Jason Stokes has been named head football coach at Pasco High School. He is replacing Tom McHugh, who was forced out at the end of the 2018 season. Stokes coached Tampa Gaither to a district championship and most recently was head coach at Lake Region, in Polk County.

DADE CITY — In a search that lasted just under a month, Pasco High School has found its next head football coach — just in time for New Year’s.

Former Gaither and Indian Rocks Christian coach Jason Stokes has been named the Pirates next head coach, according to a tweet from Pasco High School Principal Kari Kadlub. Kadlub conducted the search, during which she vetted several notable candidates from all along the Suncoast.

Most recently Stokes was the head coach at Lake Region High School, in Polk County, which now has a vacancy to fill.

Stokes’ most notable work came when he was the head man at Gaither High School. While at the Hillsborough County school he led the Cowboys to a district championship and multiple playoff appearances.

Stokes has also been a head coach at Bloomingdales and Middleton.

Among those who were in the running for the Pasco job was former Hernando High Coach Bill Vonada, who is now the athletic director at Weeki Wachee High School. Another coach who threw his name into the proverbial hat was Bishop McLaughlin Head Coach Tico Hernandez, formerly the lead man at Wesley Chapel High School.

Replacing former Pasco Head Coach Tom McHugh will be a big task for Stokes. McHugh led the Pirates to seven postseason appearances before going four consecutive seasons with below .500 records.

McHugh coached the Pirates to the state semifinals in 2008 and 2011, in which Pasco came one game away from reaching the Class 3A and Class 5A state championships one time each.

McHugh was dismissed as football coach at the end of the 2018 season but remains the athletic director at Pasco.

Former Wesley Chapel defensive coordinator McHugh took over the Pasco program back in 2006, after the school dismissed Dale Caparaso, who is now head coach at Dixie Hollins High School, in St. Petersburg.