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Deja vu at Charleston Catholic Middle

Charleston Catholic athletic director Bill Gillispie does not have a modified 1981 DeLorean sitting in his garage.

But sometimes when he checks out the Irish middle school girls soccer team, he is taken back in time.

That's because the man patrolling the sidelines for Catholic this year walks, talks and, most importantly, coaches just like the man that did in the early 2000s.

The man in the present is Zach Bogan, a Catholic and Wake Forest graduate who played for the Irish and was a team manager for the Demon Deacons basketball team.

The man in the past was his father, Jeff Bogan, under whom Zach played for a majority of his youth.

"First, they just look so much alike," Gillispie said. "Their teams back then and now have a lot of things in common, but they are both very disciplined and very fundamentally sound. They might not have superstars, but they work very well as a team. It's a reflection of how his dad coached him, and he's taken a lot of principles from his coaching."

Gillispie went on to reminisce about how well Jeff was liked by his players and the Charleston Catholic community, sentiments echoed by Zach.

"Every coach has his own playing style," Zach Bogan said. "How you generally treat your players and how your demeanor is on the sideline and at practice I got from dad. He was always laid back, never yelling at us. Even if upset with us, he would talk to us like we were people and it wasn't like he was talking down to us. I try to stay laid back and let the girls have as much fun as possible."

Indeed, Zach and his teammates enjoyed playing for Jeff Bogan, and those good times lasted until 2002, Zach's 8th-grade year.

In the middle of that soccer season, Jeff, who was 39 at the time, lost a 16-year battle with a brain tumor, leaving a team and a son in emotional disarray.

Still, Zach and his teammates voted to play a game against Hayes on the same day as Jeff's passing, and Gillispie, just a couple of years into his duties as athletic director at the time, said it remains one of the most memorable nights of his career.

"It was absolutely phenomenal," Gillispie said. "If you're in the Charleston Catholic community and you kind of knew what was going on that night and that day, I guarantee everybody in the stands that was aware, it brought a tear to their eye."

The evening culminated in Zach registering his first goal of the season in a 6-2 win for the Irish. Though he was a defender, Zach was moved to forward toward the end of the game to help him follow through on a promise he had made.

Now 10 years removed, the night seems as fresh as it ever has in the 23-year-old's mind.

"When he passed away, there was no question for me as to whether or not I was going to play that night," Zach Bogan said. "I saw the rest of my teammates and we were all saying, 'No, we want to play.' I got through it with the help of my teammates. It was one of those places I could go to get away. We both loved soccer so much - I felt like I could still be close to him [on the soccer field].

"I'll never really forget it, no matter how many games I've played in. I remember most of that season like it was yesterday. I remember that day, remember playing at Hayes. It was storming and I remember thinking, 'I don't want it to storm, I want to be able to play.' The game, the atmosphere, friends, family, the support from family and my family at school - it was incredible."  

Even while battling for his life, Jeff Bogan continued to coach right through his final days, leading the Irish from a wheelchair toward the end of his life.

It was an inspiration that not only helped Zach in his playing days, but still fuels him today.

"Starting in May, things were getting worse but he was still coaching in a wheelchair," Zach Bogan said. "It was one of those things where no matter how bad of a day I was having, if he was out there coaching I couldn't complain, I had to be out there playing and I loved every minute of it and loved my team. I tell the girls that all the time, 'When we have a team, we're not just teammates, we're family.'"

As a young man with a great education and a bright future, Zach Bogan's current stint as the Charleston Catholic middle school girls soccer coach may be the first of several steppingstones toward a long and prosperous career.

For the record, the Irish are 8-1-1 with two games coming up next week.

But Zach Bogan's first coaching gig has stretched far beyond wins and losses, the 10 years between then and now, and the emotional scars and pain that time has soothed but will never erase.

In 2002 as an adolescent, Zach Bogan said he discovered he had a family within his school that helped support him through one of the most difficult times in his life, and that very principle is what he tries to instill in his team beyond anything else.

"I feel like I have 13 little sisters now," Zach Bogan said of his team. "I want what's best for them. We've turned into a family. One of big things about Charleston Catholic is they really kind of push that ideal on people. It's a small school, a small community, but it's easier when people are always there for you.

"I've told the girls, 'No matter where I end up, I'll never forget coaching this team.'"

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.

 


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