Deer Lakes starting fresh with new coach
Two years ago, T.J. Wiley took over the Northgate football program and instantly turned the Flames into a WPIAL playoff contender.
Now the Titusville native hopes to usher in a new football era at Deer Lakes.
“I wasn't hired there until June 25 (2011), but with hard work, we changed the culture of the program,” Wiley said of Northgate. “But my wife and I live in Allison Park, and when I heard the Deer Lakes job opened up, I told her I wanted to go for this. There was something about that school that appealed to me — maybe because it's rural and outdoorsy, like Titusville.”
Wiley takes over a program that has made the WPIAL playoffs once (2010) and has just 10 winning seasons since 1969.
“I was hired in January, and to the kids' credit, they've bought into our way of doing things,” Wiley said. “The transition has been very smooth. The players have gotten stronger and improved their speed and quickness.”
Among Wiley's assistants is his father, John, who will stay in T.J.'s basement during the season for nearly five days a week, the same arrangement the Wileys had while at Northgate and Penn-Trafford.
“I tell the players my dad is making this huge sacrifice, coming down from Titusville, because he cares about you,” the younger Wiley said. “My dad gets the most out of kids than anyone I've seen.”
One of Wiley's first moves was to declare all the starting positions open.
He said the seniors will get looked at first, but attitude and work ethic will be major ingredients in determining which 11 athletes will take the field Friday against Valley at Lancers Stadium.
Deer Lakes returns its leading passer from last season, Josh Plocki, who threw for 530 yards and seven touchdowns.
Wiley will emphasize learning multiple positions, even though about 50 to 55 players are expected to be on the roster.
“The slot receivers should know a backs position and a cornerback should know how to play safety,” according to Wiley.
Other returnees include senior running back/linebacker Brandon Newmaster and Arlind Karpuzi, a former lineman who has been moved to the offensive backfield.
Lining up as a slotback should be sophomore Hunter Burns and senior Anthony Sammartino. Sophomore Geoff Matthews, at about 6-foot-1 and 315 pounds could play multiple line positions.
Also opening some eyes is freshman Mark Fubinger, who reportedly played well in the 7-on-7 camps.