Greg Neuendorf has never been one to back down from a challenge.When he interviewed for the Porter Ridge head football coaching vacancy, he wasn’t intimidated. He knew he would replace former Pirates’ head coach Blair Hardin, now at Freedom High. Hardin had posted a 40-5 record over the last three seasons and had back-to-back trips to the 4A state championship game. Both times his team finished the season as state runner-up.Neuendorf officially became the Porter Ridge head football coach June 5 – and with that job comes high expectations.“I’ve been a competitor my whole life and I always want to challenge myself, compete against the best and see what I can do,” Neuendorf said. “It’s rare in high school coaching that you get an opportunity to take over a program that is healthy and going in the right direction, like at Porter Ridge. I don’t need to change a lot here, because when the wheel isn’t broken, you don’t need to fix it. We just need to keep it rolling.”Neuendorf, 32, has the pedigree to keep the Pirates at a high level. He has lived on a high school football field since he was 5 years old, where he grew up dreaming of his football future while helping out at the practices of his father, Doug, at Toledo Bowsher High in Ohio.Neuendorf went on to a be a standout quarterback first at Sylvania Southview High in Ohio and then at the Division III Denison University, where he was one of the top passers in the nation. He threw for more than 3,000 yards in consecutive seasons.Neuendorf’s talents on the field quickly translated to the sideline. He started first as an assistant at Hilliard Davidson High, also in Ohio, and then quickly moved to head coach of Winston Churchill High in Maryland.Neuendorf then headed south, following his wife Amanda’s career to North Carolina. There, he got the head football coaching job in 2009 at what then was the new Cox Mill High School. He suffered through a 1-10 opening season, but Neuendorf quickly got the Chargers program rolling. They went 7-5 in year two, 8-4 in year three and 7-5 last year – including a win over 3A state runner-up Concord.Neuendorf and his new boss, Porter Ridge athletic director Bill Rogers, say all these experiences have the new Pirates’ coach ready for his next step.“We feel very good about hiring a coach with the experience and qualities of Greg Neuendorf,” Rogers said. “He is still a young guy, but (like Coach Hardin) has been around the game his whole life. This is a formula that has worked for us before. We feel great about Greg leading this program.”One thing that should help Neuendorf is continuity. He has already retained four Porter Ridge assistants, starting with defensive coordinator Mike Hertz, as well as keeping Greg Lair, Danny Whitley and Tony McKinney on the bill.Neuendorf runs the same triple-option offense, while also mixing in the passing game.The Porter Ridge offense is good hands with senior tailback Jerrick Robbins (1,313 yards and 13 touchdowns last year) back to lead the way. Junior quarterback Isaiah Hicklin also should be a key player. When Hicklin goes to the air, he will have several good options, led by Luke Bayly (42 catches, 10 touchdowns in 2012) and Isaiah Duffy (27 catches in 2012).The Porter Ridge defense will have middle linebacker Nick Vagnone back as a key leader; Bayly, Devyn Cunningham, and Casey Hardison also will be vital players.“We have a lot of players who understand what it takes to compete at the highest level,” Neuendorf said. “But to keep this thing going, we have to be at our best.”Porter Ridge’s biggest challenge may be their new conference. They are moving from the Southern Carolinas Conference (with Union County rivals like Marvin Ridge, Sun Valley, Weddington) to a brand new 4A conference that will include 4AA state champion Butler, Independence, East Mecklenburg, Garinger, Myers Park and Rocky River.The Pirates also will keep Union County rivals, Sun Valley and Piedmont, on the schedule and add Providence and South Mecklenburg.“We know the biggest question coming into this season is can we compete in our new conference,” Neuendorf said. “But we are not only excited about the challenge, but excited to prove that we can play with these teams.“Our number one expectation is to play good football at Porter Ridge. The game still comes down to who can block better, who can tackle better and who takes care of the ball. If we do all of those things well, the results will follow.”
Friday, Jun. 14, 2013
New challenges don’t scare Porter Ridge
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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