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PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Braden River football coach resigns

MANATEE — Josh Hunter is no longer Braden River High School’s football coach.

School officials announced Hunter’s resignation Thursday, the eve of the first official football practice of the spring today.

Hunter, the school’s only head football coach since Braden River opened in 2005, will remain as a teacher at the school in East Manatee, said school spokesman Mike Barber.

On March 21, Hunter was driving his Ford SUV in south Sarasota County when it crashed on an on-ramp on Interstate 75. Braden River football assistant coach Doug Garrity was killed in the crash.

The Florida Highway Patrol has been investigating the crash. FHP Lt. Chris Miller said Thursday that investigators have received the results of toxicology tests taken, but they have not been released.

Miller said that could happen as early as next week.

Hunter teaches physical education to students at the high school and focuses on weight training, Pauley said.

“This is sudden with spring football starting tomorrow,” said Braden River Principal Jim Pauley.

Hunter did not return a phone message left on his voicemail at the school.

Pauley said Hunter’s resignation is a huge loss for Braden River High.

“He says he no longer has the drive and desire to coach due to the tragic accident,” Pauley wrote in an e-mail announcing Hunter’s resignation.

“This is a choice Josh has decided,” Pauley told the Bradenton Herald Thursday. “Dealing with the accident, it’s been tough on him to have that drive right now and stay focused.”

Pauley said Hunter helped establish what he called an “outstanding” football program.

Braden River athletic director Bob Bowling said Hunter originally turned in his resignation April 10.

Bowling refused it and tried to encourage Hunter to keep coaching, suggesting once he got his mind back on coaching, things would work themselves out. Hunter also tenured his resignation two weeks ago, which Bowling said he again refused.

But when Hunter and his wife visited Bowling’s house Wednesday night, Hunter told Bowling he couldn’t go on. This time, Bowling accepted his resignation.

“His words were, ‘Doug Garrity was like my spark plug,’” Bowling said. ‘“Without him, I just don’t have the motivation.’

“None of us have ever been through this, and I’m glad none of us have ever been through this,” Bowling continued. “I wouldn’t wish this on anybody.”

A state champion during his playing days at Southeast High, who also played Division I-AA football at Eastern Kentucky, Hunter was named Braden River’s first head football coach in March 2005.

The Pirates played a junior-varsity schedule that fall, added two varsity games in ‘06 and experienced a major breakthrough this past season, when they made the playoffs for the first time and upset Palmetto in a Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinal game.

“He gave it everything he had,” Bowling said. “Josh taught these kids a lot — and not just what you saw on the football field. He taught them about discipline, taught them about respect. When I addressed the team (Thursday) morning, I told them, ‘Don’t forget what you learned.’ ”

Bowling said the Pirates took the news hard. There were approximately 40 players on the roster this past fall.

“It was rough,” he said. “The kids broke down.”

Braden River is scheduled to play a spring game May 28 at Riverview.

Bowling said Ed Volz, the team’s offensive coordinator, will take over interim coaching duties this spring.

“We’re going to take it slow this spring,” Bowling said. “This has been tough one everyone. . . . We’re just going to take it day by day.”