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Vasilchek hits ground running at Luella

By Doug Gorman

dgorman@news-daily.com

Luella High School's Nick Vasilchek always knew he was destined to be a head football coach.

He just wasn't so sure it was going to happen this soon.

Vasilchek, who only graduated from Kentucky Wesleyan in 2002, even had a career blue print in mind that would eventually help him land his dream job.

"My whole plan was to go out and interview for an offensive coordinator's job. Becoming a head coach was like in the 10-year plan. I never thought it would happen this early," he said.

So much for a career strategy.

After serving the past four years as Luella's offensive line coach, Vasilchek has already landed that dream job now that he's the Lions' new head coach.

The swift change came when former coach Paul Burgdorf suddenly resigned, taking the job at Union Grove, Luella's biggest rival.

Burgdorf had been the only head coach the Luella football team had ever known, serving in that capacity since the school opened its doors in 2003.

So with Luella needing a new football coach, the door sprung wide open for Vasilchek to land his first head coaching job, albeit sooner than expected.

All he had to do was convince school officials he was ready for the chance despite his young age.

When all was said and done, the former assistant coach scored a "touchdown" during the interview process.

"I knew the kids, and I had a basic idea of what they needed," he said. "I knew the program and the facilities, and how we wanted to change things around. I also knew how the school spirit toward football needed to get better."

It also helped that Vasilchek had a vision for the school's football program, and he expressed it during the interviews.

"I didn't want to come out of the process and feel cheated," he said. "I don't know if it helped, but I was able to convey my ideas during the interview.

First and for most, the Lions' energetic new football coach knows it will take time to get the program where he wants it.

It was something he sold to the Luella administration while being interviewed.

Vasilchek inherits a program mixed with both veteran and inexperienced players.

"I have worked with most of these kids," he said. "They know what to expect from me. I think they already trust me. If I had taken a job at a new school, that would have taken some time to earn that trust."

Luella made its only playoff appearance two years ago, but slipped back a year ago with a 4-6 record.

One thing is for sure, Vasilchek's club faces some tough challenges as a member of Region 2-AAAAA if it hopes to get back to the postseason.

The league has been realigned and six of the eight teams made the playoffs last year.

"We sometimes call Region 2-AAAAA the SEC of Georgia High School football," Vasilchek said when talking about how tough the league is going to be this season."

Still, confidence is high inside the Lions' football offices and it can be felt among the players.

"Coach Vasilchek is mixing things up," senior running back/linebacker J.T. Howard said. You have to be accountable for everything you do. I love coach B, but Coach Vasilchek is getting it done. I think we are going to be very successful this year."

The Lions' new coach will run a multiple offense and a 3-5 defense as he gets ready to jump into his new role.

Although Luella wasn't picked to win many games at a recent Region 2-AAAAA media day, the cupboard is still loaded with talent.

Running back Marcus Dallas, Howard, offensive tackle, A.J. Colestock, guard Tafarie Hodge and kicker Grant Palmer are all considered college prospects among this year's senior class.

"We are not picked very high by a lot of people," Palmer said. "That's fine. That's the way we like it. We can sneak up on some people."

Teammate Orlando Brown, a junior tackle, knows what it's going to take to make it a successful season.

"We just have to go out there and give 110 percent," Brown said.

The Vasilchek era begins at Luella when it hits the road for a game at Jones County on Aug. 27.