After long-awaited playoff return, South Allegheny has high expectations
In his fifth season as South Allegheny's head coach, Pat Monroe finally returned the Gladiators to the WPIAL postseason.
With one goal finally conquered, Monroe hopes to prove that 2012 was the gateway to success instead of a one-hit wonder.
The veteran coach will guide a potentially explosive offense and a rebuilding defense as South Allegheny looks to continue its ascent in mighty Class AA.
“What those kids did last year was special,” Monroe said. “But now new people get a turn, and they've all been in this program for awhile now. I feel good about them and about where we're going.”
South Allegheny used a seven-game winning streak last season to reach the playoffs for the first time since 1986. Its only regular-season losses came against powers Seton-La Salle and South Fayette.
The Gladiators were dismissed in the first round of the playoffs by another regular Class AA contender, Jeannette.
Monroe is no stranger to building a power of his own, having won two WPIAL titles and a PIAA championship during his reign as Duquesne's last football coach. He sees something special building at South Allegheny.
“Getting back to the playoffs is certainly a realistic goal, and I feel like the talent is in place to make that happen,” Monroe said. “There are a lot of gifted athletes on this football team, a lot of kids who can grow and be very good. As a staff, our job is to mature that talent as quickly as possible.”
Monroe said that it's a “safe bet” that his team's offense will be far more advanced than his defense when the season begins.
After all, South Allegheny lost its entire front seven to graduation.
“We have positions to fill,” Monroe said. “And I think we have the people to make it work.”
There is little question that Monroe's offense should click.
Senior quarterback Ty Cook became the starter last season after then-starter Dustin Anderson went down with an injury.
“What an athlete,” Monroe said. “As of right now, that job is clearly his. He has a great arm, he can really run. He just gives our offense so many options because of the different things he can do. We need to keep working with him so he becomes a better game manager, but I think that will come. We're excited about what he can do.”
Cook won't be alone.
Junior running back DaVonte Johnson was part of a talented tandem at Monroe's disposal last season. Now, the spotlight is his.
“He could have been a feature back on any given day last season,” Monroe said.
Look for Kordell Thompson to play a significant role in South Allegheny's offense, also. Monroe expects Thompson to become Cook's favorite target.
Thompson will play primarily at wideout and tight end.
“He can play anywhere,” Monroe said. “He's just another upper-echelon athlete.”
Three returning starters — Zack Young, Seth Hitchens and Mark Tortice — should give South Allegheny a solid offensive line.
Monroe hopes his team's offense will carry the load until his defense has time to mature.
The veteran coach likes what he sees.
“Talented group,” he said. “And I don't sense any arrogance or cockiness. We know getting to the playoffs wasn't easy last year, and I believe this team is willing to put in the work to make it happen again.”