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Bernhardt succeeds Gionta as Sun Valley coach

Greg “Bubba” Bernhardt said that his one year as an assistant coach at Sun Valley was one of the most enjoyable of his career.

“I’m telling you, I had one of the funnest years I ever had coaching,” he said. “I made some great relationships and I really did enjoy coaching, dealing with the kids and that’s it.”

Bernhardt was the head coach of Bonner & Prendergast from 2012-15. He was let go one year after leading the Friars to their most wins in a season in more than a decade. He also earned Philadelphia Catholic League Coach of the Year honors. In four seasons at his alma mater, Bernhardt went 19-23.

Instead of taking a year or two off, Bernhardt was determined to land on his feet and find a coaching gig somewhere at the varsity level.

“I’m definitely not one of those guys who needs a break,” Bernhardt said. “I absolutely love coaching, I love helping the kids get better and get stronger as people and as players. I knew I was going to get right back into it, it was just a matter of where. I wanted to take a breath and see what’s out there.”

Early last summer, Sun Valley coach Ray Gionta reached out to Bernhardt about an opening on his staff.

“It was funny how that all happened because it was pretty late. We met and the rest is history,” Bernhardt said. “I definitely never envisioned this. I never saw it being a one-year thing and then Coach Gionta stepping aside, but I’m thrilled to death for the opportunity.”

Bernhardt is the new head football coach at Sun Valley. His hiring was confirmed at the Penn-Delco School District board meeting Wednesday.

Gionta resigned in December after three seasons at the helm. He had a 15-21 record, including a 6-6 record and a District One playoff appearance in 2016.

“I’m not going into something that has to be resurrected. Coach Gionta did a heck of a job getting Sun Valley back to being an established program and making sure the kids understand what it’s going to take,” Bernhardt said. “Now it’s just a fresh approach of doing those same things. But Coach Gionta really did a heck of job.”

Bernhardt met with Sun Valley athletic director Pat Crater and his team Thursday afternoon, addressing them for the first time as the new head coach.

“I got to finally get in front of the kids as the head coach,” he said. “So many of the kids were supporting me throughout the whole process and that’s awesome.”

The 2016 campaign was a tale of two seasons. The Vanguards won six of their first seven games, but ended the year on a five-game losing streak. Despite the second-half struggles, Bernhardt believes that Sun Valley football learned how to be a successful program again.

Bernhardt just hopes he can be the one to take Sun Valley to greater heights.

“Any time there’s a new coach, there’s going to be new energy,” he said. “What I’m thrilled about is that I love the fact that the administration is really involved and are very supportive. It’s a great community. Most importantly, I’m not going in blind; I know these kids. That helps things so much.”

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