11 State Titles. 32 District Titles.
“From afar, [we were] always looking and seeing – with envy! Outright envy!” laughs former Ponte Vedra head football coach Matt Toblin. “…of what Bolles was and what it represented.”
“We had a lot of continuity. We had a coach from Notre Dame come in here a couple years ago and say ‘you know I recruit and travel all over the country and you guys are by far the oldest staff,’” smiles now-former Bolles School head football coach Wayne Belger. “Mike’s been here forever, John Howard. We were all together and we all knew what was gonna happen in practice.”
But for the first time in 30-plus years, it won’t be Belger or his legendary predecessor, Corky Rogers, leading practice at the Bolles School.
It will be Toblin, the Mandarin native who’s had a self-proclaimed “massive man crush” on the Bulldogs’ program for years.
“Can I promise you that I’m gonna plug in and everything’s gonna happen the same exact way its ever been? No, I can’t promise that. But I do not want to rip apart and start from scratch when the foundation – the high-rise! – is already built,” Toblin said.
For as much as Bolles continues to “set the standard” – Toblin recalls going to watch Bolles’ postseason practices as a “right of passage” for upcoming coaches in the area – it has now been nine years since their last state championship in 2011.
If nothing else, Toblin, an “outsider” by many accounts, brings a change of energy – as well as perspective.
“The longer I am here, the longer I understand this place, the more I understand – look, the gate is open for those who want to challenge themselves and put themselves in uncomfortable positions,” Toblin said.
Because even at the Bolles School, there’s always room to grow.
“I hope they’re very successful. I hope it keeps on,” Belger smiled. “There’s another football out there [on the stadium wall] that needs to be filled with a championship on it.”