Former BVA coach Dongilli, Elizabeth Forward grad Etzel receive more honors
By Bruce Wald
Published: Saturday, July 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Former Belle Vernon Area High School football coach Gary Dongilli was one of nine individuals inducted into the Tri-County Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
The rest of the 2013 class included: the late Bill Ellis of Finleyville, past coordinator, game director and announcer for the Tri-County Football Classic; former Uniontown head coach John Fortugna; former Jefferson-Morgan head coach and Ringgold assistant Jan Haiden; longtime Mapletown head coach George Messich; former Waynesburg and Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny; the late Al Romasco of Monessen, star of the 1937 Big Six Conference title team; former Peters Township head coach and longtime Charleroi assistant coach Mike Scrip; and the late J. Gawen Stoker, a former coach and associate executive director of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association.
Dongilli served as the head coach of Belle Vernon Area from 1994-2000 after previously leading Yough's football program to a 35-33-2 cumulative record. The Cougars won two conference titles and made three WPIAL playoff appearances under Dongilli.
At Belle Vernon, he compiled a program-best 71-11 cumulative record that was highlighted by the 1995 team winning the WPIAL Class AAA championship. The 1996 and 1999 teams also reached the title game while the 1994 and 2000 teams made semifinal showings. His teams won seven consecutive Keystone or Keystone-Big Nine Conference titles. He received conference Coach of the Year honors nine times.
The 1995 team compiled a 12-2 final overall record and defeated Franklin Regional, 22-6, in the WPIAL Class AAA championship game at Three Rivers Stadium. The Leopards' conference record during Dongilli's seven years was a remarkable 47-1.
Dongilli then coached two seasons at Hempfield.
“With Coach Dongilli, Belle Vernon fans came to expect the unexpected,” said Stephen V. Russell, who wrote “History of Belle Vernon Area High School Football (1965-2011).” “Opposing coaches and teams had difficulty preparing for the Dongilli magic. He rolled the dice and had the kind of players to execute with a seasoned group of assistant coaches. “
Dongilli is one of the three alumni to serve as Belle Vernon's head football coach, along with Lou Rood (2006-08 And current head coach Aaron Krepps, who took over in 2009. Krepps was an All-State receiver and kick returner on Dongilli's final Leopard team in 2000 before going on to be an All-American at Washington & Jefferson College.
The new class was inducted and recognized at halftime of the 17th annual Bee Graphix Football Classic, which was played last month at Southmoreland High School.
Etzel feted again
Earlier this month Washington & Jefferson College standout wrestler Josh Etzel was named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America Division III At-Large First Team, as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
An Elizabeth Forward High School graduate, he becomes the 30th student-athlete in school history to earn a national Academic All-America award.
The Capital One Academic All-America At-Large Team is the toughest to earn a spot on as it features all NCAA Division III student-athletes in the following sports: women's bowling, women's crew, men's and women's fencing, women's field hockey, men's and women's golf, men's and women's gymnastics, men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's rifle, men's and women's skiing, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's tennis, men's volleyball, men's and women's water polo and men's wrestling.
Etzel owns a 3.81 grade-point average and majors in biochemistry (pre-health minor). He was one of two wrestlers selected to the first team, joining Adam Sheley of Wisconsin-Lacrosse.
He set a school record for single-season victories with a 37-7 overall record at 165 pounds in 2012-2013.
The president of Phi Kappa Psi, he placed sixth at the NCAA Division III Nationals at 165 pounds. A two-time national qualifier and 2012 NCAA III Midwest Regional champion he became the Presidents' first NCAA wrestling All-American in 11 years. Etzel owns a 68-13 career record heading into his final collegiate season.
Bruce Wald is a contributing writer.
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