By FRANCIS FEDOR
The USF Bulls are now a game past the halfway point of the season and have acquitted themselves well after going out and making a splash by signing head coach Alex Golesh. South Florida had Alabama on the ropes in the biggest game for the program in a number of years and hit the midway point at 3-3, a big improvement already over its one-win 2022 season.
Coach Golesh is said to have a goal of keeping local talent local, and I had a chance to catch up with one of those local talents on a recent visit to the USF campus. I sat down with Dominic Gonnella for an interview and found him to be a very gracious player with a firm grasp of his goals. Gonnella is a Riverview native who was a two-sport star at Bloomingdale HS from 2016 to 2020. He is pursuing a degree program in Communications and hopes to use it in a way to help athletes stay grounded mentally.
Gonnella played football, being a three-time all-conference player, and baseball, earning conference honors twice. He finished his HS baseball career with a .353 batting average with his best season being the 2017-18 season where he hit .387 with 29 hits, going long ball twice, and scored 12 runs over 26 games, good enough to be recognized as the team’s offensive MVP. Gonnella recounted how his first HR was one of his most memorable moments as a Bloomingdale Bull, as he had just lost his grandfather. Gonnella was solid in the field and only recorded two errors in 59 chances from his spot in the outfield. I asked him what advice he would offer to a young kid who aspires to what he has achieved; he said that his advice would be to “play the game” and “have fun doing it.” He was a key contributor in that ’17-’18 season where the Bulls went 18-8, 6-2 for first in the district. The season ended with a 3-1 loss to Plant to end their playoff run. He referenced Plant as the team that was one of their bigger rivals.
Dominic Gonnella was also a star RB for Bulls football. He was a 4-year starter at running back. His best HS football season came in his freshman season, where he racked up nearly 900 yards of total offense, falling short by only two yards of that total. Gonnella was a key contributor with 89 yards per game of offense with the majority of that coming on the ground. Bloomingdale went 6-4 in the 2016 football season. The best season for the Bulls was the 2018 season with an 11-2 (only one loss in the regular season) record and playoff wins against Riverdale and Palmetto. Their season ended with a 57-32 loss to Venice.
Gonnella chose North Dakota State to begin his college football career, played in all nine games of the spring season and was the Bisons leading rusher with 91 carries and 495 yards with two TDs. He was named to the Missouri Valley Football Conference Honor Roll. He played two regular seasons before making a decision to leave ND to return to the Tampa area.
We talked about his choosing to return home, leaving North Dakota State, and he joked that it was cold, something we can all relate to as one of the reasons we chose Florida. Clearly playing close to family is a benefit. Gonnella talked about what he viewed as his role with the USF Bulls as supporting the players ahead of him on the depth chart. He has made an impact from his special team’s role, making four tackles so far this season. He had a very successful career at RB at both Bloomingdale and North Dakota and clearly is looking forward to getting an opportunity to take RB snaps, but he is patient and knows his time will come. He is an asset to the Bulls, in both what his attitude brings to the success of the team and what his skills will bring when the time comes for him to step into his natural role at RB for the USF Bulls and move them toward the goal of playing in and winning a bowl game. Dominic Gonnella is a star and a role model for all of the South Shore’s athletes.