Brentwood grad, longtime assistant excited to take reins of football program

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Sunday, April 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Nick Caponi has worn an assortment of hats in his coaching career.

He actually started out as a high school baseball coach.

“My first coaching job was as an assistant baseball coach at Brentwood,” he said. “I then became the assistant varsity coach at Baldwin; my uncle Dan was head coach at the time. We went on to win a section title and placed runner-up in the WPIAL in 2014.

“I was also an assistant ninth grade basketball coach at Peters Township, and for one year, I was an assistant for the middle school girls volleyball team.

“That was interesting,” he said.

Caponi fulfilled a lifelong dream of being a head football coach when he was hired in February to take over the reins of the Brentwood football program.

His hiring was announced Feb. 27 at the Brentwood school board’s general purpose meeting.

“Growing up in Brentwood and playing and coaching for the program, being the head coach here was always something that I have thought about,” Caponi said. “Obviously, I am very excited. This is an opportunity that I am going to embrace. It is something that I have worked towards.

“Brentwood has had a long tradition of having a strong football program, and I am looking forward to continuing to build off that.”

Caponi, 41, played football and baseball at Brentwood from 1995-1998, and one year of basketball, and was the recipient of the prestigious Mark Reider Award as a senior.

After high school, he went to Grove City to play football and baseball but ended up playing baseball only.

He is a seventh grade social studies teacher in the school district and served as an assistant football coach since 2004.

The personable Caponi succeeds longtime coach Kevin Kissel, who resigned following the 2022 season.

“I played for coach Kissel while I was in high school and was lucky enough to be named an assistant on his staff for the past 18 seasons,” Caponi said. “It’s hard to put into words what he has meant to this football program. I mean, he was a coach here for 40 years (26 as the head coach and 14 as an assistant).

“There aren’t too many people who commit 40 years of their life to anything, let alone a high school athletic program. Aside from football, the thing that I will take from coaching with Kevin and getting to know him throughout the years is just how much the community of Brentwood means to him. Obviously, he was very proud of the football program, but he loves the community as well. He is the definition of ‘Brentwood Proud.’”

Caponi’s first order of business in his new position was hiring a coaching staff.

“I brought in a whole new staff,” he said. “Steve Hubsch will be the offensive coordinator and Jake Thomas will be the defensive coordinator. Dan Caponi, my uncle, will coach the running backs and linebackers. Jeremy Cenci and Ken Solomon will coach the offensive and defensive lines. We will also have Austin Veatch and Michael Trent helping out as volunteer coaches.

“I am very excited about this coaching staff. They bring a lot of experience from coaching and playing standpoints. We have guys who have coached at other schools and that have played at the collegiate level from Division I to Division III.”

Caponi’s coaching philosophy is community oriented.

“I believe that this program is an integral part of the school and community,” he said. “We will promote enthusiasm around the program while cultivating positive relationships between players, parents, the student body and community.”

Brentwood went 3-7 last season, 2-4 in the Class 2A Century Conference.

“We are going to implement a new offense and defense, both philosophy and schematically,” Caponi said. “It will be a lot of work, but my staff is eager to get this going and I know the players will be excited and up for the challenge.

“We are also going to build a stronger relationship with our youth program, the Brentwood Dukes.”

Caponi lives in Whitehall with his wife Caitlin (Grattan) and daughters Charlotte, 6, and Alexandra, 4.

“They are the best,” Caponi said of his daughters. “They are both involved in dancing. Charlotte has started playing softball and Alexandra is starting to get involved in gymnastics.”

Caponi’s wife graduated from Baldwin, where she played softball, volleyball and one year of basketball. She was a member of WPIAL championship teams in softball and volleyball and went on to play softball for one year at Syracuse and three years at St. Bonaventure.

“We always debate this in our house,” Caponi said, “but I’ll admit that Caitlin’s a better athlete than me.”

Caitlin also coached the girls volleyball team at Brentwood for five years.

“Nick and I had talked for a while about the possibility of him going for the head coach position,” she said. “He wanted to ensure that I was on the same page as him, in case he did get it, because of the time commitment.

“Even though the girls and I miss him when he’s at football, we are very proud of him. We know he has so much to offer to the program. We will absolutely be there cheering him and the Spartans on from the stands.”

Caponi’s immediate and extended families have strong athletic ties.

“It starts with my grandfather, Nelson. He was a catcher in the Philadelphia Phillies organization,” he said. “My brother Mike was a swimmer in high school, my sister Michelle played softball in high school, and my youngest brother Bobby played hockey. My dad was my baseball coach all the way until Legion ball. He also played baseball and was also a pretty good softball player back in the day.”

Caponi’s cousin Matt played football at Baldwin and continued his career at national powerhouse Mount Union. He helped lead the Raiders to a 55-1 record and three NCAA Division III national championships. He was a starting safety and team captain and earned second team all-conference honors as a senior.

Matt has coached across the collegiate level. Last year, he served as cornerbacks coach at Iowa State. The year, he was recently named defensive coordinator at North Texas.

“And my uncle Dan was the baseball coach at Baldwin, as well as an assistant football coach,” Caponi said. “He is still coaching baseball at Mt. Lebanon.”

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