Grafton hires former Galax coach to guide football program

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  • Jared Van Acker played college football in Illinois
  • He coached the last three years at Galax in SW Virginia
  • Van Acker replaces Kevin Montini

YORK – As a husband, father, devout Christian and teacher, Jared Van Acker says family, faith and education come before football. But, as a former high school and college linebacker in Illinois, one who idolized Chicago Bears linebackers Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher, Van Acker's priorities shifted on the field.

"My linebacker corps in college was called `The Hit Squad,' " Van Acker said of his playing days at then Division II Quincy University in Illinois. "Our mentality was that we were going to hit you, but do it the right way, and help you up after the play."

Van Acker says he's brought that hit-em-hard mentality with him during six seasons coaching high school football. He'll look, now, to instill it at Grafton High.

Van Acker, 29, was announced Wednesday, as the new head football coach at Grafton. He succeeds Kevin Montini, who guided the Clippers to an 18-12 mark in three seasons, before resigning after the 2009 season to spend more time with his family.

Van Acker spent the past three seasons as head coach at Galax High in southwestern Virginia, guiding the Group A Division 1 school to an 11-19 mark. Prior to that, Van Acker served as defensive coordinator at Group A William Campbell, whom he helped win the 2005 Division 1 state title.

He describes Galax's program as "in shambles" when he took over in 2007, with only 30 players in grades 9-12 , no weight-lifting program and no 7-on-7 activities. He said that when he resigned, shortly after the 2009 season, there were 62 boys in the football program and two weight-lifting sessions daily in a refurbished weight room.

"We went 5-5 my first season, the first non-losing sesaon in four years," he said. "The last two years I've had to start seven freshman and sophomores, and we've struggled.

"I'm leaving Galax High School a much better football program all-in-all. Galax can't be considered a pushover any longer.

"But it was time for me to move on and seek out a great opportunity like Grafton High School."

Van Acker, selected from a pool of 12 applicants, will teach social studies and possibly art at Grafton. He said that after coaching at Galax, with about 360 students, he is excited about molding the talent in Grafton's student body of almost 1,300.

While at a recruiting showcase last weekened, Van Acker observed Joe Cibrin, the Clippers returning starting quarterback, and was impressed with his arm. Under Van Acker, the Clippers, 4-6 in 2009, will play a combination of Wing-T and spread offenses.

Van Acker said he likely will employ a 4-3 defense in the run-happy Bay Rivers. He will also continue to focus heavily on special teams.

In January, American Football Monthly published Van Acker's article on the "Loco" spread punt formation, out of which a team has the option to run one of seven fakes or simply kick the ball if they choose.

Van Acker met with Grafton's assistant coaches on Wednesday and will meet with the players for the first time next week. He will remain at Galax through the end of the school year, but plans to use vacation days to travel as often as possible to Grafton to supervise the weight program.

Van Acker is married to Kimberly Van Acker. They have a 15-month-old son, Caleb.


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