GHS grad Latsko hired as new football coach
Published: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:10 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 21, 2013 at 7:10 p.m.
Mark Latsko, who graduated from Gainesville High in 1999, is coming home as the Hurricanes’ new football coach.
Latsko, who has been the defensive coordinator at Brooksville Hernando since 2009, was hired Thursday to replace James Thomson, who left for DeLand. Latsko will be taking over a Class 6A program that has been very successful the last four years (47-9) and played in its first state championship in 33 years last December.
“I am truly blessed, humbled and excited to come back home,” said Latsko, 31, an older cousin of former UF fullback Billy Latsko. “Coach Ryan Smith and coach Thomson have done a great job in bringing excellence in football back to Gainesville High. I will do everything I can to continue that on the football field and for the players to continue to show good character off the field.”
“This is a great birthday present,” said Latsko, who turns 32 on Saturday.
Latsko, who has also been Hernando’s boys basketball coach since 2008, was an assistant coach under former GHS coach Ed Janes at Trenton from 2004-2007. He also served as defensive coordinator under Hernando coach John Palmer from 2008-2011, and continued in that role under first-year coach and former Gator Dwayne Mobley in 2012.
“I feel like I have paid my dues, learning under former Gainesville High football coach Ed Janes at Trenton and John Palmer, who won a state title at Port St. Joe, during his years at Hernando,” Latsko said. “I can pretty much coach anywhere on the field. I am so excited about this opportunity.”
Besides football and basketball, which he also coached at Trenton, Latsko has coached tennis and baseball. He served as Hernando’s athletic director from 2010-2012.
“Coach Latsko is a graduate of GHS, and he knows the school here,” said Gainesville principal David Shelnutt. “He knows the program, has experience coaching in several different sports, and has also been in other leadership positions, such as athletic director at Hernando. He is very excited and energetic. I am looking forward to him taking over the reins as coach.”
Shelnutt said Latsko came to GHS on Thursday for an informal meeting with the players and several assistant coaches.
“It went well,” Shelnutt said.
For the last two years, GHS has beaten Hernando in the state playoffs, rallying in Brooksville in 2011 with a touchdown in the final minute for a 20-14 win. In that game, the Hurricanes’ game-winning drive went 91 yards in less than 90 seconds.
“Our pass rush, we didn’t get any pass rush on Mark Cato, and all of a sudden it looked like we went back in a prevent defense and I promise you we weren’t,” Latsko said. “That Cato was quite a gunslinger, and Gainesville has such great athletes. We played them in the first round this past season and got embarrassed.”
With the graduation of running back Ralph Webb, quarterback Mark Cato and wide receivers Chris Thompson and Case Harrison, a lot of focus in the spring will on finding some new offensive weapons.
“I am not going to change anything that isn’t broke,” said Latsko, who will be a physical education instructor at GHS. “We (assistant coaches) have to get on the same page. I am more of a defensive coach, but the offense will take on a little different look. We are going to continue to try to establish the running game first and take our shots down the field.
“Mark Cato had a great career. I have heard about a couple of guys that may be our next quarterback. We will have to see what quarterback will give us the best opportunity to win football games.”
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