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New East Allegheny coach inherits playoff team

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 5:46 p.m.
East Allegheny number 28 K J Marshall backsteps during a 4 cone drill. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
East Allegheny assistant coach Joe Volpe goes over plays with Terrancce Johnson (right) and others on the defensive line. Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News

Jason Ruscitto has spent the last seven months getting the East Allegheny football team to buy into his philosophy.

Now the first-year coach is looking forward to seeing their efforts pay off.

“The kids have been really tremendous,” Ruscitto said. “The kids have worked hard, they've put their time in, and they're looking forward to the season.”

Ruscitto, who coached Sto-Rox from 2004-09 and helped the Vikings to a 36-20 record, was hired in January to replace Dennis Edwards, who coached the last eight seasons. In 2011, he led the team to a fourth-place finish in the Interstate Conference and a berth in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

Though East Allegheny qualified for the playoffs, the team dropped its final three games and was outscored in their last two by a combined 92-12 in a nonconference loss to eventual WPIAL champion Aliquippa in their regular season finale and a first round playoff loss to Seton-La Salle.

Those losses have given East Allegheny incentive coming into the season. But though the team has adapted to a new regime, questions abound on how quickly the Wildcats will make in-game adjustments in a new system.

“Change is always difficult for everybody, and this team did go to the playoffs last year, so it's a neat situation in and of itself,” Ruscitto said. “We just have to come together as a team, work hard and, hopefully, the chips fall favorably for us.”

It's not like Ruscitto took over a program with nothing in the cupboard. East Allegheny has several talented skill position players that could help the Wildcats remain in contention in the new-look Allegheny Conference, which they will join this year.

Senior wide receiver/defensive back Shawn Adair might be one of the best multi-purpose athletes in the classification and a breakaway threat with the ball in the open field. He caught only 11 passes last season, but averaged 42.4 yards per reception and converted seven of his grabs into touchdowns.

About the only thing he hasn't grabbed is the attention of collegiate scouts, but that might happen if he has a breakout season in the team's new multiple offensive set. The same could also be said of senior K.J. Marshall, who is a solid runner and receiver.

“They both have great speed, they're both 4.5 (second 40) guys, so the speed is there,” Ruscitto said.

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