Zephyrhills High names Reginald Roberts football coach
By Kyle LoJacono
ZEPHYRHILLS — Zephyrhills High School football has a new coach with a familiar face.
On Jan. 22, school principal Steve Van Gorden announced former football player Reginald Roberts will take over the program.
“It is awesome because I’m literally from here,” Roberts, 37, said. “It was awesome to just get a chance to interview for the position.”
Roberts played for the Bulldogs from 1986 to 1990 as a linebacker. He was an All-State Football selection in 1988, and was named Zephyrhills Most Valuable player and Sun Coast Player of the Year in 1989. He received a full scholarship to play at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.
“This is my first head coaching position, but I don’t want to go anywhere else because this is home,” Roberts said. “I’m not using this as a stepping stone to get somewhere else. This is the place I want to be.”
Roberts has been an assistant in the past, and was also the basketball coach of New Jacob’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Clermont, where he won two church league championships.
Van Gorden said he did not tell Roberts of his selection until the day of the announcement, but gave him a big hint.
“I told him I needed to talk with him the next day in my office,” Van Gorden said. “I also told him he had to dress nice.”
Roberts’ selection was the result of a long process.
“The thinking was this is truly a community school, so we wanted to involve the community in the selection process,” Van Gorden said. “So we put together a ‘steering committee’ of nine people from all areas of Zephyrhills.”
The nine-member committee consisted of: Alan Reed, Gwen Compton, Greg First, Marcus McCants, Nora Williams, Zephyrhills assistant principal Derrick Tucker, Zephyrhills athletic director Bruce Cimorelli, Van Gorden and former Bulldogs coach Tom Fisher.
“He was my choice,” said First, who has been the voice of the Bulldogs as the football announcer for more than 20 years. “We wanted a coach who loved this area and would instill disciple. Plus Reggie is a true Zephyrhills success story.”
The steering committee narrowed the candidates to five, from which Van Gorden, Cimorelli and Tucker selected Roberts. Van Gorden said Roberts was a unanimous choice.
“He was the perfect man for the job,” Tucker said. “We couldn’t have gone wrong with any of the candidates, but Roberts was just what we were looking for.”
After college, Roberts went into law enforcement where he spent time as a homicide investigator and hostage negotiator with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 2000 and 2008, and was named Detective of the Year in 2007.
“I love law enforcement, but being the coach here is a dream job,” Roberts said. “I do miss law enforcement because it was very challenging and I got to give back to the community. Now I get to do that by coaching these young men.”
On the football field, the former linebacker will look to improve a defense that was the strength of a team that went 2-8 last season.
“We will be a smash-mouth defense,” Roberts said. “Offensively we are going to take what the defense gives us, but we will stretch the field.”
While addressing many of the football players in the gym after being named coach, Roberts said he was going to bring high scoring back to Zephyrhills on Friday nights.
Roberts and his wife, Deborah, have three children: Reginald Jr., 12, Emani, 8, and Ekeidrah, 1.
“I wanted someone who had good morals and was a family man,” Cimorelli said. “He certainly fits that description.”
It was Roberts’ family that indirectly guided him to a career away from law enforcement.
“When I was a detective, my kids would never see me,” Roberts said. “They would see me as much on TV as they would at home. It was a great career, but I spent too much time away from my family.”
Now Roberts has many more kids to rise.
“I’m going to treat all of you boys like you are my sons,” Roberts said to his team at the assembly.
Last season, the Bulldogs had co-coaches after the dismissal of Jerrell Cogmon before he coached one game amid alleged recruiting violations. Former offensive coordinator Greg Mathis coached the offense, while past defensive coordinator Troy Hochstetler ran the defense. Hochstetler was one of the finalists for the coaching position.
“We wish Troy the best and I’ll write a letter of recommendation for him for the opening at Wesley Chapel (High School),” Van Gorden said. “I know some of the coaches who applied here have now applied for that position.”
The Wesley Chapel job was opened after former coach John Castelamare was not offered an extension after his final year of the five-year Deferred Retirement Option Program. Castelamare was the only coach in Wildcat history.
Roberts may want toughness on the football field, but he expects greatness in the classroom as well.
“The first thing I want to do is hire an academic advisor for the team,” he said. “I was raised by a mother who wouldn’t let me forget about grades…I was about a 3.2 student, but I strived to be a 4.0 student. The players will also have to do at least 25 hours of community service because I want the them to be good members of the community.”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.