Wehner finally joins McKeesport varsity football program
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If Jim Wehner had wanted to, he could have been bitter toward the McKeesport School District.
The school board passed him over for the head football coaching vacancy. Instead, it opted to delve into the program's past and bring back longtime sideline guru George Smith in an effort to help the Tigers return to the WPIAL Class AAAA elite.
Instead of holding a grudge, Wehner took an olive branch from Smith and joined the Tigers' coaching staff.
“George is one of the good guys in the profession, and whatever he wants me to do, I'm going to do,” Wehner said.
“I couldn't ask for a better guy to work for.”
Earlier this year, Wehner was selected to be an assistant in the annual Big 33 Classic all-star game.
He worked as an assistant to North Allegheny's Art Walker Jr. for the game, which was played June 15 in Hershey and featured the best players from Pennsylvania and Maryland. Pennsylvania won, 58-27, as former Clairton football star Tyler Boyd was named the Keystone State's most valuable player.
“It was a good experience,” Wehner said. “The kids were awesome, and they were kids that wanted to be there.
“They wanted to be coached football, and there was none of the everyday bull you have to put up with. They all just wanted to go play football.”
Wehner will be coaching the strong safeties on defense at McKeesport and help out with quarterbacks.
In the offseason, he will handle college recruiting by making videos for distribution and phone calls to coaches in an effort to drum up interest in McKeesport players.
It will be a change of pace after spending four years patrolling the sideline as the head coach at Baldwin, where he remains employed as a teacher.
Prior to coaching the Fighting Highlanders, Wehner guided Yough for four seasons and won a share of the Allegheny Conference title in 2006.
That was an impressive feat considering the Cougars defeated a Jeannette team led by Terrelle Pryor that won the WPIAL Class AA championship and played in the state finals.
“George said when he called me that he couldn't pass up a guy with 12 years of head coaching experience, and I know what George is going through,” Wehner said.
“I've been through it just like he has. When I was coaching and having a bad day, my assistants didn't know what I was going through, and I'll understand what he's going through, and that will be a bonus on my side.”
While at Yough, he ran a variation of the triple-option offense that McKeesport used for many years. Having experience with that system will be a boon, as the coaching staff attempts to re-educate the players on its subtleties.
Coaching at Baldwin also will help Wehner when it comes to breaking down film on McKeesport's opponents.
“Being a local guy from North Huntingdon, I read about these teams every day in the paper. Woodland Hills was in our conference, and I know what they have coming back,” Wehner said.
“I think I bring something to the table in knowing those teams.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KBarnes_Trib.
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