Hagerty High Football hires ex-Oviedo coach Wes Allen to lead upstart Huskies, who are coming off four consecutive winning seasons.
Hagerty High’s football rivalry with Oviedo might seem a little spooky this year, and not just because their game will be played on the Friday leading up to Halloween.
Fans will notice the man who led the Oviedo Lions to a 6-3 record against Hagerty during a nine-year coaching span (2008-2016) now walks the sideline as the head coach of the Huskies.
Wes Allen, who guided the Lions to a 63-36 record and five district championships before stepping down after the 2016 season, replaces longtime coach Phil Ziglar, who retired after 43 years of coaching.
It might be just the kind of mojo Hagerty Football needs to beat its rival and take its game to another level in 2019. The Huskies have finished 6-5, 8-3, 9-2 and 8-3, respectively, the last four seasons.
“I love teaching and coaching football, and I love this town [Oviedo], so I am lucky to be able to coach again in this town and at a fantastic school in Hagerty,” said Allen, who left OHS to take a job in the private sector.
Allen has since returned to the Seminole County Public Schools system —teaching P.E. full-time at Hagerty.
“The Oviedo game is important to us because it is a district game,” Allen said. “I think the rivalry part of it is for the fans. We do not put more emphasis on it than we would any other district game.”
New district, new challenges
Coach Allen certainly faces a challenge in his first season back as a head coach since 2016. Hagerty has moved up a class, going from Class 7A to 8A, and will compete in a tough District 3 that includes Colonial, Oviedo, Timber Creek, University (Orlando) and Winter Park.
Last season, both Oviedo and Winter Park made the playoffs.
In 2018, Hagerty used a massive upset against Edgewater to win the Class 7A, District 4 title and make the playoffs.
Edgewater also made the postseason, advancing to the state semifinals, while the Huskies lost in the first round.
“It is a huge step up in competition,” said Allen, who served as an assistant coach at Timber Creek the past two seasons.
“Looking at the old district top to bottom, it was not very tough, obviously. Edgewater and Hagerty were the two top teams each year.
“The step up to 8A-3 is a big step for our program. Now, we are competing with the big boys. We just want to try and compete with them.”
Hagerty may have its work cut out this year after falling to fellow Class 8A school Lake Mary 35-0 in the spring game. But the Huskies are up for a challenge in the state’s highest class.
“Well to be completely honest, it almost feels like everything changed for a reason,” said Hagerty senior DJ McCunny, who ran for 543 yards and four touchdowns last season.
“I think it gave our program a fresh feeling and a sense of new beginnings. The change in the district is huge because most of our returning varsity players were used to playing the same teams over and over and had an idea of the scheduling, and it became normal.
“So, [the new district] definitely will bring some new challenges and opportunities with it, but that’s something that our program and team are working really hard for.
“We love the chance to step up and prove ourselves because we are always the underdogs, anyway.”
Huskies to get offensive
Hagerty may be able to use the underdog role to its advantage this season. Allen said he would employ a new offense, getting away from the run-oriented teams that Ziglar was famous for.
But the Huskies will have a steep learning curve with only two returning starters: offensive lineman Logan Anderson and tight end Hagen Tucker, according to Allen.
Gone from Hagerty’s 2018 team are quarterback Sammy Cordero, who ran for 907 yards and 11 touchdowns, and passed for 519 yards and three touchdowns; and Jordan Gilbert, who rushed for 420 yards and six touchdowns.
Gilbert now plays for Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.
“Our offense will be similar to what we did at Oviedo, but just like each year we will adjust it to fit our kids’ abilities,” Allen said.
“This spring was an eye-opening experience for all of us as coaches and players. We have already made some adjustments and will continue to adjust through summer and fall camp.”
Keeping an optimistic view is returnee Ethan Lopez, a junior running back who rushed for 665 yards and two touchdowns last season. A hard-nosed runner, he proved tough to bring down in many games.
Lopez will join Oviedo senior transfer Josh Bozzacco in the backfield. Junior Joey Martuscelli takes over the reins at quarterback at Hagerty.
“We are putting a great deal of work and effort into our run game this year,” Lopez said.
“We have a good amount of new players this year putting in the hard work. I’m super amped for this season. I know that coach Allen will lead us on the right path this year.”
Hagerty defense will be a strength
Hagerty will likely look to its defense to hold down the proverbial fort until the offense finds its rhythm.
The Huskies return five starters – linebackers Kyle Shaouni and Wyatt Wilson, defensive lineman Clay Caldwell and defensive backs Colby Fialkoff and Trent Redding — from a team that held four opponents to 15 points or less.
“I think our defense is going to be very strong,” Shaouni said. “We’ve got a good group of young guys. Offense, defense, we all have the same goal.”
Allen said senior linebackers Tommy Halverson and Shaouni will be the leaders of a 3-4 defensive scheme this season. “Both are great players and kids,” Allen said.
“Tommy missed most of last year with an injury, so it is great to have him back.”
Now, the 2019 season awaits. Along with the five district games, Hagerty will play Lake Nona, Kissimmee Gateway, Lake Howell, Winter Springs and Flagler Palm Coast.
“We have a good group of kids who we threw a totally new offense and defense at in the spring,” Allen said.
“I think we threw the ball more in the spring game than they did all last year total. Just like all teams, we want to get better each week and compete in our district.”
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