MSD varsity football team searches for coaches after five resign


Carolina Ochoa Lozano

Football coach Powers directs his players at Monarch v. Douglas on Sept. 22, 2022. The Eagles ultimately lost 14-20.

Reece Gary, Senior Sports Editor

Coaches Quentin Short, George LePorte, PJ Natke, Jerald Burley, Travis Hernandez and Warren Powers abruptly resigned from their positions on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football program staff on Friday, Jan. 13. Short, who teaches weight training, and Leporte, who teaches chemistry, also resigned their teaching positions effective at the end of the school year.

The coaches met with Athletic Director Albert Guzzo beforehand to discuss their intention to resign and the process for doing so. The five coaches have accepted new positions at Piper High School, a rival of the MSD football team.

The Piper Bengals finished this season 5-4. After missing their district’s playoffs, they are seeking to improve by hiring an almost entirely new coaching staff. On the other hand, the Eagles are coming off a 7-3 season, where they made the playoffs and achieved victory in the first round.

Coming from a statistically better team, the MSD coaches left for personal reasons, rather than in search of a more productive program. With that said, the coaches will likely have an easier time building a roster to their liking at other schools because MSD’s ability to attract student athletes has tightened due to the school’s capacity issues.

In many public high schools, such as Piper, attracting transfer students for athletic purposes is a manageable process. Per Florida state statutes, student athletes are free to transfer to any high school in order to play on a sports team of their choice, as long as there is available space in the school. Currently, MSD accepts no student reassignments or transfers, as the school is at 116% capacity. Only students that move into the MSD boundary can enroll at the school.

Schools like Piper, who have the availability for transfer students to register, can attract student athletes to a greater extent, building formidable sports teams. However, receiving transfer students from a school with extremely limited availability, like MSD, is much more difficult, thus presenting a challenge to the ambitious coaching staff.

Nevertheless, the coaches have stated that their reasons for resigning include only personal matters and their desire for a change. Short and LePorte will finish out the 2002-2023 school year as MSD teachers, taking their new jobs at Piper in the 2023-2024 school year.

“I felt it was time to make a change, and so we decided to move on,” Short said. “[I] just felt like it was time to do something different. I’m excited because it’s a chance for me to coach in the community I live in, as I live a half mile from [Piper High School], and the opportunity to work with new kids and build relationships with new people.”

Short, the varsity football team’s head coach, has had a prosperous career with the Eagles, starting with a record of 8-2 and a district championship victory during his first season in the 2014-2015 school year as an assistant coach. As a MSD coach for nine years, Short has built a loyal coaching staff that he plans to take with him in the next steps of his coaching career.

“When Coach Short gave me his resignation, he said he just needed a change of scenery–change of environment,” Guzzo said. “He’s been here for seven to eight years, and he wanted to explore other interests. Plus, he lives near [Piper High School], so the commute is probably 30 minutes less. That was his decision.”

In the aftermath of the coaches’ resignation, the MSD football program is searching for a new coach. Applications for the coaching job closed on Friday, Jan. 27. Guzzo and MSD staff planned to interview and select new coaches in the weeks to follow.

“It’s going to be hard,” cornerback Ryan Ebersberger (21) said. “We’ll have new play calls, new everything, but I think everything will be fine. I still think that we’ll be able to make the playoffs and win a playoff game.”

Looking towards the football program’s future, the Eagles seek to adjust to their new coaching staff as well as their returning players and coaches, including coaches Eric Zajkowski, Elliot Bonner and Christian Baldwin. While adjustments will need to be made as the team takes in a fresh set of coaches, the Eagles plan on being flexible and continuing their streak of winning records.

This story was originally published in the February 2023 Eagle Eye print edition.