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West Shamokin hires defensive coordinator as new head football coach

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 7:54 p.m.

Jon McCullough stuck with West Shamokin's football program during its worst times.

Now he'll steer the Wolves into a particularly promising future.

McCullough, 33, has moved into the top spot on West Shamokin's coaching staff after serving as defensive coordinator the past four seasons.

He succeeds Josh Gilliland, who resigned in December for personal reasons following his fourth season as coach.

The Armstrong School District's board of directors approved McCullough on Monday night.

West Shamokin athletic director Tom McClaine said six candidates received interviews.

“I had confidence that they'd look at the in-house candidates, especially with the progress we've made,” said McCullough, a Kittanning graduate who then played linebacker at Thiel.

McCullough and Gilliland arrived at West Shamokin after a 2008 season in which the Wolves finished winless.

They and their cohorts hoped to guide the team to success in 2009, but that campaign, as well as the 2010 and 2011 seasons, ended without a victory.

West Shamokin lost a WPIAL-record 46 straight before it defeated Riverview, 25-6, on Sept. 19 last year. The Wolves concluded the season with a 3-7 record, their best since 2002.

With all but four players expected to return in the fall, West Shamokin appears ready to ride its momentum in a positive direction.

McCullough believes his hiring will spare the Wolves drastic change at a critical time.

“We're trying to maintain the continuity we've had,” said McCullough, who intends to retain the team's other assistants.

McCullough is a first-time head coach at the varsity level. Before his time with West Shamokin, McCullough worked with the Armstrong youth football organization and later with Kittanning's junior high program.

The idea of coaching became appealing at the moment he started with the Armstrong organization in 2002, said McCullough, who missed almost all of his senior season at Thiel because he injured his left knee.

“Right then and there, I realized I never wanted to be away from the game again,” McCullough said of his earliest days with the youth team.

Now afforded the opportunity to have the final say on decisions, McCullough intends to uphold many of the schemes and routines started by his predecessor.

That plan extends to West Shamokin's wing-T offense.

“We'll still keep the principles in place, just maybe with a few tweaks,” McCullough said.

Junior Austin Bussard counted himself among the numerous Wolves who were pleased by the hiring.

“He brings a lot of upbeat energy to the program and is just a good guy to have around,” said Bussard, a returning two-way starter.

McClaine also cited McCullough's personality as one of the new coach's strongest attributes.

“He just seems like a very high-character kind of person,” McClaine said, “someone we wanted as a role model for our West Shamokin students.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.

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