Tom Verbanic takes the helm of Flint Hill football program
By Preston Williams,
Tom Verbanic, who started the Westfield football program and built the Bulldogs into two-time undefeated Virginia AAA Division 6 state champions before retiring from the public school system last year, has been named football coach at Flint Hill.
Verbanic, 54, the director of athletic operations at the Oakton private school for the past year, also will continue to serve as Flint Hill’s baseball coach. He was defensive coordinator for the Huskies’ football team last season under Michael Wright, who relaunched the school’s football program in 2003 and led it to four unbeaten Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference seasons from 2006 to 2009 before recently stepping down.
Verbanic’s staff will include at least two former long-time assistants at Westfield — Pete Salvano and Rich Thomas — but there’s not too much else that the programs have in common. Westfield is one of the largest public schools in the state, with more than 2,800 students. Flint Hill, with an annual tuition of $31,000, has about 250 boys of high school age.
Verbanic’s last nine Westfield teams went 90-19 with unbeaten marks in 2003 and 2007. He said his approach at a small private school will be the same as it was competing in the highest public school classification in Virginia.
“Over the years, you kind of develop how you coach and I always felt like if we do the right things and work hard enough we’re going to be successful,” Verbanic said. “I don’t think that changes no matter where you go. I know I can’t change my feelings about that.
“The challenges are different when you have less kids. We have good athletes. It’s our job to coach them and get them to do the things we think will make us successful.”
Verbanic plans to meet with players and parents at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the school’s West campus gymnasium. The Huskies, who had 23 seniors on the 44-boy varsity roster last season, open practice Aug. 17 and play their first game Sept. 8 at home vs. Paul VI Catholic. It will mark the first time those Northern Virginia private schools have met in football, at least since Flint Hill reinstated its program in 2003.
Coincidentally, that opener will pit Verbanic against another former Northern Region coach, Gordon Leib, whose Madison teams reached the playoffs eight times in 10 years. Madison played in a different district and division than Westfield. Leib took over at Paul VI before last season.
“I still have a passion for coaching and I’ve always said that as long as I’m still having fun and feel like I’m doing right by kids then why would I stop doing it?” Verbanic said. “I truly, really enjoy it. I like high school kids. I don’t want to go into college and go on the road recruiting and things like that.”
Wright, whose Flint Hill teams went 43-33 during the program’s eight years of varsity competition, including 38-21 the past six seasons with a Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division 1 runner-up finish in 2008, will remain at the school as assistant admissions director.
“[Wright’s] done a great job and I hate to see him go,” said Flint Hill Athletic Director Steve Henry, who formerly coached at Fairfax when Verbanic was there. “We’re very fortunate to have somebody like Tom to be able to step in and hopefully continue the expectations that we have for our football team.”
Flint Hill note: The Huskies hired another state title-winning coach Friday by naming Justin Fitzgerald their girls’ lacrosse coach. Fitzgerald guided the Robinson boys to state titles in 2006 and 2007. He most recently coached the O’Connell boys.