TAMPA, Fla. - The Berkeley Prep Buccaneers football team is playing in their first-ever state championship game.
"They have been remarkable," says long-time head coach Dom Ciao about his group of classmen that headline the team.
Equally remarkable, this will be Ciao’s first return to the state championship since 1992, when he coached the Jesuit Tigers. A win in the 3A title game would be his first in his five decades of tutelage.
Any extra pressure?
"No. I don’t think so," says Ciao, adding jokingly, "I’m too old to have extra pressure. Excited at the opportunity… you know you have a chance."
Coach Ciao has coached generations of players in the Bay Area over the years, imparting and conveying lessons that extend far beyond the limitations of the football field.
"My father played for him, my brothers played for him, says senior linebacker Tre Reader. "I think he’s the best. I’d do anything for that guy."
The valuable lessons he’s passed along to his fellow coaches are also testimony to his influence. Robert Weiner coached on Ciao’s Jesuit staff in the 90s before winning four state championships as the head coach at Plant High School.
Weiner says regardless of the outcome of the 3A State Title game against Chaminade-Madonna, Ciao’s legacy is established.
"I don’t think it takes any state championship to recognize that Dom Ciao is the greatest highs football coach in the history of the state of Florida," he says.
The game will be on Dec. 10 in Tallahassee.