Young Serra squad struggling with low participation
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Jamie Eckels has accomplished about everything a football coach can over a career.
The innovator of the famed flexbone offense in the WPIAL, Eckels won WPIAL titles, state titles and countless conference titles over 19 years as an assistant with McKeesport.
Nowadays as Serra Catholic's football coach, his job description has changed a little — he's trying to round up any kid within the school to play on the team and hoping that he has enough to field a team on seemingly a daily basis.
Case in point was during the first day of volunteer workouts in late July when seven kids showed up.
Still, Eckels plods along in trying to rebuild a program that's fallen on hard times ever since winning the WPIAL title five years ago.
“The reason why I still do this is that I still think I can affect kids' lives,” said Eckels, who retired from teaching last year.
“I want to make them better kids and to show them how to play the game of football. Football is a great game. It is something that I've done all my life, and really, I can't afford to play golf every day on my retirement check.”
But even the most dedicated coaches have to question whether it's worth the hassle, let alone a coach who recently went through a six-bypass surgery.
“I still love to coach,” Eckels said. “That's the only reason why I do it.”
Serra has struggled during Eckels' two years as head coach, going 5-14 and missing the playoffs, but nothing has struggled more than Eckels' triple-option offense.
Since Eckels took over, Serra has averaged 12 points per game. Take away two games against hapless Bentworth in which the Eagles scored 102 points, Serra has averaged a mere six points per game over two years.
Eckels final year leading the McKeesport offense in 2009, the Tigers averaged 37 points per game.
With quarterback Anthony Rosso, who filled in for the injured Trevor Jaworski late last year, deciding to play soccer instead of football, Eckels will turn to a sophomore who has never taken a varsity snap.
Eckels hopes sophomore quarterback Zack Quattrane (5-10, 152) will get Serra's offense back on track.
“He can throw the ball and has some speed,” Eckels said. “He is not blazing fast, but he can run well.”
Eckels admits that he will have to scale back the offense to help along the young and inexperienced quarterback.
“I think he can be good,” Eckels said. “He is a pretty good athlete, so he can do some things.”
Aiding Quattrane in his attempts to score will be kicker Michael Mercea, a soccer player who may be a weapon for the Eagles.
Serra will be very young this year with Zack Varga and Jason Albring being the only seniors.
“We are young,” Eckels said. “Very young.”
The offensive line will have four sophomores to go along with Albring.
“I know we are physically stronger than we have ever been,” Eckels said. “We just don't have a lot of kids. That's the biggest thing. If anybody gets hurt, we are going to be in trouble.”
It won't help that Serra is part of one of the toughest conferences in the WPIAL.
With realignment, Serra will share a conference with Clairton, Monessen, Brentwood, California, Bishop Canevin, Fort Cherry, Carlynton, Chartiers-Houston and Imani Christian.
Show commenting policy
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.
- South Fayette football team distributes Steelers tickets to Carlynton, Wilkinsburg
- 2014 Valley News Dispatch football all-stars
- Pine-Richland falls short in PIAA Class AAAA final
- High school notebook: WPIAL adjusts to accommodate Armstrong merger