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Kiski Area hires Peterman, Albert as athletic director, football coach

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 9:30 p.m.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Highlands head coach Sam Albert instructs his players during their heat acclimation practice at Golden Rams Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016.
Jason Bridge | Tribune-Review
Highlands head coach Sam Albert
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Penn Hills coach John Peterman leads a workout Monday, Aug. 8, 2016, at Penn Hills.

In his younger days, Sam Albert watched the Kiski Area football teams of coach Dick Dilts “just dominate” Western Pennsylvania, winning a 1971 WPIAL championship and 45 consecutive conference victories from 1967-73.

So even as Albert piled up wins and records at four schools during his 23-year coaching career, he always knew where he wanted to finish — and he got his wish.

Kiski Area's school voted 7-0 Monday to hire Albert — the longtime Highlands football coach — to lead the Cavaliers' program. The board likewise voted 7-0 to hire Penn Hills athletic director and football coach John Peterman as athletic director.

“It's always been my dream,” said Albert, an Apollo-Ridge graduate whose family originally hails from Vandergrift. “(Dilts') approach to football, his strength and conditioning, were light-years above anybody at that time. I've been blessed enough to be the head coach at four different schools; anybody that knows me knows that the job I always wanted, that I always coveted, was the Kiski Area job. To me, that's one of the best jobs in Western Pennsylvania.

“I had a gym (in Vandergrift) for 15 years. I literally was from there, if you ask anybody. So it's like coming back to my hometown.”

At Kiski Area, Albert replaces Dave Heavner, who wasn't retained after going 18-31 with three playoff appearances in five seasons.

Albert went 75-57 at Highlands from 2004-16, including eight postseason appearances and a berth in the 2008 WPIAL semifinals. He is the winningest coach in school history. The Golden Rams finished 3-6 in 2016, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

“I love Highlands, and part of me will be a Ram for life, forever,” said Albert, a high school physical education teacher in the district. “I made great memories and great friendships that I'll cherish forever. Somebody is going to inherit a fantastic group of young student-athletes that I love and will do anything I ask them.

“Ninety percent of them are like sons to me. Once they graduate, they still are part of my family, and I contact them two or three times a week. I text about 70 of them every Sunday.”

Peterman, a Leechburg native, replaces Dan O'Neil, who retired in February. Peterman became Penn Hills' athletic director in 2007 and took over the football program in 2011, leading the Indians to a 27-32 record and four playoff appearances in his six seasons.

“We're blessed that way. He brings 10 years of experience as an AD at Penn Hills, plus he's a tremendous football coach,” said Albert, who coached against Peterman when the latter was an assistant at Franklin Regional. “That's a plus. Any time you have an administrator and your AD is a solid AD and football coach, that really helps.”

Before coming to Highlands, Albert coached at Valley, Butler and Freeport and has a career record of 133-100-1 in 23 seasons.

He led Valley to the 1991 WPIAL championship game, where the Vikings fell to Blackhawk, and is one of only two coaches with Alle-Kiski Valley ties to take four schools to the playoffs.

“I think we have a lucrative job here because of some of the work that he's done here, and Tim Karrs before him,” Highlands athletic director Chuck Debor said. “It's a school that regularly makes the playoffs. We've got tough kids here at Highlands, tough, hard-nosed kids who come out and strike. If you get the right coach in there, you're going to have success.”

Debor said he knew of Albert's interest in the Kiski Area job and even wrote his longtime friend a letter of recommendation. He added Highlands already is accepting applications for its own football coaching position.

“I'd never stand in someone's way for trying to improve themselves or move on,” Debor said. “I've played for him. I've coached with him. I've coached against him. He's a good friend.”

Albert is tasked with building a Kiski Area program that last won a playoff game in 1990, with eight one-and-done appearances since.

The Cavaliers finished 4-6 in 2016, missing out on the postseason.

“It's a process,” Albert said. “The nice thing is, everybody I've met, from the school board to the superintendent to the principals, everybody — the community, the boosters, the alumni — everybody is very, very supportive. It's going to be a process, but any time you're getting support like that, it's going to be a good process.”

Kiski Area will host a “meet the coach” night at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the high school gymnasium.

George Guido contributed to this story. Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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