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Flora Out As Sleepy Hollow Football Coach

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January 21, 2024

By Tom Pedulla–

   In a decision charged with controversy, Sleepy Hollow High School is searching for a new varsity football coach following an abrupt end to Jerry Flora’s three-year stint.

   Although Flora was unable to reverse the fortunes of the long-suffering program, finishing with a combined 7-21 record, at least some members of the community were shocked and upset when Athletic Director Michael Arias announced Jan. 17 that the veteran coach was not being retained.

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   Eugene Arduino was so dismayed that he resigned as president of the Horsemen Football Boosters Club. “We agreed to disagree,” he said. “I thought it best to step out of the way and let other people take the reins.”

   Frank Antich, president of the Horsemen Alumni Committee, was more emphatic in voicing his displeasure. “We’re shocked, angry, disgusted, the alumni and everyone,” he said.

   Jason Duggan, who worked with Flora on reinvigorating the youth program with an eye toward developing a strong feeder program for the high school, said many in the community were blindsided by Arias’ decision.

   “It definitely caught me off guard the same way it did a lot of people,” he said. “I hear there are a lot of people upset about it and complaining to the school, to Arias.”

   Duggan said he had spoken to Flora, who said he was not given a concrete reason for the move. Although Duggan said he believed many players are upset about losing their coach, efforts to interview any players were unsuccessful.

   Flora, whose extensive resume included time as head coach at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J., from 2008-2017, did not respond to several voicemails and texts requesting comment. The Horsemen struggled with records of 2-7, 2-8 and 3-6 in his three seasons. According to MaxPreps web site, they were outscored 286-146 last season.

   When The Hudson Independent sought comment from Arias, he responded with an email that read: “We don’t discuss the specifics of personnel decisions out of respect for the privacy of individual employees. So, beyond the contents of the email, I won’t have anything else to share with you on the personnel matter. I know that issues like this can be frustrating for you and for others who might want more of an explanation. But I hope you will respect the prudence of this position.

  “In the near term, I will be working with our administrative leadership team to advertise the position, exercise a recruitment and hiring process and ultimately make a recommendation to Dr. Sanchez for the preferred candidate. All of this will take place over the next several months.”

   Flora had said from the beginning that a turnaround would take time. Part of his focus was devoted to   improving programs at the youth level and encouraging participation at a very young age.

   “To build a football program takes a while. His plan was a four- to five-year plan,” Antich said. “I believe next season would have been a very winnable season and maybe even make the playoffs.”

   Arduino and Antich praised Flora for his emphasis on academics and community service. He created opportunities for players to showcase their abilities to college scouts. “We looked at many aspects in making a judgment about the program, not just the wins and losses,” Arduino said.

   Duggan thought Flora deserved more time. “I think he was headed in the right direction, getting the culture back, that pride,” he said. “I thought we had the right guy to get it going.”

   The Horsemen suffered a tremendous setback at the start of last season when star running back Brayden Richardson sustained a major knee injury in the opening game. They continued to play hard but never developed any consistency. They earned an impressive 31-13 Homecoming victory on Oct. 7th against Briarcliff-Hamilton but that was followed by routs at the hands of Pleasantville, 46-7, and Rye, 33-0.

   In a letter distributed on Jan. 17 to football families and boosters, Arias informed them that he would be taking a “new direction.” His letter went on, “Following each season, I dedicate considerable time to evaluate the individual sports within our school district. While individual team results are considered, the assessment involves looking at various factors that contribute to the overall success of each program.

   “As a result of this analysis, I have recommended to the superintendent of schools that we recruit a new head varsity football coach for the 2024 season. Dr. Sanchez has accepted that recommendation  and we will soon begin the recruitment process, with an expected appointment by the end of the current school year.”

   Flora was allowed to address his team for a final time at a players-only meeting on Jan. 18 in the school cafeteria.

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