By Kyle LoJacono
Land O’ Lakes High will dedicate its football arena John Benedetto Stadium at the Gators’ game against cross-town rival Sunlake Oct. 19.
The renaming of the arena, which was formally Gator Stadium, will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Land O’ Lakes’ cafeteria. The reception will offer an opportunity for all interested parties to gather together and share memories of Benedetto’s 32 years as the school’s football coach.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Benedetto said. “Hopefully I get to see a lot of people I haven’t seen in years.”
Drew Weatherford, who played for Benedetto from 2000 to 2003 and is helping organize the event, said he hopes friends, fellow educators, administrators, alumni and former members of the football program will come spend some time together at the event.
“He did so much for thousands of kids,” Weatherford said. “It’s really incredible to get to rename the stadium after him.”
The reception will be followed by a pregame ceremony emceed by Weatherford and Giovanni Benedetto III, Benedetto’s son. The longtime coach will participate in the coin toss to start the game.
Benedetto compiled a 196-149 record from 1977 to 2008. The Gators had 18 winning seasons during that time, including a county-record 12 straight postseason berths from 1996 to 2008.
Benedetto was also a wide receivers coach at Land O’ Lakes in 1975 and 1976, the first two years the high school was open.
The Pasco County School Board unanimously approved the renaming of the stadium on June 19 in recognition of Benedetto’s contributions to Land O’ Lakes.
No funding was provided for the festivities by the board. Anyone interested in donating can make out checks to the Fastbreak Club in care of David Puhalski at the high school. Any unused money will be added to a football scholarship the Benedetto family is creating.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker