Many area schools start spring practice with new coaches

Published: Sunday, May 1, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 at 12:04 a.m.

For high school football coaches in the state, today's date has been circled on the calendar for a while.


New area football coaches

Buchholz: Matt Kerstetter
Columbia: Brian Allen
Eastside: Jeff Parker
Gainesville: James Thomson
Newberry: Chris Baker
P.K. Yonge: Rob Cox
Santa Fe: Tommy Keeler
Trenton: Andrew Thomas

That's because today marks the first day of spring football practice. And while all coaches will be excited about getting back on the football field, eight schools in the area have new head coaches calling the shots.

A few of those — Tommy Keeler at Santa Fe and Chris Baker at Newberry — moved to different schools and were head coaches the year before. Keeler left Newberry to take over in the Class 5A program in Alachua, while Baker left Trenton to return to the Panthers, which in the fall will be playing in the Class 1A Rual Division (District 7).

“It is going to be interesting,” Baker said. “I'm excited. We are going to be OK and have a lot to learn. I've been there before as an assistant (under Keeler), but we are going to change a lot. Offensively, we are going to a Wing-T like we had at Trenton.”

Baker, last year's small school coach of the year at Trenton, had one of the area's top offenses, despite its lack of size.

“I'm anxious to see them on the field,” Baker said. “A lot of them are coming into a new place, and none of them were at Newberry when I was there last. We will see what they can do.”

The first three days of practice will be non-contact. Thursday will be the first day contact will be allowed in practices.

Several new coaches are making their debuts as head coaches in the area. Andrew Thomas, a former assistant at Chiefland and Dixie County, takes over Trenton. Former Columbia High standout Brian Allen returns to Lake City to take over the Tigers. Allen, who played at Florida State and with the Rams, Panthers and Redskins in the NFL, was the defensive coordinator at Lake Howell last season.

James Thomson, who spent one season as coach at Cornerstone Charter Academy in Orlando, is the new head coach at Gainesville High, which had the most successful postseason (4A state semifinal) in the area last season. Rival Buchholz also has a new coach in Matt Kerstetter, who drove cross-country from Taft High School in Woodland Hills, Calif., to take over the Bobcats program.

Jeff Parker, who is an 11th and 12th grade dean at Eastside, is also the new football coach. This is Parker's fifth year as a dean at the school. He coached football previously in North Carolina for two seasons before moving his family to Gainesville.

Rob Cox, who had coached P.K. Yonge's middle school football program, moves up to varsity as the head coach this season. A big concern last season with the Blue Wave was lack of participation, but Cox senses that won't be a problem this season.

“We had good participation in workouts,” Cox said. “I'm feeling good. I'm excited to get out on the field with them. The kids are doing great.

“I don't feel like we will have a participation problem. We will be OK. We will be mostly juniors and seniors with our starters, but our backups will be pretty young.”

Contact Larry Savage at (352) 374-5050 or

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