EDINBURG — Sean Van de Merghel made an immediate impact upon arriving in Edinburg.
Van de Merghel, a seasoned Texas high school football coach with numerous stops across the state, first landed in the Rio Grande Valley in 2017 when he took over as the offensive coordinator at Edinburg Vela.
In four seasons as the SaberCats’ offensive coordinator, he helped transform Vela — one of the Valley’s newest schools — into a local Class 6A powerhouse.
His work engineering the high-octane SaberCats’ offense left an impression on football fanatics throughout the RGV and was consequently named the next head football coach and athletic coordinator at Edinburg Economedes, where he hopes to transform the Jaguars into another 6A regional power.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Van de Merghel, who was named Econ’s next head football coach in March. “I am beyond excited about the opportunity. I am so thankful for our administration, coaches and kids. They have accepted me and we are ready to get to work.”
Van de Merghel has gained a reputation as an elite offensive play-caller during a 13-year coaching career that has featured stints at many of the most successful programs across South Texas.
He started his coaching career as an assistant at Laredo United, where he served under Longhorns head coach David Sanchez, one of the winningest active high school coaches throughout Region IV at any classification level.
During his three-year tenure at United, Van de Merghel helped lead an offensive revolution as the Longhorns tallied a 10-2 record, 39.3 points per game and an area-round postseason appearance after beating McAllen High during the 2010 season.
He returned to the Gateway City to take over as offensive coordinator at Laredo United South in 2016 and helped lead the Panthers to their first district title and regional quarterfinal playoff appearance in program history during a 10-3 season, which featured wins over Harlingen High, La Joya Palmview and San Benito.
In the years between, Van de Merghel made stops as a coordinator at Sunset and Hillcrest high schools in Dallas and also gained his first head-coaching experience at Reynolds High School in Oregon from 2010 to 2013.
During a stretch of four seasons at Reynolds, he transformed the Raiders from a team that won one game in two years to a squad with back-to-back playoff appearances and the program’s first winning record in a decade.
Van de Merghel believes that experience and the lessons learned from it will help him and his coaching staff turn the Jaguars into another success story.
“I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a lot of successful programs as an assistant and then to be able to turn the corner as a head coach at Reynolds,” he said. “We’ve got to get our kids to believe that we must out-work our opponents, focus on the little things and believe that you have to earn the right to win. Nothing is guaranteed and we must earn our way.”
Van de Merghel has also gained experience coaching against the top 6A programs in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond while at Vela.
His arrival as the SaberCats’ offensive coordinator coincided with one of the most dominant, prolonged stretches of gridiron greatness throughout the RGV in recent history.
Vela recorded a 39-6 record and asserted itself as the Valley’s highest-scoring team during his time as the team’s offensive play-caller.
The SaberCats averaged 39.8 points per game while winning a bi-district playoff game every year, twice posting 12-1 seasons and rumbling to three district titles with unblemished records against District 31-6A competition.
His Vela teams have beaten Economedes head-to-head in each of the four times they’ve faced one another, but Van de Merghel said he always noticed the talent and potential on those Jags’ teams.
“The very first thing that attracted me was the fact that every year I coached against Econ there were players that we thought were very impressive football players. The kids played hard, played with class and they never gave up,” he said. “The second thing was (that) they have had success in other sports and that the athletes are there to win. We have to go in and build relationships between the different programs, build meaningful relationships with the kids and build our relationship with the middle schools.”
Van de Merghel inherits an Economedes program that’s put together a 10-25 record since its last playoff appearance in 2016 and failed to notch a victory during the shortened 2020 campaign affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Econ’s new head coach is confident that with the backing of the school district and the school’s athletic department, however, the Jaguars will experience a quick turnaround and become a consistent district contender with the eventual goal of bringing a district championship to the east side of Edinburg.
“We have the talent right now to be a playoff team. I firmly believe that. We are getting more and more kids to workouts every day and it’s an exciting time to be a Jaguar,” Van de Merghel said. “It’s not going to be easy, but the gap is not as big as people think it is. I think we will surprise some people this year.”