Gary Dongilli headed to T-C Coaches Hall of Fame
The last time Gary Dongilli walked the sidelines as a head football coach was in 2002 when he was at Hempfield.
However, Dongilli will be on the field for a game one more time Saturday night at Southmoreland as he is inducted into the Tri-County Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
Dongilli is one of nine inductees, including the late Al Romasco, of Monessen, and the late Bill Ellis, of Finleyville. Also to be inducted is former Charleroi assistant coach Mike Scrip.
The T-C Coaches Hall of Fame Class of 2013 will be inducted at halftime of the 17th annual Bee Graphix Football Classic, which will be played 7 p.m. Friday night at Southmoreland between the North and South All-Stars.
Dongilli, whose head coaching career spanned 20 years and three schools - Yough, Belle Vernon Area and Hempfield - said he was caught off-guard by word of his induction.
“I was surprised, but it is a nice honor, certainly,” he said. “I mean, it's not why I coached the game. It's not something I ever thought about or was looking for, but it is nice. Still, it is something I don't talk about much because I'm just not that way.”
Dongilli said even though it has been more than 10 years since he coached a team, he still gets calls on occasion from schools or former assistants who want him to look into a job.
“At times I do get calls,” he said. “But when my assistants call and ask me to apply for a job I tell them to apply for it and I will go help them out.”
Happy in his retirement from the game, Dongilli says there are still some aspects about coaching he misses, including the competition and the camaraderie with players and coaches.
“Yeah, I do miss that,” he admitted.
Although Dongilli never coaches in the Tri-County Coaches All-Star Game, he was instrumental in getting another summer football classic for graduated seniors - the former Westmoreland County Coaches Association All-Star Game - off the ground. He coached in the very first game of the now defunct event in 1996.
His first stop was Yough, where his record was 36-31 and he led the Cougars to two Keystone Conference titles and three WPIAL playoff appearances.
He then returned to his alma mater, BVA, where he led the Leps to a 71-11 record (including an impressive 47-1 slate in the conference), seven conference titles, three WPIAL championship appearances (including one title) and a PIAA semifinal appearance.
Dongilli was named the Coach of the Year in his conference nine times and was also the WPIAL Class AAA Coach of the Year once.
He sent numerous players on to numerous Division I schools, including Pitt, Notre Dame, Michigan, the service academies, the Ivy League and the Patriot League.
Romasco, a 1938 graduate of Monessen, was a star football player for the Greyhounds' Big Six championship team in 1937 and also was a standout receiver at George Washington University afterward.
He later returned to Monessen and coached under legendary Greyhound mentor Joe Gladys until retiring in 1979.
Ellis, who died Aug. 18, 2012, was a former coordinator and game director for the Tri-County Football Classic and also announced the games for over 10 years.
He was an assistant football coach at Albert Gallatin and also served as the game announcer at Ringgold for several years before his death. He was also a member of the Ringgold School Board.
Scrip coached football for 25 years as both an assistant and a head coach with stops at the Peters Township and Charleroi school districts. He has been on staffs that combined to win over 135 games.
He is a member of the group that originally started the Tri-County All-Stars games and has served the organization as secretary/treasurer the last 10 years.
Other inductees in the Class of 2013 include former Uniontown coach John Fortugna, former Jefferson-Morgan head coach and Ringgold assistant Jan Haiden, long-time Mapletown head coach George Messich, former Waynesburg and Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny and the late J. Gawen Stoker, a former coach and associate executive director of the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association. TRI-COUNTY NOTES
Schools represented in the game include Monessen, Ringgold, Frazier, California, Bentworth are all represented with graduating senior players ... Executive Director Cody Haiden said teams began practicing Monday and will practice all week with a banquet being held Friday at Hugo's in Centerville ... There are approximately 60 players participating in this year's game ... Team rosters will be announced Wednesday ... Tickets will be on sale the night of the game at the stadium.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or firstname.lastname@example.org.