Okatie's Pope John Paul II Catholic School expanding athletics program

Area schools will be welcoming a new competitor to the scene next fall.

Pope John Paul II Catholic School in Okatie is preparing for the implementation of a sports program at the high school level, beginning with planned junior varsity competition for grades 9-10. Ultimately, according to principal Sister Pamela Smith, the school plans to transition to varsity competition by 2015-2016, when an 11th-grade class is added.

In all, the school is working to kickstart about 15 high school programs, some of which existed at the junior high level this past school year. Athletics director Richard Bachner, who had 19 years of experience as a high school AD before joining John Paul II, said he is working to set up an athletics program that will find long-term success.

"My goal was to try to set up the athletic program the way an athletic program should be run," Bachner said. "That's what we're instituting."

Bachner and Smith said the school is also hoping to secure enough funding for the construction of a new athletics facility. Last year, teams rented gym space at the Buckwalter Regional Park in Bluffton.

The Golden Warriors will compete in a variety of sports in all seasons, including 8-man football, girls and boys basketball, girls and boys golf, archery, girls swimming, boys and girls cross country, girls volleyball, girls and boys soccer, baseball, and possibly softball. Most of the coaching positions have been filled, Bachner said, though the search continues for a football coach.

Matt Dakolios, the former Hilton Head Prep boys soccer coach who led his team to a No. 1 seed in the SCISAA state tournament, will coach boys soccer for the Golden Warriors. Dakolios said he has accepted a job as the dean of students, and is excited about the new challenge, though he admitted leaving his former students made it a tough choice.

"The kids who are seniors this year, it's tough for me to leave," Dakolios said. "That was not easy to call them and make the decision."

Smith said she has already heard from excited students and parents, and looks forward to having an expanded athletics program at the new school.

"The whole point of having a school is to have a well-rounded program," Smith said.