When first-year coach Steven Moffett met with his Leesburg High football team, there were plenty of tears.
After just one groundbreaking season at the school, the former Winter Park and UCF quarterback told his team he was leaving to take on a new position at The First Academy of Orlando. Moffett said he will be a “co-head coach” with Jeff Conaway, who came to TFA in June from Arkansas.
TFA has not announced Moffett’s hiring. Royals athletic director Will Cohen, in a Tuesday reply to the Sentinel, gave this statement by email: “Jeff Conaway is our Head Football Coach at The First Academy and will continue to serve in that role. Each offseason we carefully evaluate our program and have conversations with potential coaches to see who might be a strong fit at The First Academy. Any additions to our football staff will be communicated by our Director of Athletics, Will Cohen, at the appropriate time.”
Moffett said his move to TFA has been in the works for months.
“I got an offer way back in August or September to come back closer to Orlando and I’m going to do that … at TFA,” he said. “It was hard for me to tell the team. It’s not like we’re leaving a bad situation. Everything was great at Leesburg.
”The players took it better than I thought. Some of them cried, but I talked to them and told them the truth and thanked them for buying in. It’s still tough. I think about it every day.”
After taking over a squad that went 2-8 in 2022, Moffett transformed the program. He guided the Yellow Jackets to a 10-2 season and a berth in the Class 3 Suburban state playoffs.
Leesburg, which gained an influx of transfers prior to the season, celebrated its first nine-win regular season and second playoff win since 1992. The Yellow Jackets ran into undefeated defending state champion Lake Wales in a second-round game last week and lost on the road 17-10.
Moffett could not pass up the offer at TFA, and he said the difficult decision was not about personal gain. His assistant coaches were his focus, and being able to bring his entire Leesburg staff with him was the real draw, especially the compensation for those coaches.
”I told [TFA] I’m good at Leesburg, but if I leave I need you to take care of my coaches,” Moffett said. “They did all of it and my assistants are ecstatic. Then, as for me, I have a platform as a head coach and I’ve got a little leverage. I’m trying to do things for these coaches and get the proper supplements. These coaches need that money.
“The talk around Florida is that we’re not able to get these supplements, say like in Georgia, but we as head coaches need to step up and try to help people “
Moffett, who is co-owner of 3MG Roofing and Solar, considers himself financially stable. He said he coached for free at Leesburg, as well as at Winter Park, where he was offensive coordinator before landing his first head coaching role.
Moffett already has a good relationship with Conaway, developed this past summer during offseason 7-on-7 events. Co-defensive coordinators Chris Mitchell and Corey Broomfield are part of Moffett’s staff.
“They were hosting some 7-on-7s, and I think [Conaway] liked the way we were operating,” Moffett said. “Between him and some others at TFA, they approached me with the idea and the opportunity.”
He pondered the offer for several months and included his assistants in the decision. After about two weeks of discussion they agreed to take the plunge.
“To a man, we were all happy at Leesburg,” Moffett said. “They did everything we asked them to do. The principal was great, the admin was great, the athletic directors were great. But we, as coaches, decided we have to jump at this opportunity because it might not be here forever.”
Moffett joins a TFA program that was 6-4 this season and 0-2 with losses to Orlando Christian Prep and Foundation Academy in Class 1 Metro District 2. The Royals went 8-3 the previous two years with Leroy Kinard as coach.
Chris Hays covers high school and college football and college football recruiting. You can find him on X (formerly Twitter) @OS_ChrisHays or on Instagram @OS_ChrisHays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.