BRADENTON -- Assistant coaches with ties to Bayshore High are the three finalists to become the Bruins' next head football coach.
Bayshore athletic director Chris Brady revealed the finalists' names Friday. They are current Bayshore assistant Tyler Zebkar and former Bruins players Elijah Freeman and Willie Joe Walker.
The three were among 11 total candidates that went through an initial interview, and Brady said the finalists will go through an additional interview before a decision is made. Nearly 100 candidates applied, Brady said.
"You could tell from the 11 that we interviewed that they all had a tie to Bayshore High School and/or Manatee
County, the local area high school football scene," Brady said. "So what we were looking at in terms of ... a variety of things to be a head football coach. Knowledge of the game of football, being able to work with kids (and) the off the field aspects. Those were all things that we asked about."
Brady said the school's administration hopes to complete the final round of interviews next week.
The position is open after former head coach Jean P. Gordon stepped down in December, saying he needed a break from coaching, something he had done since 1974. Gordon turned in a 25-44 record in seven seasons. The Bruins did not make a playoff appearance during that stretch.
Gordon's decision came at a good time for Bayshore because the Bruins can get a coach in well ahead of the annual spring game.
"You don't want someone coming over the summer. Obviously, whoever is going to be our next coach, you want him in there May 1 for spring practice," Brady said. "So he can put his stamp, his system and his philosophies and expectations of the program. ... You certainly want to give him time to get acclimate and adjusted."
Freeman is an assistant at Palmetto under head coach Dave Marino, and Brady said he has been coaching defensive backs/special teams there for the past seven to eight years. He's also a Bayshore graduate, having played football there in the early 1990s before a college career at Tulane University.
Zebkar completed his first season as a Bayshore assistant, coaching the offensive line. He previously spent roughly eight years as an assistant at Sarasota High and Cape Coral High, Brady said.
Walker is the lone finalist from a school outside the Sunshine State. He's the defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at a high school in Pocatello, Idaho.
But like Freeman, Walker is a Bayshore alum. He played his prep football for the Bruins in the mid-1980s.