ShareThis Page

Smetanka adds energy to Greensburg Central Catholic football

Bill Beckner Jr.
| Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, 12:30 p.m.
Greensburg Central Catholic coach Aaron Smetanka (right) during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic coach Aaron Smetanka (right) during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Max Pisula during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Max Pisula during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Zach Lavinia during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Zach Lavinia during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Bruce Leonard during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Bruce Leonard during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Head Coach Aaron Smetanka during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Head Coach Aaron Smetanka during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Greensburg Central Catholic's Tom Voelker during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Greensburg Central Catholic's Tom Voelker during preseason practice on Tuesday July 18, 2017 at Greensburg Central Catholic.

It's a baking hot mid-July evening and Greensburg Central Catholic football players are running sprints, pulling sleds up a hillside and catching deep passes.

Conditioning was ramped up in Carbon under first-year coach Aaron Smetanka and his young staff. They turned up the heat.

Smetanka, a former standout quarterback at St. Vincent and in the Continental Indoor Football League, wanted his players in shape before training camp.

Smetanka didn't just change the helmet logo from the old Georgia and Green Bay Packers “G” to the Centurion figure profile, he has reenergized the program.

“These kids aren't used to this,” said Smetanka, 29, a former assistant at Chartiers Valley, Peters Township and St. Vincent. “We're on Week 24already (in July). We've been running and lifting. Conditioning was one of the main things I promised in my interview. A lot of the parents and kids were a little surprised by how much we've done. But they have shown up and put in the time.”

GCC went 2-8 last season and missed the postseason in Dan Mahoney's fifth and final season as coach. GCC lost to WPIAL finalists Clairton and Jeannette, 140-0 — 84-0 to the former and 56-0 to the latter. The Centurions' wins came against upstart Imani Christian and Leechburg.

“I want to get this program back to where it used to be,” said Smetanka, a personal trainer with VYGOR Fitness and Nutrition who also works with the GCC girls basketball program. “We need to be competitive again.”

But the process could take time as Smetanka tries to wipe away inexperience and replace it with confidence.

“We're putting in a brand new offense and defense,” he said. “That's ground zero. We're very limited and we have only four seniors, but our kids are working hard and want to learn.”

Quarterback was a question mark heading into camp with the graduation of 1,500-yard passer Dom Eisaman (Washington & Jefferson). But Smetanka enjoyed the challenge of figuring out who will be his starting signal-caller.

Senior Bruce Leonard (5-11, 190) and hard-throwing junior lefty Max Pisula (6-2, 220) were the candidates. Smetanka wants to throw the ball more but is willing to adjust to his personnel and not force the issue.

“We have some capable guys,” said Smetanka, a Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic grad. “Both can run the offense; Bruce might be a little more athletic.”

Key receivers will be juniors Jake Reihart and Bryce Kurpiel. Both also will play cornerback. A void was left at wideout when incoming junior Ryan Quinn transferred to Mt. Pleasant.

Alvin “LA” Ross was a do-it-all back last season but has moved on to Clarion. He rushed for 400 yards and caught 30 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

Sophomores Zach Kuvinka and Tom Voelker were competing for carries in the Centurions' backfield on the eve of camp. Junior Brandon Ciccarelli will join that pair at linebacker.

Smetanka has confidence in his special teams, led by senior punter and kicker Ethan Slike.

“He has the potential to earn a college scholarship,” Smetanka said. “Very strong leg.”

Linemen with minimal yet valuable experience include sophomores Isaac Kuhns (5-11, 230) and Chase Pisula (5-10, 170), junior Matt Hogan (6-0, 251) and senior Dante Trunzo (6-0, 211).

“We have a lot of guys who weren't starters who will be first-time starters,” Smetanka said. “That's just the way it will work out.”

The Eastern Conference is expected to be the best outfit in Class A again, with Clairton and Jeannette still out in front.

“You have to be prepared week in and week out,” Smetanka said. “It can be a dog fight.”

The Centurions open the season Saturday at Tuscarawas Central Catholic.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at bbeckner@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BillBeckner.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.