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Milestone an unexpected one for Trinity Christian coach Verlon Dorminey

Longtime Conquerors coach could hit 300-win mark on Friday night

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It took plenty of convincing Verlon Dorminey to get back into coaching.

Life was good. He was making a solid living working at a car dealership with his friends. Work days ended when Dorminey clocked out.

That’s when another one of Dorminey’s friends, Danny Andrews, reached out with an opportunity — come back to teaching and coaching at Trinity Christian. It was a grind Dorminey left five years earlier because the pay just wasn’t enough for a growing family.

“They called me and asked me if I’d be interested in taking the head job and I don’t know why they did that, they shouldn’t have, because I had absolutely no real experience in being the head coach,” Dorminey said. “[Andrews] talked me in to coming back and coach and he helped me. So, you know we just got a start, started working at it and keeping at it, staying after it just trying to figure it all out. And here we are.”

Here is on the doorstep of a milestone that Dorminey could have never projected back in 1991 when he returned to the program after five years away.

Dorminey is sitting on 299 career victories, with a shot at the milestone win on Friday night when Clearwater International Academy (3-0) visits the Conquerors (3-0).

Whenever No. 300 happens, Dorminey will be prepared. If it happens Friday, he’ll celebrate with family and friends just like they do every weekend — by sitting in front of a TV, watching college football and tracking how former Trinity players are doing.

While Dorminey downplays the mark — great players and great coaches get the credit from him — the accomplishment is significant in area history. While Rogers, who died in 2020 at 76, remains the most iconic high school coach in state history, Dorminey has stacked up wins and titles better than anyone locally but Rogers. His eight titles — including a record-tying four straight from 2013-16 — are second most in state history behind Rogers’ 10.

“You know what they say, if you want to be the best you’ve got to model yourself after the best, and good night, he is. He’s probably the best coach that’s ever coached in high school football in Florida,” Dorminey said. “He did a great job. If my name gets spouted in the same sentence as Corky Rogers, that’s humbling.”

Dorminey is in elite company. According to the Orlando Sentinel, only six other coaches in state history have cracked that mark. And only three coaches hit the 300-win mark at one school (Bill Castle has 453 victories at Lakeland, George Smith won 361 at St. Thomas Aquinas and Corky Rogers won 324 at Bolles).

“When you think 300 wins, you know, it hardly seems possible because it’s been that much fun and that rewarding and we’ve really enjoyed doing what we’ve been doing,” he said.

Dorminey, 64, accomplished that while building Trinity up from the small school on the Westside that had to pry him away from selling cars, into the second-most successful program of the 21st century. All eight Trinity state championships have come since 2002, right behind Aquinas’ nine since 2007. The Conquerors have become synonymous with churning out top recruits on an annual basis.

To think that it took a hard core sales job to get Dorminey to return to Trinity for a second stint seems almost unreal.

Dorminey started at Trinity in 1981 as a middle school PE teacher and eventually began coaching alongside then-Conquerors coach Dick Graybill. Teaching and coaching were a 10-month-a-year job and there was no pay for the summer months. When a friend from college approached Dorminey about filling that two-month gap working at a car dealership, he gave it a shot.

That two-month gap-filler in the summer wound up a lot more than that.

Dorminey said that he made more money in two months selling cars than he did in 10 teaching and coaching. And with his first daughter, Danielle, on the way, Dorminey and his wife, Marlene, opted for a career change in 1986.

Dorminey worked in the car business until 1991 when his friend, Danny Andrews, approached him about coming back to Trinity, and this time, as the program’s head coach. The Conquerors were coming off of a one-win season under Tom Messer — now Trinity’s pastor — when they sought out Dorminey.

Why, he said, was unclear to him. His resume was devoid of any varsity head coaching experience.

The Conquerors went 3-7 in Dorminey’s first two seasons before the program went independent in 1993-94. They returned to district play the following year and reached the state playoffs for the first time in 1995.

But 1997 was the statement year for Trinity and Dorminey.

The Conquerors ended Union County’s 52-game winning streak with a 31-28 victory in the Class 2A state playoffs. That Tigers squad was named the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Team of the Century.

Trinity was officially on the map.

That capped a five-year span when Trinity went a combined 42-6 and provided the bedrock for what was to come in the following years.

In 1999, Dorminey and the Conquerors beat heavyweight Bolles for the first time, and in the state playoffs, too. Trinity was the highest-scoring team in state history that season, racking up 689 points across 15 games. But the Conquerors lost in their state championship game debut to Frostproof, 6-0, a game that still makes Dorminey shake his head.

Dorminey led Trinity to its first championship in 2002 with a 42-7 blowout of Delray Beach American Heritage and the dynasty was born.

“Sometimes it seems like it’s been 61 years and sometimes it seems like it’s been three years,” he said. “It’s been very rewarding, just because I love what I do. I love interacting with these kids and coaching these kids and be a part of their lives. And the staff that we have now it’s just an incredible staff because half of, probably two thirds of have played for me. ... We really have a close knit, it’s a great bond, it’s a lot of fun to do.”

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.