Zach Bevilacqua knows what it takes to compete in the Southwestern 4A conference.Bevilacqua played football at Butler High from 1998-2001, where he was an all-conference and all-state offensive lineman. He made the Shrine Bowl team and played at Elon University.But after his playing career at Elon was cut short by a shoulder injury, he discovered a passion for coaching as a graduate assistant for the Phoenix.After building his resume as an assistant coach at West Lincoln, North Lincoln and West Rowan, Bevilacqua, 30, said he believes his best opportunity to lead a program came when he was hired at Porter Ridge in April.“Everything about Porter Ridge has been awesome,” said Bevilacqua, who served as North Lincoln’s interim head coach in 2011. “I really feel like I’m going back to my roots in the SW4A. I still remember the rivalry games with teams like Independence, Myers Park and East Mecklenburg. I’m excited to be back (in the SW4A), which I believe top to bottom has some of the best coaches and best players every season, making it one of top leagues in the state.”Porter Ridge athletic director Bill Rogers said, “We believe his knowledge and experience in coaching and competing in some of the best conferences and with some of the best teams in the state will help us a lot. Even at a young age, he’s got a great game plan to run a program together.”Bevilacqua is inheriting a Porter Ridge program that has established itself as a state power since opening in 2005.The Pirates’ winning tradition started under coach Blair Hardin, who went 40-5 with two 4A state runner-up finishes in his final three seasons (2010-12). Greg Neuendorf led the Pirates to an 8-5 overall record, including a 4-2 mark in the program’s first season in the SW4A.Bevilacqua has great expectations but also hopes to bring stability to a team playing for its third head coach in three years.Bevilacqua, originally from Mint Hill, says he plans to be at Porter Ridge for a while and that it is “not a stepping stone” for him.Bevilacqua and his wife, Christen, already are in the process of selling their home in Huntersville and looking for a new house in Indian Trail.“It’s not often you get the opportunity to take over a program that has been winning consistently, but I’d much rather come into a situation where the expectations are high,” said Bevilacqua, who has three children, with a fourth due in October. “I’ve been in the pressure cooker at places like West Rowan. The pressure to be successful and to win is something you want to feel. I believe winning is infectious, and these guys already know how to win.”His players are equally as excited about their new head coach.“It’s definitely been tough at times to have three coaches in three years,” said Porter Ridge senior linebacker Collin Henderson. “But we really feel like we have a great coach now who will not only be here for a while but will help take us big places this year. He pushes us as hard as we’ve ever been pushed. He wants us to be the best.”Senior tailback Grant Vandervoort said he believes the players also have to do their part.“We love coach Bev already, but it’s not all on him,” Vandervoort said. “The leaders and the seniors on this team have a big responsibility to make sure we do everything we can to keep this tradition going.“The players are the ones with the helmets on Friday night. We have to be ready to fight for every inch on every play.”Bevilacqua already has made a lot of progress in getting to know his coaching staff and players through workouts, working in the weight room and 7-on-7 play.Bevilacqua’s background as an offensive lineman and offensive line coach will influence his team’s approach, starting up front, where five different starting Pirates offensive linemen return: Matt Donahue, Joe Delgiudice, Eric Hogan, Piero Lopez and Drew Neely.Vandervoort, who rushed for 782 yards last season at fullback, shifts to the tailback spot, while junior Adam Chase should provide a spark at fullback.The Pirates likely will break in a new starting quarterback in junior Tyrek Huntley, but he will have receivers like senior A.J. Barrett to lean on.Bevilacqua will call the plays as offensive coordinator in addition to coaching the offensive line.“We’re excited about playing power football,” Vandervoort said. “We not only have a great offensive line, but we feel we can outwork other teams.”While there is a lot yet to be determined about the 2014 season, Bevilacqua is excited about the Porter Ridge football environment.“The thing about Porter Ridge that I really love is the home-team feel surrounding the program,” said Bevilacqua. “The parents, the players and the entire community have accepted (Porter Ridge) as their home team and helped make Porter Ridge a big deal.“I can’t wait to see what it’s like be a part of this team in ‘The Boneyard’ on Friday nights.”
Tuesday, Jul. 01, 2014
Butler graduate Zach Bevilacqua wants to keep Porter Ridge on a winning track
Porter Ridge’s Zach Bevilacqua
Coaching experience: West Rowan assistant (2012-13); North Lincoln interim head coach (2011); North Lincoln assistant (2007-10); West Lincoln assistant (2006); Elon graduate assistant (2005).
Head coaches he worked or played under: Scott Young (West Rowan); Matt Beam (North Lincoln); Mark Hoover (West Lincoln); Paul Hamilton (Elon); Al Seagraves (Elon); Barry Shuford (Butler).
Playing experience: Elon (2002-04); Butler High (1998-2001).
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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