Ponchak steps down at Highlands to go back to college ranks

G. Michael Graham
G. Michael Graham
Mike Graham covers sports for LINK nky

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After one season leading the Highlands boys soccer team, Brandon Ponchak has resigned to go back to the college ranks.

Ponchak accepted a position with the Jacksonville State University women’s soccer team to be an assistant. The Gamecocks have a new head coach in Sean Fraser after finishing 3-13-2 overall and 1-7-2 in conference play last year.

Prior to his stint at Highlands, Ponchak was an assistant with the Northern Kentucky University men’s program.

“It was something I just couldn’t pass up,” Ponchak said. “I can’t say enough of how awesome it was to coach the group of guys that I had for the one year and the support that we had as a program overall. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity – one that was cut unexpectedly short. I didn’t expect to leave. But sometimes things happen.”

Ponchak wants people to know the family is not leaving Northern Kentucky. Dixie Heights promoted Ponchak’s wife Kellie to the head coach of the Dixie Heights girls soccer team.

Highlands finished 14-5-3 in Ponchak’s lone season leading the team. The Bluebirds won their seventh straight 36th District Tournament championship beating rival Newport Central Catholic for the 14th time in a row. Highlands then knocked off Beechwood in the 9th Region quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals to eventual region champion and state semifinalist Ryle. Highlands was on an 11-game undefeated streak leading into that loss to Ryle.

“I think it was coming in there and making a good relationship with some of the players,” said Wes Caldwell, Highlands Athletic Director. “In a short amount of time, it’s kind of hard to make a relationship that have had a certain coach for so long. I think he really connected with a lot of the kids.”

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Caldwell said he will be looking for those qualities in the next head coach.

Highlands graduated 16 seniors from last year’s squad. The Bluebirds do return the likes of senior goalkeeper Jack Wilson along with senior midfielders Chad Gesenhues and Jack Haggard.

The Bluebirds last won the region in 2019. They’ve finished state runner-up to St. Xavier twice in 2008 and 2018.

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