It took awhile, but Gulf High athletic director Travis DeWalt thinks he found the right person to fill his vacant head football coaching position.
Jason Messamore, who was an East Lake High assistant, accepted the job on Tuesday afternoon after the school had recently narrowed its candidates to three finalists.
The other finalists were former University of South Florida player and grad assistant Michael Lube and Chamberlain assistant Ken Davis.
"All three had great second interviews," DeWalt said. "It just all came down to that we thought Jason (Messamore) would be the right man for the job."
Messamore, a wide receivers coach at East Lake for the past three seasons, inherits a tall task in taking over a Gulf program that has struggled the past two seasons. The Buccaneers were a combined 2-18 the last two years under former Land O' Lakes assistant and former Gulf coach Tom Carter, who resigned last month. Messamore will be Gulf's fourth coach in four years following Jay Fulmer (2005-2010), Kenneth Hollar (2010) and Carter (2011-2012).
"I feel very fortunate to be in this position," Messamore said. "I'm very excited to get this job. I've been in Florida since 2004 and I've worked at Clearwater Central Catholic and East Lake. Working at East Lake definitely was a great experience for me and I learned a lot under Bob (Hudson). I saw that it wasn't that long ago that Gulf wasn't that bad. I recently went to a boys basketball game and saw there's talent on the floor and in the stands."
This is not Messamore's first head coaching stint, as he was the head coach at Heyworth (Ill.) High before moving to Florida in 2004. For six years, Messamore coached as an assistant at Clearwater Central Catholic.
Messamore came highly recommended from East Lake coach and Gulf alum Bob Hudson, who has led the Eagles to back-to-back appearances in the Class 8A region finals.
Messamore will need to search and develop players within the school and program, as several key starters — quarterback Chris Klyap, running back Genaro Ramirez and wide receiver Brennan Smiley (17 catches, 192 yards) — are graduating.