Post Top 25 football countdown: No. 25 Suncoast
Monday, August 13, 2012
by Steve Dorsey
During the next two weeks, The Palm Beach Post counts down the area's Top 25 high school football teams. The football preview section will appear Aug. 26.
The job of head football coach at Suncoast has been a revolving door in recent years, a trend that new coach Jim Clark hopes to change.
"I'm the fourth coach these seniors have had," Clark said. "I told them, 'Guys, I'm sorry about that, but if I can tell you anything, I hope to change that for your friends.' My immediate goal is just to stabilize this program. It's too proud of a place."
Clark, 35, grew up following Suncoast when the football program was what he described as "the Glades Central of the coast" in the 1980s when many opposing teams feared playing the Chargers. Clark, a 1995 graduate of Benjamin where he was a standout two-way player, was hired in March after Jessie Hester resigned after one year. It's Clark's first head coaching job.
Hester, now the athletic director at Lake Worth, cited the rigid academic requirements of Suncoast as a reason for leaving the program. Clark, however, is used to having to deal with stringent after-school student projects playing havoc with football practices. He was a top assistant under Palm Beach County Hall of Fame coach Ron Ream for the past 11 years at Benjamin, which has similarly demanding academic standards for all of its students, including athletes.
"The academic standards here are very, very rigorous," Clark said. "For someone not used to it, it can be very daunting and it can be very upsetting. It can be a headache (for a head coach), but it's something you just have to deal with. You have to get a little creative with it."
Suncoast has not had a winning season since 2004, and the Chargers again are lumped into a competitive district that includes state power Glades Central. That does not deter Clark from believing that he and his staff can resurrect a once-proud and winning program, which has graduated about 50 players in the past two years.
"We're replacing a ton of starters," Clark said. "We're not deep, but the 11 we're going to put on the field on offense and the 11 on defense are pretty good. We're pretty fast, we're pretty big, but we're just not deep."
Clark had 51 players, including freshmen, report for the first day of practices last week, but there's only 10 seniors, so the bulk of the team will return next year. Clark said he plans to return as well.
"I couldn't be more excited," he said.