Rory Graver had a good view of the Pope John Paul II football program in its first three years, serving as an assistant coach for the Golden Panthers.

He'll have an even better one now, having been named head coach on Wednesday.

The 28-year-old Graver, who served as the offensive coordinator at Upper Merion last season, succeeds Mike Santillo, who was not retained following last year.

"I'm very excited,' said Graver, a former teacher at St. Pius X who currently teaches at Hill Top Preparatory in Rosemont. "It's a great opportunity to build a winning tradition here.'

In its four-year history, PJP is 7-29 in Pioneer Athletic Conference play and 8-33 overall. Last year, the Golden Panthers were 1-8 in the PAC-10 and 1-9 overall.

"The biggest challenge for us is, of course, we need to get people out,' Graver said. "That starts from getting feeder programs on board with what we do. Once we get the numbers up the program can turn around and we can achieve some success.'

Graver, who played football at Plymouth-Whitemarsh and played baseball at Ursinus College, served as quarterbacks coach at PJP in 2010, and was also the passing coordinator the following year and the co-offensive coordinator in 2012. He was previously the girls softball coach at St. Pius X.

"We're very excited to have Rory back here to work with our student-athletes,' PJP athletic director Jack Flanagan said. "We believe his enthusiasm and passion for the game of football will translate into increased energy and excitement within the school to play.'

"There's talent here. There is,' said Graver, who plans to meet with the squad Thursday. "We just have to put in the work and get bigger and stronger, and I think we'll be in good shape.'

Flanagan also announced the hiring of two new soccer coaches at PJP — Thomas A. Csongradi as boys coach and Stew Sherk as girls coach.

Follow Darryl Grumling on Twitter at @MercSmokinD.