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Serra hires Tony St. Angelo to lead football team

| Friday, March 15, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

Serra Catholic athletic director Bill Cleary made sure that each of the eight applicants he interviewed for the vacant football coaching job knew one thing about the program.

“I made all of them well aware of where we are,” Cleary said.

And still, Tony St. Angelo wanted the job.

Serra hired St. Angelo on Friday to take over a Serra program that is miles away from the team that won the WPIAL Class A title and was state runner-up six years ago.

“We like his experience and what he has to offer,” Cleary said.

St. Angelo was Elizabeth Forward's offensive coordinator the past two years under Mike LeDonne and helped turn the Warriors into a playoff team this past year.

“Everybody who applied for the job was well aware of where we are and how we have to climb out of it,” Cleary said. “I think we can get back to become a highly competitive program once again”

Jamie Eckels resigned in November after a three-year stint in which the Eagles went 5-23, including 5-18 in the Black Hills Conference.

St. Angelo wasn't deterred by the poor season.

“It was a job that I thought I could get, and it was a step up,” St. Angelo said. “I don't know any other job that was open in the WPIAL, but I wasn't interested in any other school, even though Serra isn't in the best of situations right now.”

That's an understatement.

Serra went 0-9 and was outscored by more than 40 points per game. At the end of the season, the Eagles barely had enough players to field a team. Serra has lost 11 consecutive games and won only 18 since losing to Steelton-Highspire in the 2007 Class A state championship game.

“The first thing you have to do is to get the kids to want to come out and play football,” Cleary said. “I still believe that we have good athletes in the school that can play football. We need those kids to come out. That's job No. 1 and then put in the foundation and organization of what he wants to accomplish.”

A South Allegheny graduate, St. Angelo, 35, started his coaching career at Duquesne in 2002 under Pat Monroe. He then had stints following LeDonne to South Allegheny, Clairton and McKeesport before taking charge of EF's offense the past two years.

St. Angelo said his style of coaching is similar to LeDonne's.

“The discipline and the commitment he gets from the kids is what I want,” St. Angelo said. “Every kid he has been around, he's gotten everything he could out of that kid. I play close attention to detail and that's what he did.”

St. Angelo feels Serra can be a winner again.

“I see a lot of athletes at Serra,” St. Angelo said. “They had a short roster, but they were all sophomores. You have all sophomores coming back, and it isn't a bad situation.”

St. Angelo said his spread option offense will help get kids more interested in coming out for the team.

“When Rich Bowen was there, they were a success from the time he got there until the time he left,” St. Angelo said. “Me being a young guy and running a no-huddle, spread offense, maybe I can get some of the athletes out who want to do that. I saw a basketball game, and none of those kids play football. We are hoping to work with the coaches to change that.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at mkaboly@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MarkKaboly_Trib.

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