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The La Salle-Peru football team has something to brag about.
After a much awaited announcement, former PORTA assistant coach James Bragg was offered and accepted the position as Cavaliers’ football coach on Wednesday.
The first-time head coach is more than eager to help L-P rebuild its football program by bringing passion to the sideline.
“Fire,” Bragg said. “I’m very passionate. I’m very willing to go the extra mile. What I’ve learned and the people I’ve met up here currently on staff, they have that same kind of fire and passion. Just to restore that and get L-P back on the map football wise (is something I look forward to).
“They’ve been down a few years and have to turn it around. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take baby steps, but we’ll get there. One step at a time, and that’s what I expect.”
Bragg is replacing Joe Sassano, who resigned after seven years as the Cavaliers coach. Braggs is also taking over as L-P physical education teacher for the retired Paul Kramarsic.
The Cavaliers finished last season 1-8 and haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009.
The 28-year old coach, who was an offensive coordinator for the last four years of his stint with the Bluejays, enjoyed a 9-2 season and a first round playoff victory his first season, a 0-9 record in 2012 and made a return to the playoffs last season with a 6-3 mark in the Class 3A ranks.
He said he’s seen the full spectrum but wants to reintroduce the Cavaliers to winning ways.
“Football is football,” said Bragg, who likes the Power-I and Wing-T offensively and the 4-4 on defense. “At the end of the day, down there where I was at, at PORTA, we had some great teams but it was still 11-on-11. At the end of the day up here, it’s still going to be 11-on-11.
“Managing the kids, (there is) a bigger pool to pick from. It’s a great opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting interaction with the kids and hitting the football field running.”
L-P athletic director D’Wayne Bates said Bragg and the other two finalists — which were narrowed down from more than 30 applications — went through a two committee interview.
The candidates met with L-P principal Deb Nelson and other school officials for an hour and then met with another committee constructed of current assistant football coaches, coaches from other sports and student-athletes.
Applicants ranged from around the area, south and west Chicago suburbs and other states such as Iowa and Texas.
Bates said Bragg’s understanding of the strength of a coach-player bond would be a great dynamic for the Cavs and he is the type of coach that could form the old cliché of “they would run through a brick wall” for the team.
“I thought we did a very good job of promoting (the position) from the candidates we had from across the country,” Bates said. “I felt the process really allowed us to get down to what we felt was the best fit.
“We’re very excited. I’ve been here for two years and have learned what football means to not only L-P High School, but to the Illinois Valley. This is a great opportunity to get the program to a competitive level.”
In his playing days, Bragg was an offensive lineman for Decatur St. Teresa and Blackburn College. He was named to the 2007 UMAC All-Conference Team for his performance at Blackburn and was a team captain in 2006 and 2007.
After graduation, he applied for coaching jobs and had an interview with Reed Custer, but found a happy home in PORTA.
The La Salle-Peru area was enticing for Bragg off the football field as well since he heard children and families could prosper here.
Bragg and wife Stefany have two children — 3-year old James and 1-year old Lakyn.
“I learned that the community is really behind the football team and all the athletics,” Bragg said. “It’s a blue-collar, hard-working town. It was just a great opportunity to come up here. I actually knew a few people up here and it seemed like a great place to raise a family.
“With my two little kids, especially my son getting ready to go to school, I thought this would be a great opportunity and a great place to raise them.”
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.
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