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Former St. Vincent QB returns as assistant coach

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Following a winless season of embarrassments and frustrations, the St. Vincent College football team can go nowhere but forward.

Aaron Smetanka knows the feeling all too well.

Smetanka, a familiar face around the Unity campus — he quarterbacked the St. Vincent offense for two seasons — has begun monitoring the Bearcats' race for QB.

“This team, these players coming back had to tough it out last year,” said Smetanka, a two-time all-Presidents' Athletic Conference quarterback recently hired as the team's quarterbacks coach. “It was reminiscent of when I came in.”

When Smetanka transferred from Division I FCS Robert Morris in time for the 2010 season, Division III St. Vincent was coming off an 0-10 campaign. In his first season, he helped the Bearcats manage three victories — their most since football was revived at the school in 2006 following a 44-year absence — before leading them to a 6-5 mark and an appearance in the ECAC Southwest Bowl as a senior in 2011.

Smetanka, who established himself as St. Vincent's modern-day passing leader in just the two seasons, will be watching a pair of former teammates — juniors Matt Deakins and Andy Borgen — likely battle for the starting job.

“I'm just excited to get back to the school that I transferred to and had some success,” Smetanka said. “Those two kids were around as freshmen when I was a senior.”

St. Vincent coach Bob Colbert said the two quarterbacks are very different in style. Last season, both split time with the departed Manny Speal behind center.

“I prefer a one-quarterback system, if you can get it,” Colbert said. “Each one has different abilities. (Deakins) is a passer and (Borgen) is more of a runner. Whichever one can improve his weaknesses will probably be the one that gets the most playing time.”

Smetanka, who spent last fall as quarterbacks coach at Peters Township High School in Washington County before going on to quarterback the Erie Explosion to their first Continental Indoor Football League championship, is St. Vincent's career leader in yards passing (4,117), completions (331), attempts (536) and touchdowns (31).

He said he is scheduled to take part in a private workout in November with the Pittsburgh Power of the Arena Football League after revealing that he lost out to former Power QB Andrico Hines for the backup job with the AFL's Cleveland Gladiators.

“Aaron is very passionate about football,” said Peters Township coach Rich Piccinini, who served as Smetanka's high school coach at North Catholic. “He's looking to improve on his experience at Erie, whether that be as a player, or a scout, or a coach. He definitely wants to elevate his efforts, maybe get a job in the NFL. What better way to get your foot in the door than at St. Vincent, with the Colberts.”

Bob Colbert is the brother of Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, and St. Vincent is home to the Steelers' preseason training camp.

Smetanka, one of two newly named St. Vincent assistants, along with defensive backs coach and former Bearcats teammate Chaz Coleman, said he also plans to attend several tryout camps with Canadian Football League teams.

For now, though, he's concentrating on his new coaching position.

“This is a tough conference. I knew that when I transferred in here,” Smetanka said. “We have something we can build on this year, and I can tell these guys that we've done it in the past. This program has had adversity, but we were able to turn it around. We can do it again.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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