Continuity in Coaching One Key to Garnet Valley Success
Tagged under: District 1, News, Playoffs
Willie McGonigle | December 1, 2022
Picture Provided by Coach Eric VanWyk
Except for the 2020 season when the Central League elected to not participate in the District One and PIAA postseason the Garnet Valley Jaguars have been a staple in the District One Playoffs. To find the last time that the Jaguars didn’t make an appearance in the postseason, you have to go back to the 2011 season.
The architect of the powerhouse that has become the Jaguars was Mike Ricci who amassed 261 wins in his career at Garnet Valley including a whopping 164 wins from 2006 to 2021. Ricci retired following the 2021 season which saw his Jaguars reach the 6A State Semi-Finals before losing to St. Joseph Prep.
Ricci notified the Garnet Valley community prior to the 2021 season that it would be his last and Athletic Director Seth Brunner knew exactly what he wanted, and what the Garnet Valley community needed in order to continue their success
“Community is such a big part of the success of the Garnet Valley football program that the only way a coach would be successful would to be one with the community,” Brunner said, adding “When Coach Ricci announced his intention to retire, we knew that we had one several assistants on staff that could be successful head coaches.”
Enter Eric VanWyk, a history teacher at Garnet Valley Middle School and the man just happened to have spent the previous decade guiding the Jaguars Freshman program while also serving as a Varsity assistant
VanWyk was the quarterback and co-captain of Ricci’s 2007 which went all the way to the PIAA 3A final before they fell to Thomas Jefferson. And he has great memories of that magical run that his team went on. “2007 was special because of the incredible support we received from our Garnet Valley community.”
One moment prior to the state championship game really sticks out in VanWyk memory “When we were warming up for the State Championship 8 school buses of crazy loud students showed up and it was one of the coolest moments.”
While VanWyk was familiar to his players, he surrounded himself with assistants who live and breathe Garnet Valley. A quick peek at the Jaguars football website you see not only did VanWyk keep nearly everyone from Ricci’s staff and that those assistants nearly all have at least four years of experience of the Jaguars staff. Three of those coaches Jeff Hill, Craig Stevenson, and Rick Stroup all bring over 30 years of coaching experience to the staff and have been there for VanWyk to consult with when needed.
“One of my main goals taking over the program was to keep this staff together. They are all excellent football coaches, but they are even better mentors and role models to our young men.” VanWyk said adding “I couldn’t think of better men to continue the tradition Coach Ricci created here at GV.
The Jaguars get to spend more then just time out on the field with some of their assistants six of them are also teachers in the school.
“Having six coaches as teachers in the High School has been so Important. We take pride in our players doing well in school, having character in the hallways, and being leaders in the classroom. Coach (Rich) Boyd, (John Paul) Battiste, (Marc) Panepinto, (Brian) Perlsweig, (Casey) Simpkins, and (Jeff) Hill have been my eyes and ears all season and I’m so thankful for their help.
VanWyk also has several members of the coaching staff from his playing days still on staff with Boyd, Lance Panarello, Julis Flynn, Greg Mink, Pat Evans, Stroup, and Battiste whom VanWyk said “all played a big role in my development as a player and person when I was in high school. It once again shows how special of a staff we have, to have stayed on for over 15 years.”
Some outside of the Jaguar program may have expected them to fall out after Ricci retired but that hasn’t been the case thus far this season the Jaguars have outscored their opponents by an average of 37-10. In the Central League, they have won over 40 straight games and this season beat their league opponents 315-65 or by an average 39-8.
When asked about the continued success the team has had this season VanWyk said “It really means how this senior class wanted to continue the tradition of excellence before them. The phrase they picked this year was ‘’prove it’’ and they certainly have held up to this belief.
The Jaguars who enter this weekend as the 2nd ranked team in 6A face their most difficult test of the season Saturday afternoon when they travel to Northeast High School to do battle with the number 1 ranked St. Joseph’s Prep Hawks in the State semi-finals. While the challenge is tough VanWyk, his staff, and the Jags can draw that Coach VanWyk says something feels similar to the 2007 season.
“The support by our school and community this year feels extremely similar to that (2007) season and we really appreciate it.
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, VanWyk has provided a glimpse of a promising future for many years to come for the Garnet Valley community.
“It has been so much fun to watch Eric grow as a coach since taking over the program and I am excited to see the continued growth for years and decades to come Brunner said.
2022 Garnet Valley Coaching Staff
Eric VanWyk Head Coach
Rich Boyd Jr Offensive Coordinator
Marc Panepinto Defensive Coordinator
Jeff Hill Defensive Line
John Paul Battiste Strength and Condition/ Running Backs
Dave Wrezesniewski Linebackers
Lance Panarello Defensive Backs
Julis Flynn Defensive Backs
Greg Mink Slot Backs/Kickers/Technology
Rick Stroup Offensive Line
Mike Frawley Wide Receivers
Craig Stephenson Linebackers
Pat Evans Offensive Line
Brian Perlsweig Tight Ends
Casey Simpkins Defensive Line
Dennis Becker Wide Receivers
Jon Flynn Quarterbacks
George White Slot
Joe Thomas Defensive Line
Chris Quintans Safeties
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