into every rep. Those are the ones that separate themselves. We don't return many seniors, but the following group exemplifies this: Israel Fields, David Hale Bronson, Boston and Bronson (Tafelski), Jacob Hackney, and Madison Griffin. Shavaris McNair is going into his junior year and really has been turning heads with his work-ethic and effort in everything he does. These student-athletes embody our core values and it shines through every day.
AV: Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself for Year 1?
RK: Yes. I am putting an immense amount of pressure on myself. This school and community deserves greatness from this football program on an annual basis, so that is exactly the type of product that I will expect to put on the field under the lights every Friday. The players and the coaching staff understand this expectation. Tom Fisher Memorial Stadium will be standing room only for every game.