Filling the football head coaching position at one area high school has created a vacancy at another.
Immokalee announced Tuesday that Rich Dombroski will take over its football program. Dombroski leaves Estero after five years.
With Dombroski leaving, the biggest challenge Estero will face is sustaining the momentum its former coach created. The Wildcats were 0-10 in 2008, Dombroski’s first season, but went 8-3 last year and made the playoffs for the first time in since 2001.
“There’s always a concern about taking a step back,” Estero athletic director Jeff Sommer said, “but we’re in great shape right now. I think it’s a very attractive job. The program has turned around, the work ethic has picked up, and expectations have been raised.”
Sommer posted the head coach’s opening Tuesday almost as soon as Immokalee announced it hired Dombroski. The AD said his goal is to have a new coach in place by April 1. The Wildcats will have to move quickly on the coaching search because spring break for Lee County public schools is March 25-29.
Dombroski addressed his players at Estero on Tuesday morning. He said it was difficult to leave the Wildcats after they made such strides the past five years, but that everyone at Estero was supportive.
“It was tough to talk to Coach Sommer and principal (George) Clover,” Dombroski said. “It’s one of those phone calls you dread making. They were both happy for me, which made the process easier. Sitting down with the kids was even tougher.”
Sommer credited Dombroski for remaining professional throughout his interview process with Immokalee. The coach told his athletic director from the start he was applying for the Indians’ job and kept Sommer updated.
In his time at the school, Dombroski brought once-proud Estero back to relevance. The Wildcats went to the state finals in 1998, and went to the regional finals in 2000 and 2001. Those were the program’s last winning seasons until last year.
“We hate to see him leave since he’s taken a program that had lost (23) in a row (in 2009) and turned it around,” Sommer said. “You never want to lose a good coach, but I understand the situation.”
Though they will part ways in March, when the coach officially starts at Immokalee, Dombroski and Sommer retain respect for one another and will remain friends.
“I’m going to miss him,” Sommer said. “He did a lot of great things for our school. I’ll be rooting for Immokalee every time except when they play Estero.”
Echoed Dombroski, “I’m proud of the kids of Estero and everything they’ve done. I expect what we’ve done over the past five years to keep going. I told the kids they’ll have at least one fan in Collier County.”