After a football season of turmoil at Tohopekaliga, Athletic Director Lonnie Flores has decided to turn the program over to a stabilizing force. On Tuesday, Flores announced that Anthony Paradiso – the long-time successful coach at Lake Nona—would become the fourth head coach in school history.
Paradiso replaces Jeff Higgins, who won just two games in his only year as head coach. The Tigers went 2-8 in a season when they were shutout six times and had numerous players transfer out of the program prior to the start of the season.
“We had a lot of outstanding candidates, but we just felt Coach Paradiso was the right man for the job,” Flores said in making the announcement. “He has a proven track record of not only winning but winning on a consistent basis. The fact that he was at Lake Nona for more than a decade also told us that he can provide something we have lacked in the past and that is stability.”
Paradiso brings solid credentials to the post. In his 11 seasons as head coach at Lake Nona, he posted a 72-43 record and won seven or more games eight times with a district title, six trips to the playoffs, and just one losing season.
Change and the opportunity to build another program is what attracted Paradiso to the position. “I have a wonderful 13 years at Lake Nona but to tell the truth I think we reached a plateau there” Paradiso, who also spent two seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2009-10. “When this opportunity presented itself, it just felt right. It’s a relatively new school that has had some success in the past but little consistency. We need to provide a new culture and direction.”
Building programs is something Paradiso has done more than once. In addition to Lake Nona, he took over a floundering Cyrstal River program that had won just five games in two years. In his second season, Paradiso went 9-3 and had Crystal River in the playoffs. His overall record as a head coach is 86-61-0.
In addition to his head coaching experience, Paradiso spent five years as offensive coordinator at Timber Creek, a year as QB/WR coach at University High and one season as quarterbacks coach at Colonial High School.
Paradiso played football at Robert Morris before transferring to the University of South Florida, where he received both his undergraduate and master’s degree.
Tohopekaliga, which opened in 2018, hired Anthony Davis as its first coach. Just prior to the second season, Davis resigned to become the Director of Recreation in his native Marathon, Fla. Marc Deas had a successful two-year stint, going 12-8 and leading the Tigers to its first-ever postseason appearance. But Deas also suddenly resigned to take over the football program at the private Feltrim Academy in Haines City, with Higgins taking over the post.
“Four coaches in four years, doesn’t sound good,” Flores said. “But the truth is it was a combination of several factors that were out of our control. Last year was not great but we have had some success here. Coach Paradiso should bring us the stability that we need.”
Paradiso echoed the sentiment. “They had had some success and the potential to build a good program certainly exists,” he said. “The important thing is to establish a culture and establish relationships. The message is pretty simple, we want to get better every day.”