For the first time since it began play, the Weeki Wachee football team will be searching for a new head coach.
On Sunday, Mark Lee turned in his resignation to principal Troy LaBarbara, ending his seven-year tenure that started when the school opened in 2010. It came only days after the conclusion of a difficult 0-10 season.
“I thought it was best for a change for both sides,” Lee said. “Any time there’s a coaching change there’s a new energy and maybe that’ll help.”
A former quarterback who served as a graduate assistant at West Virginia University, Lee began his Hernando County coaching career as an assistant at Springstead before becoming Nature Coast’s head coach in 2009.
Though the Sharks went 7-4 and reached the postseason, Lee was not retained and immediately sought out by then-Weeki Wachee principal Dennis McGeehan to guide the fledgling Hornets.
After two years exclusively at the junior varsity level, Weeki Wachee entered varsity play in 2012 and posted two straight 3-7 seasons. Following a 1-9 run in 2014, the Hornets bounced back with a 4-6 mark a year ago.
But they couldn’t carry that momentum into this season, despite possessing by far the most prolific passing offense in the county and district. Problems on defense and a small roster continued to plague the program.
“I did not see this year going the way it did and we didn’t do very well,” Lee said. “But I can say this, our kids never quit. They always put forth the effort. We just didn’t have the year anybody wanted to have this season.
“We had opportunities and chances last year to have that breakthrough season and we just didn’t get there. That’s probably the thing that hits me that I’m most disappointed in. But it was fun to start from ground zero.”
There were some definite highlights, Lee noted, including left tackle Marcus Applefield becoming the school’s first Division I signee when he went to Rutgers back in 2013.
“It was good seeing the kids move on and see how they’ve developed and matured,” Lee said. “We’ve got kids with high character and hopefully they were able to develop a lot of that during their time at Weeki Wachee.”
Lee, who was also brought on as athletic director when the school opened, will remain in that capacity. However, his role in the hiring of his replacement will be decided during a meeting with LaBarbara next week.
Regardless, Lee hopes that the new coach will make the players uncomfortable in a good way, forcing them to work harder. He’d also like the see a continued emphasis on academics and discipline.
“It was a good run,” Lee said. “I know I’ll be a football coach again, God willing. I just thought this was the time that a change needed to take place and both sides needed to move on.”
Follow Chris Bernhardt Jr. on Twitter @cpbernhardtjr.