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Wiregrass Ranch assistant Tico Hernandez named Wesley Chapel football coach

Posted Dec 17, 2012 by Mike Camunas

Updated Dec 17, 2012 at 04:13 PM

Wesley Chapel didn’t have to look far for its new head coach as the Wildcats hired Wiregrass Ranch assistant Tico Hernandez to the position.

“I live in Wesley Chapel and its a great community,” Hernandez told the Tampa Tribune. “I’m thrilled about this opportunity and that (Wesley Chapel principal) Carin Nettles had the faith to bring me in and see that the success happens on the field and the classroom.”

Hernandez, who worked as the Bulls offensive coordinator and special teams coordinator, makes his high-school head coaching debut, but was previously the coach of John Long Middle’s football program for four seasons. Hernandez is also the athletic director at John Long.

Hernandez, a 34-year-old Leto and USF graduate, becomes the third coach in program history, taking over for Ben Alford, who resigned last month to accept a non-football job in Iowa near his wife’s family. Alford was 13-17 in three seasons, and this past season, was 3-7 and outscored 242-169. The Wildcats return many players, including starting quarterback Ty Tanner, linebacker Nalu Fraticelli and safety Josias Vizcano.

Previously, the Wildcats were coached by longtime Pasco County coach and current Academy at the Lakes coach John Castelamare, who started the program in 1999 with the help of current Pasco coach Tom McHugh and many of the assistants on the Pirates staff.

Hernandez also applied for the Wiregrass Ranch opening that was vacated when Jeremy Shobe resigned following back-to-back winless seasons. However, assistant Mike Lawrence was promoted over Hernandez last week, but Hernandez was deterred.

“Mike has already called and congratulated me today,” Hernandez said. “I know he’s as excited as I am to have a new job and we’re looking to facing one another.”

Indeed, these two hires have intensified the in-town rivalry between the Wildcats and the Bulls. Hernandez and Lawrence will probably split hairs when coming to taking assistants, or keeping them, at their respective programs. The matchup, in which Wesley Chapel is 6-0 since the teams’ first meeting in 2007, will be tougher for Hernandez, who coaches many of Wiregrass’ starters in middle school. That includes Bulls starting quarterback Shane Bucenell, who was Hernandez’s quarterback at John Long.

“I’ve known those kids and their families a long time,” Hernandez said. “It may be tough, but it’ll be a fun game I’m looking forward come next September. ... I’m just excited about this opportunity and that I was given the chance to do something I’ve wanted to do a long time.”

This hire now leaves just one football coaching vacancy in Pasco. Gulf is still without a head coach after Tom Carter resigned following an 0-10 season.

Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.

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