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St. Vincent QB coach Smetanka set for 2nd season with CIFL's Erie Explosion

| Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

At this time last year, Aaron Smetanka was entering his first season with the Continental Indoor Football League's Erie Explosion buried on the quarterback depth chart.

Now, the North Catholic alum and St. Vincent quarterbacks coach enters his second campaign with a perfect 12-0 record and CIFL title under his belt as a starter.

According to Explosion coach and director of football operations Shawn Liotta, it was Smetanka's work ethic that thrust him ahead of the other QBs in training camp and it's that same work ethic that has him hoping to lead the team to consecutive titles.

“He came in, and Aaron was a rookie to the arena game and he did an excellent job of picking the game up, learning and I can see why he's going to be a successful coach. ... He progressed, he worked hard, he learned the game and he started to get it rolling,” Liotta said. “He got a game or two under his belt, really just played efficiently and really smart.”

Smetanka is hoping his success with the Explosion carries to coaching next fall, when St. Vincent's season begins under new coach Ron Dolciato, who will look for a turnaround after the Bearcats endured a winless 2013 season.

“I'm definitely excited to be on a new staff, trying to turn it back around again,” Smetanka said. “(The goal is) hopefully to get back on track to a winning record.”

While most coaches recruit players and pitch their former playing experience, Smetanka is in the unique position to still be playing the position he coaches. He also set the school's all-time passing yards record (3,896) en route to earning first-team all-PAC honors in his junior and senior seasons.

“I've been fortunate enough to play at a higher level now, so I can go and tell others about that and teach the quarterbacks that I'm recruiting and also the ones that are currently on the team,” he said.

aFebruary and runs through May, just in time for Smetanka to begin preparing for Bearcats training camp. But even while he is competing, he still finds time to get in touch with potential recruits.

Faced with two different career paths in playing or coaching, Smetanka may have a tough decision in front of him in the years to come, but for now he is simply enjoying his experiences both wearing a helmet and a headset.

“I know I definitely want to do both,” he said. “I love playing, I love coaching. I just love being around the game of football and teaching others about the game of football and then also playing myself.”

But before that time comes, Smetanka and Liotta have work to do this season.

“My goal for Aaron, I think he should be a first team all-league quarterback,” Liotta said. “I think he should have the opportunity to continue to advance his career. Whatever may lie ahead in sports for him, he certainly deserves it.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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