GREEN COVE SPRINGS - With a handful of awards, deep playoff runs and lists of college-prepared alums, Clay High School football coach Joshua Hoekstra will be heading to the Bolles School football …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS - With a handful of awards, deep playoff runs and lists of college-prepared alums, Clay High School football coach Joshua Hoekstra will be heading to the Bolles School football program next fall.
“The tradition of Bolles football is one that I have always admired and I look forward to the expectations and challenge,” said Hoekstra. “No one rises to low expectations.”
Hoekstra, with Clay since 2009 and named head coach in 2011, will join former Ponte Vedra High head coach Matt Toblin on the staff. Toblin was named head coach at Bolles a month ago.
The pair is very familiar with each
other as Toblin was Clay head coach in 2009 before leaving to coach at the University of South Oregon. Hoekstra took over in 2011 and has built a legacy of wins and losses and playoff runs unequalled in Clay County and in Florida football.
Ironically, the pair has also been across the field during playoff runs with Toblin as head coach at Ponte Vedra High School holding a 2-0 edge with a win in the region quarterfinals in 2011 and a win in 2016 in the state semifinals. Neither has achieved the elusive state title with both losing to American Heritage; Hoekstra in 2013, Toblin in 2016.
“It is extremely difficult to win district, region and state titles,” said Hoekstra. “I’m very proud of all the success the Clay High program has had and it is because of the players and coaches.”
As the Clay head coach the past eight seasons, Hoekstra guided the Blue Devils to a 64-35 record, five consecutive playoff appearances, two district titles and a state runner-up finish in 2013. He was honored as the Jaguars’ NFL High School Coach of the Year in 2013, served as head coach of Team Florida in the War of the Border All-Star game from 2015-19 and coached quarterbacks in the Shrine Bowl All-Star game in 2008 and 2009. Prior to Clay, Hoekstra honed his coaching experience as an assistant at St. Augustine, Englewood and Jackson High Schools.
Hoeksta has the unique distinction of one of highest scoring games in Florida playoff history with the Blue Devils winning a thrilling 74-73 region semifinal playoff game against Bishop Kenny in 2013 with quarterback Wes Weeks scoring the gamewinner with less than 10 seconds on the clock.
Also among the many outstanding games for Clay High was a region playoff win over North Marion.
“Bilal Ally (RB), 496 yards rushing and six touchdowns versus North Marion, the OL, FB, TE and Wr’s blocked all night and Bilal ran with relentless effort and heart,” said Hoekstra. “The 74-73 win in 2013 and the 9-7 win over Pensacola Catholic were two of my best game experiences.”
Hoekstra noted that his clutch players were important to the team’s success but that other guys added to the success.
“There are too many clutch players to name, I don’t want to leave anyone out,” said Hoekstra. “It wasn’t always about the “stars” of the team but the “glue guys”. We always preached that it was about “US” and to “Star in your Role.”
One coach who has faced off with Hoekstra numerous times as a head coach at both Ridgeview and Orange Park high schools is Tom Macpherson, who guided the Raiders to an upset win this year at Clay High School.
“ I have a few memorable wins against Hoek but he by far dominated the series,” said Macpherson. “Josh made a run in Clay County, at Clay High School, that I never thought was possible. Being in the state title game and multiple third or fourth round games in Clay County in such a short time period is a tremendous accomplishment. He is a tremendous motivator and saves his best work for big games in November and December.”
One Clay coach that has been with Hoekstra since his arrival has been strength and defensive coach Rodney Keller.
“Rodney Keller has been with me on staff the entire time the last 10 years,” said Hoekstra. “His work ethic in the weight room and on the practice field has had such a positive impact on our program. He teaches mental toughness as well as showing up and working as hard you can every day. He has been extremely loyal to me and I thank him for that.”
Hoeksta is responsible for a plethora of college football experiences for Clay High players with past history seeing running backs Colin Wilson at Louisville, Bilal Ally at University of Massachusetts, Shannon Asbell at Asa College; defensive backs Jeremy Peters at Liberty, Jared Singletary at Middle Tennessee; offensive linemen Jacob Conrad at Furman, Michael Howard at Ole Miss, Zach Baker at Duke and Tyler Grimsley at Miami and South Alabama; defensive linemen Sean Grayer at South Alabama, linebackers Mike Adams and Jeremy Beaulieu at Bethel University with former quarterbacks Wes Weeks and Hunter Alexander becoming outstanding college baseball players; University of North Florida for Weeks, University of Alabama for Alexander.
The list of college athletes is a testament to the Clay High program under Hoekstra.
“It’s rewarding when you get a phone call or a text from a former player thanking you,” said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra began his college football playing career at Trinity International University in Illinois before transferring to Jacksonville University, where he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education. Originally from the Chicago area, Hoesktra was a four-year starter in football and baseball, as well as a two-year letterman in basketball, at Chicago Christian High School.