ORANGE PARK - Rocky Bantag is as much a fixture on the St. Johns Country Day School campus because of the green grass and well manicured lawns, but now the long time assistant football coach will …
ORANGE PARK - Rocky Bantag is as much a fixture on the St. Johns Country Day School campus because of the green grass and well manicured lawns, but now the long time assistant football coach will step into his biggest role as a Spartan.
"I've been coaching Pop Warner in the area for nearly 20 years and assistant coach here since 2012," said Bantag, who will be the newest head coach for the Spartan football team with Derek Chipoletti leaving after last season. "We got 17 players on the roster now; with 15 at the middle school team."
Bantag, who has been through head coaches from Merlin Smith (Oakleaf Junior High), Rodney Dubose (OPHS and now Westside), Todd Zehner, Bill Sellinger and, most recently Steve Reynolds and Derek Chipoletti (both former Oakleaf High head coaches; Reynolds at Keystone Heights now, Chipoletti at Orange Park).
Bantag has Vince Williams, Cole Ferguson (SJCDS grad) and Tanner Hall (FIHS soccer grad and state champion) on his sideline to assist.
"Vince was the middle school coach for a while, Tanner is coming to us after finishing at Flagler College soccer and Cole is a former player here at St. Johns," said Bantag. "Cole has volunteered for nearly five years and we are paying him now. Mike Crawford is a another coach coming in as a volunteer."
Bantag got the nod from assistant to head after a lengthy conversation with Athletic Director Tracy Livingston.
"I know what is here and what it will take to get the kids playing on the same page," said Bantag. "I think she saw my vision of what I thought I had at the school with knowing the kids in the hallway. I never talked to her about it before."
Bantag commented that he will try to use a more traditional football scheme with huddles replacing the most recent no-huddle offenses of Chipoletti and Zehner.
"With 17 kids, the huddle is a good break for them," said Bantag. "We will be playing the regular 11-man format with middle school going to 8-man format."
Top athletes for Bantag coming back start with all-everything athlete Max Arnold, a top wide receiver and safety from last year; Deuce Williams at running back and Kyle Boyston. Returning at quarterback is Gavin Russell.
"To be honest, we used to have three or four kids from summer conditioning," said Bantag. "This year, we had 10-20 each day. That's when I knew the kids were all in."