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Mark Kantor named new Hudson football coach (6:05 update)

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Thu. March 29, 2012 | Matt Baker | Email

Mark Kantor named new Hudson football coach (6:05 update)

After three job advertisements and weeks of searching, Hudson finally has its next football coach.

Hudson hired former Gaither coach Mark Kantor on Thursday to rebuild a Cobras team on a 22-game losing streak, athletic director Keith Newton said. Kantor replaces Justin Fenton, who resigned during winter break after two winless seasons.

“(Kantor) was exactly what we were looking for,” Newton said.

Hudson approached Kantor late last week after former Shorecrest Prep coach Phil Hayford turned down the job. Other applicants included former Gulf coach Jay Fulmer and former Hudson coach Mark Nash.

The school reposted the job this week and got “a ton” more out-of-state applicants, Newton said. But none were as strong as Kantor, who served as a Hudson assistant from 1999-2002.

“He brings the experience we were looking for,” Newton said. “He’s got plenty of energy.”

Kantor was Gaither’s head coach for nine seasons before being let go after the 2010 campaign. He compiled a 42-55 record and led the Cowboys to three consecutive playoff appearances.

Kantor, 38, thought about leaving the profession after his dismissal, but Wharton convinced him to join its staff as defensive coordinator last fall. Kantor’s time there reminded him that he wanted to keep coaching.

“I’ve got to prove something to some people,” Kantor said, “and I’m going to do it.”

He inherits one of the toughest jobs in Tampa Bay. Hudson is three years removed from the playoffs but has lost its last 22 games by an average of 30 points.

Newton said rebuilding the Cobras will take time. And after his meeting with Kantor, Newton said he thought the Pasco County resident and husband of Wiregrass Ranch volleyball coach Mindy Kantor was the one to lead the process.

“We’re looking for that commitment,” Newton said. “This was going to be more than a two- or three-year deal. He’s willing to do that.”

Hudson has been hurt by declining enrollment, a shrinking roster and the opening of nearby Fivay, which qualified for the playoffs last season in its first year of all-varsity football. Kantor is familiar with at least one of those problems. Steinbrenner opened 7 miles from Gaither under his watch.

Kantor said he doesn’t like returning to places he’s already been, so he wasn’t initially receptive to the thought of returning to Hudson. But he was flattered when Newton approached him and met informally with the AD over the weekend.

Kantor interviewed Tuesday and came around to the idea of becoming a head coach again with a chance to rebuild a program.

“I think coaching football and trying to resurrect a program is a challenge,” Kantor said. “Maybe the good Lord is telling me, it’s time for you to take a challenge and do that. So I am.”

Hudson is still figuring out the teaching assignment for Kantor, a history teacher at Wharton. The school is trying to get him in place as quickly as possible so he can meet his players before spring football.

Though the process took longer than Newton expected, the AD said he accomplished his ultimate goal — filling the job before school is out next week. Spring break begins Monday.

“My bet was to have it done before we went on spring break,” Newton said, “or I was going to have a miserable spring break.”

Matt Baker can be reached at mbaker@tampabay.com.

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