Penn Manor vs Cumberland Valley-D3 Boys Lax Semis

Penn Manor's Josh Heckman (25) takes a shot on goal against Cumberland Valley during first half action of a District 3 boys lacrosse semifinal game at Hershey High School Monday May 21, 2018.

Zack Charles was among the first Penn Manor boys lacrosse players in the program’s inception about 20 years ago. After graduating from Penn Manor in 2005, he later coached the youth ranks before working his way up and becoming the Comets’ varsity coach in August 2016. Since then, Charles has steered Penn Manor to unprecedented heights, including the program’s first and only appearance in the District 3-3A semifinals in 2018.

After nearly a quarter-century, however, Charles’s involvement with Comets’ lacrosse is coming to an end. He is officially stepping down as the Penn Manor boys lacrosse coach after four seasons at the helm. He recently informed Penn Manor athletic director Steve Kramer of the decision.

“I’ve been getting emails today (Tuesday) from parents,” Charles said. “I appreciate everything they’ve been saying to me. ...It hasn’t hit me yet. It’s going to be tough.”

Charles is stepping back from coaching for a couple of reasons. The first is to spend more time with his family - daughter Quinn just recently celebrated her second birthday, while son Warren was born June 20.

“I have to accept priorities,” Charles said. “My wife and kids need me around. I want to be around to see my kids grow up. I see how quickly it goes as a coach with a player from a kid being a freshman to his senior year.”

The second life change came about a year ago, when Charles began working for Aramark Corporations, headquartered in Philadelphia.

“That’s about a 90-minute commute,” he said.

Charles was a point guard on the Penn Manor boys basketball team and a standout Comets’ lacrosse player in the mid-2000s. He is largely responsible for building up the Comets’ boys lacrosse youth ranks as a coach before being named the high school varsity skipper in 2016. He inherited a program coming off back-to-back five-win seasons. At the time of his promotion, he told LNP|LancasterOnline, “I think they’re going to be something special in a couple years.”

In 2018, Penn Manor reached the District 3-3A semifinals for the first and only time in program history. The Comets nearly returned there again in 2021 before falling 7-6 in the final seconds of a District 3-3A quarterfinal loss at Cumberland Valley on May 19. Charles was in tears after the game.

“When me and my assistants took over, our goal was to put Penn Manor into the classes of the Manheim Townships and the Hempfields,” he said. “We think we’re well on our way to getting there. My only regret I have is not beating Manheim Township and Hempfield. Everything else is a cherry on top. I’m proud of what I did with our program."

Penn Manor finished with a plus-.500 record in each of the four seasons under Charles, going a combined 45-28, which included three district playoff appearances and one L-L tournament appearance.

“From what they (Penn Manor) have to pick from for the next lacrosse coach. look down at our youth ranks, the youth numbers are awesome,” Charles said. “They’re up to par with the Townships and Hempfields, that’s what we need.”

Asked if we should expect him to return to coaching in the future, Charles said, “My son is a month old. So maybe in 13 or 14 years you’ll see me back.”

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