Marathon High School seniors aren’t the only ones moving on after graduation in May — teacher and head football coach Anthony Paul Davis has new opportunities on the horizon, as well.
The weekend the kids graduate, Davis will move north to Kissimmee. He’s accepted a teaching position and head football coaching job at Tohopekaliga High School, which is under construction and will have a student body about four times the size of Marathon, which has 650 students in grades six to 12 (that includes Marathon Middle School).
He calls it “Toho” for short and he’ll teach digital information technologies at the school, just like he has at Marathon High for the last four years, and coaching football for the Tigers.
“I wanted to stay at least through this year because the senior class is special to me,” Davis said of his Marathon students and athletes. “When I first came here, they were freshmen.”
In the last four years, he’s watched young football boys grow into men, he said. This past season was especially emotional for the coach.
Just as the season got underway in late August and early September, Category 4 Hurricane Irma came barreling through the Keys. The storm destroyed the home field and some of the players’ homes, undoubtedly changing their lives for the rest of the school year and beyond.
“To see how these kids developed physically and mentally was amazing, and to see them fight through such adverse situations with the hurricane and to come back and deal with family life the way it was... It was special,” Davis said.
The Dolphins never played on the home field again last fall, yet dominated on the road through November to seal their first winning season since 2007, ending with a record of 7-2 and winning the Southeastern Football Conference championship against Ransom Everglades, 47-8.
“This last season will be with me for the rest of my life,” Davis said.
He grew up in Marathon and got his start teaching in 2005 at Key West High School, which he left in 2014 to coach the Dolphins.
“He’s influenced my life and inspired me. I’ve learned a lot from him,” said senior Roberto Garces. “He’s taught me to work for whatever I want and not let people tell me I can’t do something.”
Senior Jordy Mejia signed a scholarship last week to play football at Warner University in Lake Wales. He said Davis has been more than a coach to him.
“He’s a mentor and someone to look up to. He changed my life and also the lives of the ones around me,” he said. “Without him I wouldn’t be who I am today. He’s taught me so much in life, football and in my relationship with God.”
Davis won’t be far from Mejia this fall.
“If he’s going through anything, I’ll be there to help him,” Davis said.
Of his new job at Toho, Davis said he’s beyond excited.
“Over the years, I’ve learned so much, good and bad, and I feel like now is the time. The Lord showed me that now is my time,” he said.
The Tigers will play as an independent team without a designated Florida High School Athletic Association district. “Then we’ll go into a district and we’ll probably start off as a 7A school then move into 8A,” Davis said.
By comparison, the Marathon High team comprises roughly 40 players and competes in FHSAA Class 3A and an independent conference.
A new Dolphins coach has not been named yet.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219