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Hernando High

Vonada hired at Hernando

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Published:   |   Updated: December 6, 2013 at 06:12 PM

The first of three county football head coaching vacancy has been filled - and it's a blockbuster.

Hernando High athletic director Kevin Bittinger announced Friday afternoon the hiring of former Springstead coach Bill Vonada as the Leopards' newest headman.

"He's done tremendous things over at Springstead," Bittinger said. "He's a high-character guy. The years of experience he's had here, we were looking to get a guy like Bill Vonada."

Bittinger said there were three total candidates for the opening posted internally within the school district. With Vonada in the mix outside applicants weren't considered.

"There was no need to continue the search, because we found exactly what we needed," Bittinger said.

Vonada returns to the sidelines after a brief one-year absence. He stepped down from the Eagles' post after 15 seasons almost exactly a year ago.

He went out on top, guiding Springstead to a 9-2 mark and its first district championship since 1996.

Vonada stands as the Eagles' all-time leader in coaching victories, leaving with an overall mark of 80-74 with only two losing seasons over his last 12, four playoff appearances and two postseason victories.

Feeling he needed a break from the year-round coaching grind, and wanting to spend more time with his family, Vonada resigned shortly after the 2012 campaign.

Since then he has published a book, "A Season of Hope," detailing Springstead's 2010 season which coincided with his father's death after a battle with leukemia.

Meanwhile he watched on the Eagles repeated as district champions and made a historic run to the regional finals, and yes the coaching bug returned - as he anticipated.

"I knew without a doubt, from the moment I stepped down, there were things I knew I was going to miss," Vonada said on Friday. "But every day there were things that made me confident that yes, this was the right decision. I needed time to rest. But I knew eventually I wanted to get back into it."

A handful of offers came in, and he said he was contacted by people at Hernando. The position opened up when Dwayne Mobley stepped down last month.

Mobley, a Hernando grad, had replaced John Palmer two years earlier, going 9-12 with a 3-7 record this season.

The Leopards failed to make the playoffs this year for the first time since 2009.

"I felt like it was the best thing for everybody involved in the end for me to end up at Hernando; it was the best thing for the school, the best thing for my family," Vonada said. "A lot went into the decision and once I made the decision I was at peace with it, so I knew it was the right one."

It's admittedly tough leaving Springstead for Vonada. He graduated from the school in 1982 and returned there as a teacher and JV football coach in 1994.

After two seasons as offensive coordinator, he became head coach in 1998 and had become a fixture at his alma mater, though he'll likely depart for a to-be-determined teaching position at Hernando in January.

He called his conversation with Springstead Principal Susan Duval on Friday morning "very difficult."

"I've spent almost a quarter of a century walking those hallways," Vonada said. "When you're involved with something like that for that long, you build some pretty amazing relationships. Certainly some tears were shed. I'm still going to have those relationships, but I'm going to build new ones, too.

"I believe things happen for a reason. It's tough walking away but I know I'm walking into a place that's already welcomed me with open arms, and I know I'm leaving the place I'm leaving in good hands."

His longtime defensive coordinator, Mike Garofano, replaced him as the Eagles' headman and had a sensational rookie year at the helm.

Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee is another former Vonada assistant now running his own program.

"It's one of those things I knew was inevitable," Lee said of Vonada's return to coaching. "It was just a matter of where. He's a great coach and he loves it. It's really not a job, it's something he enjoys doing.

"I'm glad he's back in it, I just wish he wasn't in our district. He coaches well-disciplined teams and Hernando has some athletes. If they buy into his system, they'll definitely be a team to be reckoned with."

Hernando's administration isn't putting any heightened expectations on Vonada out of the gate.

"We still need to be realistic in what we're still trying to do," Bittinger said. "We know we're looking to rebuild a little bit and this is not a win-now situation. We're looking to build a program."

That's something Vonada has already done once in this county. Now he'll try to do it again.

"We want to build something that's going to last," Vonada said. "You don't build to win now. If you win now that's great and that's a bonus.

"But we'll work on doing it to last and do it with a sense of urgency to get to those goals quicker. But we're not going to take any shortcuts.

"I know they've got a great tradition and great support in the community. It's just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. I think that's what everybody wants."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

Football

Vonada hired at Hernando

Former Springstead coach joins Leopards

BY CHRIS BERNHARDT JR.

Hernando Today

The first of three county football head coaching vacancy has been filled - and it's a blockbuster.

Hernando High athletic director Kevin Bittinger announced Friday afternoon the hiring of former Springstead coach Bill Vonada as the Leopards' newest headman.

"He's done tremendous things over at Springstead," Bittinger said. "He's a high-character guy. The years of experience he's had here, we were looking to get a guy like Bill Vonada."

Bittinger said there were three total candidates for the opening posted internally within the school district. With Vonada in the mix outside applicants weren't considered.

"There was no need to continue the search, because we found exactly what we needed," Bittinger said.

Vonada returns to the sidelines after a brief one-year absence. He stepped down from the Eagles' post after 15 seasons almost exactly a year ago.

He went out on top, guiding Springstead to a 9-2 mark and its first district championship since 1996.

Vonada stands as the Eagles' all-time leader in coaching victories, leaving with an overall mark of 80-74 with only two losing seasons over his last 12, four playoff appearances and two postseason victories.

Feeling he needed a break from the year-round coaching grind, and wanting to spend more time with his family, Vonada resigned shortly after the 2012 campaign.

Since then he has published a book, "A Season of Hope," detailing Springstead's 2010 season which coincided with his father's death after a battle with leukemia.

Meanwhile he watched on the Eagles repeated as district champions and made a historic run to the regional finals, and yes the coaching bug returned - as he anticipated.

"I knew without a doubt, from the moment I stepped down, there were things I knew I was going to miss," Vonada said on Friday. "But every day there were things that made me confident that yes, this was the right decision. I needed time to rest. But I knew eventually I wanted to get back into it."

A handful of offers came in, and he said he was contacted by people at Hernando. The position opened up when Dwayne Mobley stepped down last month.

Mobley, a Hernando grad, had replaced John Palmer two years earlier, going 9-12 with a 3-7 record this season.

The Leopards failed to make the playoffs this year for the first time since 2009.

"I felt like it was the best thing for everybody involved in the end for me to end up at Hernando; it was the best thing for the school, the best thing for my family," Vonada said. "A lot went into the decision and once I made the decision I was at peace with it, so I knew it was the right one."

It's admittedly tough leaving Springstead for Vonada. He graduated from the school in 1982 and returned there as a teacher and JV football coach in 1994.

After two seasons as offensive coordinator, he became head coach in 1998 and had become a fixture at his alma mater, though he'll likely depart for a to-be-determined teaching position at Hernando in January.

He called his conversation with Springstead Principal Susan Duval on Friday morning "very difficult."

"I've spent almost a quarter of a century walking those hallways," Vonada said. "When you're involved with something like that for that long, you build some pretty amazing relationships. Certainly some tears were shed. I'm still going to have those relationships, but I'm going to build new ones, too.

"I believe things happen for a reason. It's tough walking away but I know I'm walking into a place that's already welcomed me with open arms, and I know I'm leaving the place I'm leaving in good hands."

His longtime defensive coordinator, Mike Garofano, replaced him as the Eagles' headman and had a sensational rookie year at the helm.

Weeki Wachee head coach Mark Lee is another former Vonada assistant now running his own program.

"It's one of those things I knew was inevitable," Lee said of Vonada's return to coaching. "It was just a matter of where. He's a great coach and he loves it. It's really not a job, it's something he enjoys doing.

"I'm glad he's back in it, I just wish he wasn't in our district. He coaches well-disciplined teams and Hernando has some athletes. If they buy into his system, they'll definitely be a team to be reckoned with."

Hernando's administration isn't putting any heightened expectations on Vonada out of the gate.

"We still need to be realistic in what we're still trying to do," Bittinger said. "We know we're looking to rebuild a little bit and this is not a win-now situation. We're looking to build a program."

That's something Vonada has already done once in this county. Now he'll try to do it again.

"We want to build something that's going to last," Vonada said. "You don't build to win now. If you win now that's great and that's a bonus.

"But we'll work on doing it to last and do it with a sense of urgency to get to those goals quicker. But we're not going to take any shortcuts.

"I know they've got a great tradition and great support in the community. It's just a matter of getting everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. I think that's what everybody wants."

cbernhardt@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5288

By the numbers: Bill Vonada at Springstead

Year Record

1998 4-5

1999 0-10

2000 3-7

2001 6-4

2002 2-8

2003 7-3

2004 8-3^

2005 8-3^

2006 5-5

2007 5-5

2008 7-3

2009 5-5

2010 7-5^

2011 4-6

2012 9-2*

Total 80-74

* Denotes district champion

^ Denotes district runner-up

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