WILMINGTON - Zach McDannell did not have a long tenure as coach of the Wilmington High Boys Lacrosse team, serving just one season as the team’s head coach. He led the Wildcats to a 5-11 record last season, after serving as the junior varsity coach and assistant to Fran Peters the two previous seasons.
But that doesn’t mean that he hadn’t grown a great attachment to Wilmington High and to his Wildcats players during his brief tenure with the program.
That attachment to the program and to his players led to it being a very difficult decision for him to announce his resignation last week to take over as the head coach of the Revere High School Boys Lacrosse team.
In many ways, the decision was a no brainer for McDannell. He is a sixth grade geography teacher in Revere, where he also resides, so the opportunity to coach at Revere High makes all the sense in the world. Except for the part about leaving Wilmington High.
“The position opened up in Revere and it is a great opportunity to step into a growing program,” McDannell said. “But there was a lot of weighing of options, and talking to friends and family about what was the best thing to do. I have seen a lot of these kids in Wilmington grow as players and seen some go on to college and be successful, so it is hard to leave them.”
Wilmington head football coach Craig Turner, who is also the Wildcats junior varsity lacrosse coach and McDannell’s assistant, felt that McDannell made a lasting impression during his brief time as head coach.
“I thought he did an excellent job of putting his own stamp on the team,” Turner said. “It was his first head coaching job at the varsity level and I thought he did a good job of establishing a positive culture. Unfortunately for us, he is moving on, but I respect his decision to do move on, and I wish a him luck at Revere.”
McDannell, who starred in both hockey and lacrosse at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania where he was a two-time Adidas National All-American selection as a defender with the lacrosse team, is looking forward to his new opportunity in Revere. The Patriots were 14-4 last season before being eliminated in the first round of the Division 1 North Tournament.
“They have won the Greater Boston League the past couple of seasons, but they have not had success in the tournament,” McDannell said. “That will be our next goal, to improve our non-conference record. They lost a lot of seniors off of last year’s team, and the administration was honest with me about that, but this is a great chance to rebuild.”
While he will be rebuilding in Revere, he will also be keeping an eye Wilmington, where he is confident that more wins are the team’s and program’s future.
“I absolutely see them improving,” McDannell said. “Don’t ever count Wilmington out. The freshman class last year was big, and they’ve got a lot of talent. They play in a tough league and that is always a challenge, but never count out Wilmington.”
McDannell was the fourth coach in the 12-year varsity history of the Wildcats Boys Lacrosse program, and the third in the past five years, following Mike Fay (2008-11), Kieran Kavanaugh (2012-13) and Fran Peters (2014-2018).
While McDannell’s tenure was brief, the relationships he made while at Wilmington High will stay with him forever.
“Wins and losses are one thing, but the relationships you build with the players is the most important thing,” McDannell said. “What has been nice is that I have heard from some of the kids saying thank you and they know that if they ever need anything all they need to do is call or text me.”
Turner is not surprised that players reached out to McDannell to offer their support, as he saw a great connection between McDannell and the Wildcats players.
“When we first introduced Zach as head coach, the kids were very excited. He had a great connection with the kids,” Turner said. “The kids all played hard for him, and that is the true measure of a coach, is if the kids are willing to put it all on the line for you. And in the case of Zach, they definitely were.”
As McDannell moves on from Wilmington High, he wanted to acknowledge the school administration who offered him his first head coaching job at the varsity level.
“I am very thankful for the opportunity given to me by Wilmington High School,” McDannell said. “It helped me grow as a coach and I am very grateful for that.”