By Kyle LoJacono
Jeremy Shobe resigned as Wiregrass Ranch’s football coach Nov. 12 after four seasons at the helm citing a desire to give the program a new beginning.
The Bulls went 0-10 each of the last two years, including 22 straight losses stretching back to 2010.
“I’ve been at the school for six years, and I felt it was the right time to let them get a new leader to give them a fresh start,” Shobe said. “They’ve got a new district and schedule coming out, and they’ve got a good group of young players. It’s the best time for the program.”
Wiregrass Ranch moved into Class 7A-District 7 two years ago, a league that includes only Hillsborough County squads apart from the Bulls. Their nondistrict and 7A-7 opponents created a schedule with very few easy wins.
“It’s hard to motivate kids when you’re playing against Tampa Bay Tech, Countryside, Gaither, Chamberlain, Steinbrenner,” said Wiregrass Ranch athletic director Dave Wilson. “It’s hard to get them back up for every game. I respect what he’s done, and I think the schedule had more to do with the record than the job he did.”
The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) will redistrict all sports this summer. The Bulls student population has dipped back to levels more in line with other Pasco County programs, which means they will likely be moved into a league with those smaller schools.
Shobe led the Bulls during their most successful stretch in their seven-year history. The squad went 11-10 during his first two seasons, including Wiregrass Ranch’s first winning season, playoff berth and district title in 2010.
Shobe got his coaching start with Waynesfield-Goshen High, his alma mater, in Ohio, leading the junior high program and serving as a varsity assistant for one year.
He moved to Florida and spent a year each as an assistant at Pasco and Zephyrhills before becoming the first coach at John Long Middle, which is down the street from Wiregrass Ranch.
Shobe joined the Bulls staff in 2007 and spent two years as the defensive coordinator before taking over as the program’s leader. Wiregrass Ranch went 2-18 combined in the two years before Shobe became the coach after serving as the program’s interim leader for the 2009 spring season after Ricky Thomas resigned.
“He was building the program before he was named head coach, and then he just changed the culture even more once he did take over,” said James Tringali, who was the Bulls quarterback from 2007 to 2010. “He gave the team a new attitude and after missing the playoffs by one game in 2009 and losing 23 seniors it could have been easy to go back to mediocrity, but he pushed my class even harder and won the first district championship for football in school history.”
Wilson said the effort Shobe put into the program has never been in question.
“Jeremy has done everything for that program,” Wilson said. “He would die for those kids and for the program. He works his butt off. I couldn’t ask more from him as an athletic director, but he cares so much for these kids that he thought there needed to be a change to infuse some energy into the program. I think very unselfish right down to the end.”
Shobe said he is proud of the district championship they won two years ago, but is more proud of helping 11 players sign with colleges. Among those is Tringali, who is the starting quarterback at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis.
“I would like to speak for my class and especially myself that the most important thing he accomplished was build young men,” Tringali said of Shobe. “He truly cared for every kid that was willing to put in the work for him, and he affected many kids in a positive way.”
Shobe said that kind of support means a lot to him.
“Probably the biggest thing that I’m proud of is the way my players embraced me at the meeting when I told them I was resigning,” Shobe said. “They told me they had my back and believe in me.”
Shobe said he didn’t start thinking about resigning until the last few games of this season. He plans to spend the holidays with his wife and two small kids in their Seffner home before making any decision about future plans coaching.
“I’ve had a lot of guys reach out to me within a few hours saying if I need anything or seeing if I want to continue coaching,” Shobe said. “I’m fortunate with the relationships I’ve made with football in the area. I’m not from here. I moved down here eight years ago. Tampa Bay football has been good to me. I’m not done coaching. I’m a football coach. It’s what I’ve been born to do. When the right opportunity presents itself, I’ll be back.”
Shobe will remain at the school as a physical education teacher and the boys weightlifting coach unless an opportunity opens up with another football program. He will also help the current group of seniors land spots in college.
“The school has been good to me, and I don’t see any reason to leave right now,” Shobe said. “I enjoy being there, and I’ve got a good rapport with the teachers and kids.”
Wilson said they plan to advertise the coaching position after they come back from the Thanksgiving break.
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker