CHARLOTTE – The Ardrey Kell football team had just two coaches during its first nine years as a program, but after Kyle Brey left to accept a job at IMG Academy in Florida last month, the Knights were left to search for their fourth head man in the past six seasons.
The search was vast, but the best man for the job was already on staff as Ardrey Kell announced defensive coordinator Greg Jachym as its newest coach.
Jachym, 34, has been at the school for 12 seasons working with the linebackers and making his way up through the ranks to eventually calling the defense.
This is Jachym’s first head coaching job, but it seems like the ideal time to take the leap.
“I’m super excited and I’m super proud to be the head coach here,” he said. “There were other opportunities before, but it just wasn’t the right time personally or in my career. There never was a right time, but with this one I was 100 percent sure I wanted to go for it and I thought I was the right man for the job.
“I’ve been here for so long and I’ve put so much time and work into it and I have overwhelming pride in what we’ve done. I love this community and these kids and I want to protect what we’ve built here.”
Jachym said Brey’s departure was tough on the kids at first. There was some negativity and minor resistance to change in the beginning but the coaching staff rallied to hold everyone together.
“One of the challenges was telling the players, ‘Guys, we have to stick together through this,”’ Jachym said. “We worked hard and tried to focus on controlling everything that we could control and not worrying about the rest of it. They did a great job of that.”
Jachym points to last season as a perfect example of the resiliency this team can show, something that has him very excited for 2019.
In 2018, the Knights went 0-5 to start the year with losses to state champion Weddington and Charlotte Catholic along with tough games against Myers Park, Marvin Ridge and Hough.
Jachym said after the final game of that stretch – a 38-6 loss to Hough after Catholic won 51-0 the week before – was the turnaround moment as the team was excited to play conference games.
In conference, the Knights went 5-1 and went on to win their first share of a league title in school history.
“Last year was one of the best coaching jobs I’ve been a part of,” Jachym said. “We knew we had a very tough out-of-conference schedule to open the year and that we’d lose a few games. For us to look at ourselves and know that we had to hold them together or we’d lose the team. We held them together and kept them working hard no matter what happens and they came out the other side conference champs. I’m very proud of that.”
Jachym said his class of 18 seniors will be the leaders, but the Knights have the makings of a very dangerous team.
Due to offensive line issues and other factors, the Knights struggled to run the ball a season ago. Jachym said he’s in the process of hiring an offensive coordinator to help breathe some life into a ground attack that averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and barely gained 1,000 yards collectively.
But the rest of the offense seems to be in place.
Quarterback Jared Joseph took over midway through the season and threw for 853 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception.
Michael Hetzel, rising junior Jaden Ancino and rising sophomore Henry Bowen were the Knights’ top three rushers and all return.
North Carolina commit Cedric Gray (55 receptions, 891 yards and 10 touchdowns) and Hetzel (57 catches, 840 yards and six touchdowns) return as the leading pass catchers for Joseph.
Defensively, rising junior Steven Bauer led the team with 114 tackles, but five of the top six leading tacklers return in Bauer, Malik Mustapha, Kacy Seegers, Gray and Isaiah Maxey.
Bauer and Gray led the team in sacks and Mustapha’s four interceptions topped the team.
So the pieces are in place to win now, but Jachym wants to start small.
“We’re going to pride ourselves on working hard and nobody is going to out-work us. We’re going to control the things that we can control,” he said. “I’m going to really emphasize the fundamentals of football – blocking, tackling, catching and throwing the football. It doesn’t matter what scheme you run, if you don’t do those things well, you’re not going to win. So before we even worry about scheme, we’re going to worry about getting great at those fundamental things.”
Jachym knows his role and relationship with players will change as he’ll look over discipline and the day-to-day, behind-the-scenes duties of a head coach. He’s not calling the defense anymore, handing that over to long-time assistant Curtis Walker, who he says will run a very similar defensive scheme to what they’ve been running.
With a new offensive mind coming in, that side of the ball may look a little different but Jachym isn’t concerned with any of it.
He’s sitting in his dream post and he’s ready to stabilize a program that could really use it.
And Jachym thinks he’s the guy to provide it.
“We have great kids here and I always talk about protecting the program and protecting what the people who have come before you have started,” Jachym said. “I’m part of a lot of the history here and I’m very proud of it and I want to protect it. Everything I do I am protecting the program and representing Ardrey Kell football the right way.”