Football coaches Joe Battaglia and Scott Van Zile both are going back to high school — sort of. The good news is it’s for work.
Battaglia was an assistant at six different college programs before taking over as the head coach at Concordia Prep in Lutherville, Md., while Van Zile was an assistant at the college level for 20 years before taking over at St. Paul’s in Brooklandville, Md. Concordia Prep and St. Paul’s both compete in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference.
Battaglia’s most recent stop was Navy, where he worked as a defensive analyst for the past three seasons. His father, Buzz, was long a part of the Cockeysville Recreation Council in addition to working as an assistant at Gilman under the guidance of Sherm Bristow and Biff Poggi.
Joe Battaglia played for the Greyhounds before graduating in 2004. He played his college ball at Guilford and graduated in 2008. He then bounced around as an assistant, but now Battaglia will be the man in charge.
“I kind of always wanted to come back and take over a program … and lay my own mark,” Battaglia said. “I always wanted to do this, and this time just seemed right.”
It’s been a strange time in recent weeks for Battaglia. He and his wife, Kim, had their first child, JJ, but they lost everything in an apartment fire. Now comes the fun financial stuff.
“We’re fine and we’re safe,” he said. “Lost everything and am working with the insurance company to make a recovery.”
For now, the family has moved over to Sparks, Md., and he’s begun to meet with his team virtually. The Saints are due to start voluntary workouts during the last week of July. They’ll try to improve on last season’s 5-5 record.
Though Battaglia does have some head coaching experience with USA Football, he’s ready to take charge of a program for the first time at Concordia Prep.
“I think any time you do something for the first time … you’re never ready until you do it,” Battaglia said.
Battaglia also said he’s glad that the MIAA indicated it is delaying the start of the season. Preseason practices are on hold until on or after Sept. 1, and competition won’t start until on or after Sept. 21.
“I like that we have a plan,” Battaglia said. “If it doesn’t work, we can kick it down the road.”
St. Paul’s Van Zile coached at Towson from 2017-2019, serving as passing coordinator, recruiting coordinator and quarterbacks coach last year. He helped guide players like Tom Flacco, the younger brother of former Ravens signal-caller Joe Flacco. Van Zile also played at Towson, graduating in 1999.
At St. Paul’s, Van Zile will work with quarterback Scott Smith III, a rising senior who recently committed to Towson.
Van Zile and Battaglia have long had similar goals. They both wanted to be head coaches, and they went back to high school level to achieve that after working as assistants at the college level.
“I think being a head coach was something I aspired to,” Van Zile said. “I was fortunate to be around some very good head coaches.”
The only difference between these two coaches is Van Zile coached as an assistant at just three places — 14 years at Monmouth and three at Elon before moving to Towson.
Now, Van Zile is leading the Crusaders, and he’ll be working under the same schedule as the rest of the MIAA.
“I think that’s a good first step,” he said. “Now everyone knows this is when it’s going to get started, and this is when it’s going to get going.”
To say Van Zile came from a coaching family is a huge understatement. His father, Mike, coached at three high schools in 30 years and is in the Directors of Athletics Association of New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Van Zile said he always worked in situations where he was given plenty of autonomy, which is important for an assistant coach.
Now as a head coach, he has to learn everything about everyone. He is putting together a staff and should be meeting his players soon. St. Paul’s was just 2-7 last year, although the team has been very good in the past. The Crusaders won MIAA B Conference titles in 2012 and 2013.
“St. Paul’s has great traditions in [many ways],” he said. “I don’t think there’s a need for a complete overhaul. To run a program, and run it well, it all takes work.”
The new coaches are looking forward to the challenges that await them, but right now, both coaches are simply hoping the season gets played. As mentioned, the MIAA has delayed the start of the football season by a few weeks, but entire situation remains up in the air.
However, if the players hit the field, the two new coaches are going to work hard to have their new teams ready to go. After all, what new coach doesn’t want a big first season?
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Navy Athletics and Towson Athletics