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Golden Gate coach Mike DiGrigoli calls Friday night's 37-8 win over Immokalee "one of the biggest" in program history Andrew Sodergren, andy.sodergren@naplesnews.com, 239-263-4731

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When looking for a new head football coach Golden Gate High School athletic director wanted someone who could carry on the momentum created by Mike DiGrigoli, who recently resigned to spend more time with his family.

The Titans are coming off the third winning season since the school opened in 2004, but they've also focused on academics and community service. Not to mention the healthy booster club the program has built in recent years.

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To keep all that going, Golden Gate is turning to one of DiGrigoli’s assistants. Nick Bigica, defensive backs coach for the Titans last season, has been promoted to head coach.

It is the first head coaching job for Bigica, 35, who graduated from Gulf Coast in 2002. However, he’s well-versed in Collier County football. Bigica began coaching immediately after graduation, starting with the Gulf Coast freshmen. He moved to Palmetto Ridge when it opened in 2004 and worked his way up to defensive coordinator in his 14 seasons with the Bears. Last season was his first at Golden Gate.

The fact that Bigica has worked at all levels of a high school program was a big plus for Seitz.

“Nick is a detailed guy who has a good grasp of what we’re trying to do at our school,” the athletic director said. “We’ve been building and feel that we’re close to turning a corner. We’ve been lucky to have good assistants, and Nick is dedicated to putting in the time and an importance on education.”

Around 70 people applied for the Titans’ head coaching job, Seitz said. A hiring committee started its search by interviewing coaches already with the program. After sitting down with Bigica, Seitz and principal Tobin Walcott were so impressed that they didn’t do any more interviews. 

Bigica said he wants to ensure the program focuses on doing things the right way, not just on the field. He wants the Titans to excel in the classroom and in the community, and the coach wants to help all his players get into college.

“My goal always is to impact student-athletes in the best way I can on the biggest level possible,” Bigica said. “I don’t want them just to be good football players, I want them to be good people.”

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Bigica is Golden Gate’s fourth football coach. He will continue in his role as an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) inclusion teacher at the school. DiGrigoli was the program’s longest-tenured head coach, going 34-46 in eight seasons. In his first season with the team, Bigica helped the Titans go 6-4. It was their first winning season in four years and just the third in school history. However, Golden Gate missed the playoffs.

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The Titans have played in the postseason twice since the program began. Bigica hopes to have Golden Gate in playoff contention again next season, but it will be tough. The Titans lose 29 seniors from last year’s 72-person roster and return just one player who had any rushing or receiving yards in 2018.

“We play in a tough county.  The bar has been set high by a lot of teams here,” Bigica said. “We want to keep working hard and focus on our goal as a team – getting stronger and faster and getting better academically. If you do the little things right, big things happen. The biggest steps happen by doing little things along the way.”

That attitude is one of the biggest reasons Golden Gate has entrusted its program to Bigica.

“We don’t talk so much about wins and losses,” Seitz said. “Yeah we want to win, but are our kids carrying themselves in the right way and doing things the way they should be done? Nick has been part of (the program) and understands the value of that. We’re very excited that he will continue moving us forward in the right manner.”

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