Former New Castle title-winning QB now leading charge on sidelines
Joe Cowart already has one WPIAL title, from when he quarterbacked New Castle to victory at Three Rivers Stadium in 1998.
Fourteen years later, the Red Hurricanes have asked Cowart to make them winners again. The first-year coach was hired in April to oversee the WPIAL program with the most all-time victories.
His long-term goals as coach mirror those as a player.
“We want to win the league, win the district and go to the state championship like everybody else,” said Cowart, a math teacher who spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach. “This year, I expect us to compete for a playoff spot.”
The Red Hurricanes are just two victories shy of 700, a mark no WPIAL team has achieved. Cowart's great uncle, longtime coach Lindy Lauro, won 220 of them.
But in the past 10 seasons, New Castle has reached the playoffs just three times. A year ago, under coach Frank Bongivengo Jr., a tie-breaker kept the Red Hurricanes out.
“We could win them all or go 0-8 this year,” Cowart said of New Castle's Parkway Conference schedule. “That's how good I think our team could be, and that's how good this league is.”
Their most-recent playoff game was 2009. New Castle reached the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals in 2008 but hasn't made the title game since Cowart was a senior in 1998. That year, the 1,100-yard passer helped New Castle beat North Allegheny in the Class AAAA title game.
Julian Cox, a junior, entered camp as the front runner to replace John Matarazzo at quarterback. Cox, a New Castle native, moved temporarily to Ellwood City and was the Wolverines' quarterback last season. He passed for 540 yards, ran for 272.
The Red Hurricanes won't keep the spread offense they had under Bongivengo. The quarterback will be under center more often, with a renewed focus on running back Jalen Holmes, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in 2011. Senior receiver Paul Jones and junior tight end Stew Allen also will be featured.