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Jeannette to field 7th- and 8th-grade football team

| Wednesday, July 2, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The Jeannette School Board took action last month to initiate a program that could have a long-awaited positive effect on the football program at Jeannette High School.

Jeannette will launch a seventh- and eighth-grade football program beginning this school year to serve as a feeder system for the high school.

TJ Detruf — a former Jayhawk player and an assistant at Jeannette for the past nine seasons — will be the team's head coach and plans to implement Jeannette football from day one.

“Our players are going to enjoy playing and they are going to learn what it takes and what it means to be a Jayhawk,” said Detruf. “They will benefit because not only will they be ready to play in our system as freshmen and sophomores, but they will understand what it takes academically as well.”

Jeannette, like many other WPIAL schools, has seen shrinking numbers of players in the varsity football program.

Jeannette athletic director Matt Lebe sees the junior high program as a good opportunity for Jeannette to have those who participate in football ready to play once they arrive at the high school.

“The program is a good opportunity to help the varsity program by having a feeder program,” said Lebe. “We have a terrific coach at the high school in Roy Hall and now (a person he mentored) will be bringing the same philosophies and will have kids ready to play when they get to the varsity program.”

Hall echoed many of Lebe's sentiments regarding the importance of the success of the junior high program and knows how important it was that Jeannette hired Detruf to head the program.

“He is a Jayhawk, he played here, has coached here, he lives in Jeannette and knows first-hand how to run our offense and defense,” said Hall. “It means more when you have people you know and trust, and now TJ will have a chance to run the show down there.”

The program faces some challenges in spreading the word to potential players and generating interest among incoming seventh- and eighth-graders, but Lebe and Detruf have a plan and are working on getting the news out.

“We are sending a letter to all incoming seventh- and eighth-graders informing them of the program,” said Lebe. “I know that TJ has been visiting some local ballparks and has been spreading the word.”

Detruf and Lebe will be available next week on July 9, at 6 p.m. at McKee Stadium to answer questions from interested players and parents, or from interested members of the community.

Dave Moio is a freelance writer.