School Spotlight: Pensacola High School (Pensacola, FL)

Pensacola High School is a class 3A High School that plays in, naturally, Pensacola, FL. They are famous for being the oldest prep football team in the entire state of Florida, but the recent past has not been kind to them. They are led by new head coach Wade McKinney after a revolving door of coaches before this led to a string of poor results.

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McKinney is now the 5th head coach in 7 seasons for Pensacola High, and the Tigers are coming off of a winless campaign in 2023. However, coach McKinney might just be the perfect guy for the job. This is his first head coaching stint, but he has experience as an assistant coach at Pine Forest High School, Tate High School, and West Florida High School. In his time at both Pine Forest and Tate, the schools experienced expedient turnarounds and very quick success, so he knows what it looks like to help a school climb back to the top after reaching rock bottom. Pensacola High is the only school in the Pensacola area to have won a state championship, winning the 3A title in 2009. That title feels like a lifetime ago (and has been for some of the team’s current players), but with a promising new coach to lead the way, the future may be bright.

You’ve had success rebuilding programs as an assistant in the past. What have you learned about that process and what it takes to rebuild now that you’ve seen it multiple times before?

The main thing is having the right guys in the right place around you, the right coaches around you. Football is a big job, you can’t do it by yourself. You got to have 10-12 guys you can lean on in the trenches to get the job done.

What new challenges do you anticipate facing with your new position as head coach?

You just get pulled so many different ways as a head coach. An assistant can just focus on football. The head coach has to worry about everything from the food to the school, making sure everyone is going to class, the grades. There’s a bit more work to the head coach spot, but at the end of the day you have to win games.

What is your philosophy as a coach?

We like to run the veer out of the gun like we did back at Pine Forest. It’s a little dolled up, but we want to be able to run the clock. If we can control the clock, we can control the game. On defense, we want to be lined up and play fast more than anything else. If you’re good up front and are able to run the ball, that’s the key to everything.

How helpful do you think the big rising senior class you have will be for the culture and leadership for the team?

It’s huge to get these seniors to buy in. They’ve had a couple of different coaches. I really want to win for those guys more than anything. Those guys took it on the chin for the last couple years, and I think they are a good bit better than what they have shown on the field. I like the senior class we got. It’s a big senior class and they are buying in, so I think we’ll surprise some folks this year.

What got you into coaching in the first place?

It was just something I always liked to do. I played baseball and football in high school, so I was a two sport athlete and had always been a sports guy. I got into the car washing business at first, but decided to try out coaching high school football, got on the coaching staff at Catholic, and I’ve been doing this ever since.

There are also some particular players Coach McKinney told us about on his team.

AG Floyd – RB

6’2”, 210. Had a great spring and has a lot of colleges approaching him already. The size and tackle breaking ability is incredibly impressive.

Nehemiah Chance – OL

 6’5” 310, Also getting a lot of looks from colleges. They are expecting great things from him this year. Dude is a wrecking ball who plays to the whistle.

Dominique Hughley – WR, DB

Dude is a track star, a big 100 meter dash guy, and it shows. He is also very good with punt and kick returns.

Jamarcuz Fountain – QB

He’s a junior and very athletic, with they exact kind of skillset they want to run their offense.

Damien Sellers – MLB

 He is the leader of the defense. He played DL last year but they are moving him to Linebacker this year.