Class 3S Football: Leesburg looks for turnaround under new coaching staff

A new coaching staff has re-energized a Leesburg football program looking to bounce back from a two-win season.

Long-time Winter Park assistant and former UCF quarterback Steven Moffett rolls out a roster looking a lot different than the one that defeated Tavares and lost to Belleview and Class 3S Region 2 semifinalist Ocala Vanguard in District 5.

“We got in and immediately started changing the culture,” he said. “We’re really young, but we’re really talented.”

Former Palm Bay Bayside head coach Corey Broomfield joins Moffett as an assistant head coach and co-defensive coordinator alongside Chris Mitchell, who has coached at West Orange and Winter Park in recent years.

“A lot of pride has come back. There’s a lot of joy,” senior outside linebacker Kanye Gaines said of the atmosphere surrounding the program. “Everything has been a big improvement.”

Gaines, who battled through injuries last year, is one of only three senior starters on a defense that includes Corbyn Harrison and DD Ward in the secondary.

The linebacker unit also consists of up-and-coming underclassmen Aden Hall (Jr.), Izayia Williams (So.) and Umatilla transfer Tyler McClinton-Hutto (Jr.), who will see time at tight end.

Wekiva transfer quarterback Salomon Georges (Jr.) lines up behind an offensive line expected to be the strength of the team. Junior Evan James leads the group of wideouts.

Tavares returns six starters to a young team undergoing a culture change with long-time assistant and former head coach Gavin Jones now leading the way.

Jones went 13-18 with the Bulldogs from 2009-11 and has remained at the school in various capacities.

Senior outside linebacker Micah Doster and senior left guard Chace Stockman are the experienced leaders on each side of the ball.

Junior Tyler Davis will see an expanded role at running back and linebacker.

District 8

Kissimmee Gateway and Liberty face a challenging district slate that includes games against defending 3S state champion Lake Wales, playoff qualifier Auburndale, Davenport and Eagle Lake Lake Region.

Gateway returns seven starters, including junior defensive lineman Chris Charity (42 tackles, 4 sacks) and senior wide receiver Yasin Mims.

Former Dr. Phillips and college running back Dee Hart enters the fall as Liberty’s fourth head coach in as many years.

Senior quarterback Jeremiah Pierre-Louis, running back/linebacker Xae’dyn Brown and two-way linemen Joshua Fabian Castano and Amos Toussaint are among 15 returning starters for the Chargers.

District 9

In 3S Region 3, Deltona and Pine Ridge are tasked with keeping pace in a district that includes state runner-up Mainland and Seabreeze out of Daytona Beach.

Senior middle linebacker CJ Estridge (45 tackles) is the lone returning starter for Deltona, which lost 15 players via transfer. Wolves alum Matt Martin is a first-time head coach who has been an assistant at DeLand and Mainland.

Sophomore defensive back Damarion Phillips will see time at multiple positions. Juniors Rhys Eversman and Thomas Berrios anchor the offensive line.

Pine Ridge returns 15 starters to a team that mostly relied on freshmen and sophomores.

The Panthers have implemented a fast-paced spread offense in hopes of taking advantage of their skill-position players, led by junior athlete Chris Boddie (580 all-purpose yards).

Senior Zach Patterson leads a revamped linebacker unit. Senior defensive end/tight end Jayden Campbell and safety/running back Trey Nephew return to Pine Ridge after playing last year at Deltona.

3S District 5

Leesburg Yellow Jackets

Coach: Steven Moffett (1st year).

2022: 2-8, missed 3S playoffs.

Tavares Bulldogs

Coach: Gavin Jones (4th year, 13-18).

2022: 0-10, missed 3S playoffs.

3S District 8

Gateway Panthers

Coach: Marlin Roberts (15th year, 56-84).

2022: 2-7, missed 3S playoffs.

Liberty Chargers

Coach: Dee Hart (1st year).

2022: 0-10, missed 3S playoffs.

3S District 9

Deltona Wolves

Coach: Matt Martin (1st year).

2022: 7-3, missed 3S playoffs.

Pine Ridge Panthers

Coach: Eric Poyner (2nd year, 0-10).

2022: 0-10, missed 3S playoffs.

This article originally appeared on Email J.C. Carnahan at