By Kyle LoJacono
WESLEY CHAPEL — The search to fill the Wesley Chapel High School football coaching position is starting to take shape.
The second round of interviews has been completed and a new coach should be in place by the end of the week.
“Hopefully we can have a coach in place before the middle of February,” said Matt McDermott, Wesley Chapel assistant principal. “We are down to just a few candidates now and all are very qualified applicants.”
McDermott is one of a three-person selection committee, which includes Wildcats principal Karen Nettles and athletic director Steve Mumaw. McDermott is in his first year with the school, and was previously the Sunlake High School athletic director.
“We are looking for someone to continue the tradition here and provide a program the community can be proud of,” McDermott continued. “It seems like athletic programs go as the football team goes, so we want to make sure we have the right person…We also want someone that will put academics first and will turn out good young men.”
The opening at Wesley Chapel was a result of former coach John Castelamare not receiving an extension after last season, which was his last of the five-year Deferred Retirement Option Program.
“That is something we can’t control because only the county can offer a coach an extension,” Mumaw said. “We can’t even give our opinion to the county. Losing coach Cas was very hard for me because I was a (junior varsity) coach during his first year at the school. It was very difficult for me to tell him he was not offered an extension.”
Castelamare started the Wildcats football program in 1999. During his 11 seasons at Wesley Chapel, he had two undefeated regular seasons and three district championships. He also coached at Ridgewood High School for 12 years.
“You want to keep on going, but they won’t let you,” Castelamare said following his final season. “I knew it was going to be the fifth year, but I was hoping the economy would get better. I’m not bitter. I just wish they would let us continue.”
Mumaw said Castelamare was part of the initial coaching search. While he did not interview any candidates, the former coach helped the selection committee come up with interview questions.
“We also just picked his brain about coaching,” Mumaw said.
Castelamare has expressed interest in continuing to coach at a private high school.
McDermott said the job is for the coaching position only because there are no openings for a teacher. Wesley Chapel recently released a list of the final five candidates, which include Ben Alford, Michael Einspahr, Matthew Thompson, Brian Colding and Troy Hochstetler.
Two of the finalists, Colding and Hochstetler, were also among the final 15 candidates for the Zephyrhills High School coaching position, which went to Reginald Roberts.
Colding is the Wildcats track and field coach, physical education teacher and was an assistant on the football team last year. Hochstetler was Zephyrhills co-coach in 2009 with Greg Mathis after the dismissal of Jerrell Cogmon amid alleged recruiting violations.
“I’m going to send a letter of recommendation for Troy for the coaching position at Wesley Chapel because he is a class act,” said Zephyrhills principal Steve Van Gorden. “It was a tough situation after releasing Jerrell Cogmon, but Troy helped keep the team together.
“If he gets the position I’ll have to support the Bulldogs when they play the Wildcats, but I want to see Troy succeed,” Van Gorden continued about Hochstetler.
Whoever gets the job has no easy task in replacing Castelamare.
“Whoever it is will have some big shoes to fill with those perfect 10-0 seasons from coach Cas,” McDermott said. “So we are looking for someone who can handle that pressure.”
While it may have been difficult to lose the only football coach in school history, the opening is a chance to start something new.
“We knew we would eventually have to replace coach Cas,” Mumaw said. “It might have been a little sooner than we would have liked, but now we can build toward the future of Wesley Chapel football.”
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