Winter Park, Seminole coaches share mutual respect in region final

They'd root for each other during any other week in the high school football season.

But there's too much at stake this week when Winter Park's Tim Shifflet and Seminole's Don Stark share another Friday night at Showalter Field. This time, they'll be on opposing sidelines.


Stark will look accross the field to familiar faces when he leads the unbeaten Seminoles (11-0), ranked No. 2 in the Sentinel Super 16, on the road for a region final against the No. 5 Wildcats (9-3) at 7:30 p.m.

He served as a defensive assistant at Winter Park last season, after resigning from a successful head coaching stint at Orlando University. He left when he landed the Seminole head coaching position earlier this year.


Tonight's winner advances to next week's Class 8A state semifinal against either No. 3 Dr. Phillips or undefeated Vero Beach.

"I've had the privilege of working with him on three different occasions," said Shifflet, in his 10th season as head coach at Winter Park. "He's got a great football team. You're not undefeated for any other reason than being good and being well-coached."

Shifflet, the 13th head coach in Winter Park history, is in his sixth postseason run with the Wildcats.

The two coaches first crossed paths over a decade ago while working on George O'Leary's staff at UCF in the mid-2000s.

When Shifflet took over at Winter Park for local legend Larry Gergley in 2007, he entrusted Stark to run the offense in his first two years at the helm. The Wildcats promptly made it back to the postseason for the first time in three years in 2008.

Stark would spend the next six seasons coaching against Shifflet after accepting the University head coaching job in 2009.

"It goes without saying what a tremendous job he did there by turning that program around," Shifflet said.

Stark helped the Cougars qualify for the playoffs in back-to-back years but won just once against Winter Park during that stretch (17-14 in 2012).


Stark has yet to lose a game at Seminole. He is the 10th coach to lead the Seminoles to the playoffs since the program's first appearance in 1979.

Being this deep in the postseason is uncharted territory for Stark, who is prideful of the community support that's come with wins each passing week.

He's also well aware of the challenges that await against the Wildcats.

"Any team that's playing in the third round of the playoffs is a good football team," Stark said. "They've got good players and they've got good coaches, and I was fortunate enough to coach over there twice."

Neither coach is prone to taking much credit for their team's success. And to have them tell it, the familiarity of being colleagues one moment and rivals the next doesn't add any additional significance.

"No matter who you're playing at this stage of the game there's going to be some excitement," Stark said. "The players are the ones who will be on the field making the plays, and hopefully we get them in position to allow them the chance to be successful."