Football: AATL coach doing it his way
LAND O’ LAKES -
John Castelamare has been coaching a long time.
Longer than his players have been alive, actually, and the Academy at the Lakes football coach isn’t about to change.
“I do the same thing I’ve done before,” said Castelamare, who also coached Ridgewood for 12 seasons and Wesley Chapel for 11 more, going 108-126 overall. “We have an offseason program, we have the Iron Man and we expect certain things from our players. I do it the same way I’ve always done it since I started coaching, and the kids are working hard, the parents are really good at helping, and I like our regimen.
“It’s good for the kids.”
It’s this regimen, and experience, that has the Wildcats improving every season. Academy has made the playoffs the past three seasons, each time advancing further into the postseason, including in 2012, when it lost in the third round City of Life Christian Academy.
It was the Wildcats’ lone loss.
“The big goal is to keep going further,” Castelamare said. “We have some new faces out there, some kids who haven’t played before, so we’ll need them to step up.
“And our schedule is tougher. We now (face) five teams that went to the playoffs, plus the state champion.”
Not only do the Wildcats have state champion Clearwater Academy International on the schedule, Castelamare and Co. are losing five or six players, which may not seem like much, but it is to a school with just 50 to 60 males and fewer than 20 on the roster. Also hampering spring plans is the absence of running back Ahkill McGill, who led the team in rushing but will be out until the summer with a broken foot suffered during the offseason.
“I always tell (Pasco) coach (Tom) McHugh to give me a fourth-string running back and I’d be set,” Castelamare said jokingly. “Seriously, though, if we could have 20 boys dressed, we’d be really set, but I think there are a lot of unanswered questions this year. We need to see if we have enough guys that we don’t take a step back.”
As Castelamare works for the future, something lingers in his mind. He wishes the team was capable of moving up to 11-man football.
It may be a long time for that, but Castelamare isn’t about to change a thing.
“I thought we’d be there already, but we can’t hand-pick kids right now,” Castelamare said. “If we have 20 kids, that’s probably the best athletes and they usually play other sports, so it’s tough, but its football. It’s supposed to be tough.
“For now, we’ll do what we’ve always done and see where it takes us.”
Correspondent Mike Camunas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MikeCamunas.