Chad Choate’s family ties to Manatee High School trace to the 1960s when his grandfather, Chad Sr., came to Bradenton, became principal at the school and hired Joe Kinnan as the head football coach, setting the stage for the era of winning in the 1980s.
Choate’s father, Chad Jr., and uncles were Hurricanes.
He joined the next generation with his cousins later, and most recently spent the last two seasons as Manatee’s defensive coordinator.
“It’s always been a dream to be a varsity coach at Manatee and, obviously, as a coordinator,” Choate said.
That dream, though, has been altered: Choate is no longer Manatee’s defensive coordinator.
“John (Booth) and I talked about it and there’s some pressure from the football community,” Choate said. “We didn’t have a good year, and we didn’t meet expectations of what the program is supposed to be. It’s just kind of a situation for me, where we sat down (and) of course you never want to leave a position ... but at the same time, I’m a Manatee guy. Whether it’s me as a coordinator or position coach, I always want Manatee to do well.”
Choate will remain on staff as a positions coach, although his specific role has not been determined. Attempts to reach Booth on Friday were unsuccessful.
Choate took over as defensive coordinator following the 2014 season. He replaced Jim Phelan, who was dismissed after six seasons in the role. Phelan is an assistant at Saint Stephen’s. During Phelan’s tenure guiding the unit, the Hurricanes won their last state title in 2011 with a punishing defense. They were ranked No. 1 in the nation in 2012 until a playoff loss to Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
After Manatee surrendered 103 points during the first three weeks of the 2015 season, Choate’s unit settled and allowed more than 14 points only once over the season’s final seven weeks and the first week of the playoffs.
But this past season was rough for the Hurricanes defensively.
They allowed a program-worst 78 points to Hewitt-Trussville in their Week 1 trip to Alabama, and dropped games later in the year to Sarasota Riverview, 42-33, and to Venice, 42-7. The loss to Venice was the first time the Hurricanes were subjected to a running clock, which is enacted in the second half when a team trails by 35 points or more.
“You look at Venice, you look at Riverview, those guys dunked their coaches with Gatorade and went crazy because they beat Manatee,” Choate said. “And there’s never a silver lining to that. You never want to be that person that breaks the streak of 10 years or nine times or whatever it was with Venice. ... At the end of the day, this is a different animal at Manatee High School. The expectations are just higher and I know that, and I knew that coming in.”
With those high expectations, Choate said he heard rumblings about possible changes to the defensive coaching staff after the season, which ended with a loss to eventual Class 8A state runner-up Orlando Dr. Phillips in the first round of the playoffs.
“Expectations at Manatee are not 7-3,” Choate said. “They’re 10-0 and making a run to try to win the state championship. That’s every year.”
Choate said Manatee should have seven or eight guys back that were starters in the fall. Linebacker Garrett Ware, safety Jacob Main and defensive lineman Quay Mays are seniors. And he added he’ll do what he can for the program, even in a different coaching capacity.
“Manatee football is bigger than one person,” Choate said. “Whether it’s me or whoever it may be, it’s still going to keep being what it is.”
Prior to Manatee, Choate also served as an assistant at Braden River and Cardinal Mooney.