In its search for a football coach, Countryside reached to its past.
The Cougars hired Jared Davis, a 2002 graduate who was an offensive lineman at the school. He replaces John Davis, who left for a job at Clearwater Central Catholic.
"This is the one job I've always wanted," Jared Davis said. "It's home."
Davis, 26, worked as an assistant coach at Countryside from 2002-04. After that he was a graduate assistant at USF for four seasons (2005-08). Last season, he returned to high school coaching as the defensive coordinator at Gibbs.
While there, Davis helped the Gladiators go through a remarkable transformation in which they won a district title for the first time.
"Jared did a great job for us, and I'm sad to see him go," Gibbs coach Donnie Abraham said. "Everyone wants to coach at the highest level and he is walking into a great situation."
He became a hot coaching candidate after that and was a finalist for the Tarpon Springs job last month.
"I interviewed at Tarpon Springs, but I was hoping to be here," Davis said of Countryside.
Davis' family has always been involved in athletics. His father, Jeff Davis, was an assistant baseball coach at USF and St. Petersburg College and became athletic director at SPC.
"I grew up in the area and I always thought it would be cool to take over at my alma mater and live out that dream," Davis said. "I didn't think that would happen for a while because no one could foresee John leaving to go somewhere else."
Countryside had nearly 90 applicants for the job. Nine candidates were interviewed before the list was whittled down to three finalists: Davis, Largo defensive coordinator Matt Lepain and Dixie Hollins head coach Mike Morey.
Davis takes over a program that loses 32 seniors from a team that advanced to the Class 5A region finals, where the Cougars lost to eventual state champion Plant. But there is a strong nucleus of returners, including offensive tackles Tyler Moore and Tyler Pierson, linebacker Terry Johnson and defensive back Alex Dixon.
With just more than three weeks left before the start of spring practice, Davis will have to move quickly to put a staff in place. He plans to keep a lot of assistants from last year's team.
"There are some good things in the works there, and I want to make the transition as seamless as possible," Davis said.