Posted: 11:31 am Monday, June 25th, 2012
By Matt Porter and Jeff Greer
American Heritage football coach and athletic director Doug Socha resigned Friday, six months after winning the Class 3A state title.
The Delray Beach private school moved quickly to replace him, on Monday naming defensive coordinator Stacy Sizemore its new head coach.
Socha said he left for personal reasons, but did not elaborate. American Heritage headmaster Bob Stone said that because Socha resigned, the school did not ask questions.
“All I can tell you is, yes, it was shocking, and yes, it was on Friday, and we wish the family well,” Stone said Monday.
“If we had fired him, I probably would have pushed to get a bigger statement of the ‘why.’ Because he resigned so abruptly, I’m not in a position to say much.”
Sizemore, 42, has been Heritage’s defensive coordinator since 2008. A Vicksburg, Miss. native and former linebacker at Southern Mississippi, he was previously defensive coordinator at Plantation-American Heritage and East Central (Miss.) Community College. This is his first head coaching position. He said he will keep Socha’s staff intact.
Stone said Socha’s departure is not related to an incident Friday involving players from American Heritage and Miami-Booker T. Washington High.
On Friday, the teams fought during a scrimmage at a team camp at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Players fought for roughly two minutes before coaches broke it up.
Socha, who had been at the school for six years, was 22-5 in two seasons as head coach, reaching the state final both years.
Socha, 36, lives on the school’s campus with his wife, Stone said. Socha’s son, Cade, will be an eighth-grader this fall and is a junior varsity football player.
Socha, a 1999 graduate of Cal State-Northridge, spent six seasons as an assistant at the University of Buffalo and four as an American Heritage asssitant. He became head football coach and athletic director in January 2010 after the resignation of Willie Bueno, who held the same positions.
Bueno left a program that was often suspected of improperly recruiting players. Socha’s program has the same reputation.
Some rival coaches have publicly said that American Heritage recruited their players. Seminole Ridge assistant coach Justin Hilliker said his program has not lost a player to Heritage, but said Heritage coaches looked at improper recruiting as part of their job.
“I’ve had assistants say to me, I recruit players, and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Hilliker said. “I’m gonna recruit your players, and it’s your job to keep them.”
Stone said his coaches are regularly informed of the Florida High School Athletic Association rules regarding recruiting and, to his knowledge, none of his coaches recruit improperly. The FHSAA has never cited the program for recruiting.
“When they’re losing players, they tend to say it’s recruiting,” Stone said of other programs. “Kids who are a star of a mediocre program often want to go somewhere where they’re going to have success and visibility. I can’t tell you what other coaches think, but I see how that would be frustrating to coaches trying to build a program.”
American Heritage junior Xavier Swinton wondered if players would leave Heritage because of Socha’s departure.
“It’s a huge loss,” Swinton said.
Senior offensive tackle Roderick Johnson said the players would band together because they want to repeat as state champs and because of this fall’s tough schedule. It includes local rivals Atlantic, Dwyer and Glades Central, an ESPN-televised game against Cocoa and out-of-area games at Seffner-Armwood, Miami-Gulliver Prep and West Monroe, La.
In December, Heritage beat Madison County 30-3 in the Class 3A state championship.
Sizemore said his first assignment for his coaches is to divide up the roster, call players and reassure them nothing will change.
“We’re going to continue to do what we do and get better at what we do,” Sizemore said.