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Huge interest in Gulf football job

Gulf wrestling coach Travis DeWalt, Palm Harbor University girls basketball coach Dustin Bengston and former Springstead baseball coach Tony Zefiretto are among 43 applicants for Gulf's football job.

The Bucs have been without a coach since Nov. 30, when Keith Newton was fired. He had a 20-69 record in nine seasons, including 2-7 this past year.

The application deadline has passed. Principal Thomas Imerson said he will meet with assistant principal for administration Thomas Brochu and athletic director Paul Girardi to narrow the pool to seven to 10 candidates who will be interviewed during the next two weeks.

They hope to name a coach by the second week of February, Imerson said.

"The sooner, the better," Girardi said.

DeWalt has led Gulf's wrestling team to three consecutive Sunshine Athletic Conference championships. He has worked with the football team for six seasons, the past three as receivers and strength and conditioning coach.

Bengston has served as girls basketball coach and football assistant at PHU since 2001. A former girls swimming coach at Lakewood, he competed in the 200-meter freestyle at the 1996 Olympic Trials.

Zefiretto is a former Springstead and Central football assistant who led the Eagles baseball team to its only district championship in 1996. He has worked in professional sports in recent years, including a stint as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' group sales representative in 1999.

"I like coaching football," said Zefiretto, a former Port Richey resident who coached Lafayette in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a division title equivalent to a 6A in Florida in 1985. "I enjoy working with kids."

Two applicants pulled out of the running.

Former East Lake and Nature Coast Tech coach Tom Keeler, the Seminole's line coach this past season, said he informed Gulf on Monday he was withdrawing his name. Jasper County (S.C.) coach William Buldini accepted the job at Haines City, Imerson said.

Nearly half of Gulf's applicants are from out of state. They include Danny Adams, who oversaw a state championship squad (Lawrence County) in Mississippi and a state runnerup (Winfield) in Alabama; Thiel College coach David Lyon, a former University of Tennessee assistant; and Zachary Shay, a graduate assistant on Georgia's 2005 Outback Bowl squad.

Robert Schweid of Henderson, Nev., backed up Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino on Navy's 1960 Orange Bowl team that was ranked fourth in the nation. Matthew DiBernardo, football coach and assistant athletic director at Wyoming Seminary Collegiate Preparatory School in Kingston, Pa., previously served as equipment manager for three different Arena Football League teams, including the Tampa Bay Storm.

Other applicants with bay area ties include River Ridge running backs/linebackers/special teams coach Brian Wachtel, Clearwater Central Catholic offensive coordinator William Capanna, Dunedin co-offensive coordinator Samuel Vinson, Nature Coast offensive coordinator/special teams coach Keith Tincknell, Bayonet Point Middle School coach Kent Reed, Leto assistant Ezzard Bryant and Seven Springs Middle School coach Timothy Boggess.