Catawba Ridge found its first head football coach nearby.
Nation Ford offensive coordinator Zac Lendyak was named Catawba Ridge’s head coach on Monday, a move that will take effect July 1, 2019.
“I am really excited to get this position,” said Lendyak, who hasn’t been a varsity head coach before. “Being brand new and being apart of getting to be able to start the culture is really neat. I will know a lot of the kids. It feels like a natural fit.”
Catawba Ridge got 26 applicants. Principal Dee Christopher and athletic director Rick Lewis, who is still at Charlotte’s Myers Park until January, whittled the list down to five candidates, who all interviewed.
“Coach Lendyak stood out to our committee as a leader of high character and outstanding football acumen. He is a husband and father who takes his role as educator in our community very seriously,” said Christopher. “Coach Lendyak has high expectations for himself and will be a perfect addition to our new school as we seek to help every student be college and career ready.”
The 38-year old Lendyak led Nation Ford’s offense the last seven seasons, implementing a spread formation, pass-heavy attack. He oversaw the highly productive high school careers of Falcon QBs Dalton Helms, Cole Martin and Kirk Rygol, all of whom landed college scholarships.
When the Falcons didn’t have as strong an aerial attack this season, Lendyak showed his adaptability as a coordinator, shifting the team’s offense toward a run game focus. They set numerous school records behind a solid offensive line and a standout season from junior running back Nathan Mahaffey.
“We will probably run a similar offense,” Lendyak said. “We (Nation Ford) have shown we can throw it and we have shown in the past couple years we can run it. I feel like it (the offense) adapts well to the types of athletes we have in the area.”
In its first year, Catawba Ridge will have grades 9 thru 11, then all four grades the following school year.
The Copperheads begin varsity sports programs in the fall of 2019. They’ll join the South Carolina High School League as a member of Region 4-3A, along with Chester, Indian Land, Fairfield Central, Camden and Keenan, but they won’t play any of those teams in football next season and won’t be eligible for the state playoffs yet.
And, given Fort Mill’s explosive growth in recent years, Catawba Ridge probably won’t be a 3A school for long. Lewis said Lendyak was at the point in his career where he was ready to take the next step.
“What better way than to come in and you’re the first guy at the school,” said Lewis. “It’s gonna be a first of everything. He brings a lot of energy and it’s gonna be cool for him.”
Lendyak’s football team will play an independent schedule in 2019 because most teams in the area are locked into the second years of two-year game contracts. Lewis said he has nine games set in stone and is working on the 10th.
The Copperheads will play their rivals, Nation Ford and Fort Mill, in every sport next fall except for varsity football. Those rivalries will almost certainly commence in 2020.
Lewis said that roughly 600 students from Nation Ford will become Catawba Ridge students in 2019, including 25 to 30 football players. That familiarity will help Lendyak as he starts a football program from scratch.
“That is something I have to sell to the kids,” he said. “What we are about to do won’t be easy. But it is worth it. It is going to be a tough going, but you can’t shy away from that. I want to build a competitive football team. I want to build a program that understands what it takes to be successful both on and off the field. I am not going to sugarcoat things. It is going to be tough. We are going to work really, really hard to get this program up and running.”