New coach hopes to give boost to Big Macs

| Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

New Canon-McMillan coach Ron Coder is accustomed to dealing with challenges.

He attended high school at an Air Force base in Japan while his father was in the military. He walked on at Penn State, earned a scholarship during his sophomore season and played for some great Nittany Lions teams of the mid-1970s.

Coder was drafted by the Steelers in 1976 and soon was traded to the Seahawks. He also played for the (St. Louis) Cardinals, the Broncos, then closed out his playing career at 31 in the USFL with championship teams in Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Now he takes over a Big Macs program that has posted a 2-26 record over the past three seasons.

Not only is it challenging getting players into a positive frame of mind after all the losing, but six of Canon-McMillan's first seven games this season will be against WPIAL playoff schools from last year.

“The kids have shown they're willing to work hard so far,” Coder said. “We want to see what they can do, and we have some decent talent.”

With explosive offenses such as those of Mt. Lebanon and Woodland Hills on the schedule, Coder would like to run the ball well and take time off the clock, keeping the ball out of the hands of Canon-McMillan's opponents.

“They all put on their uniforms the same way,” Coder said. “We just have to make less mistakes and commit less turnovers.”

Even though the program has struggled, past teams have had some size up front.

“Our line looks to be one of our strong suits,” Coder said. “We want to keep the chains moving and keep the games close.”

One two-way lineman the Big Macs figure to build around is junior Alex Paulina, who is 6-foot-4 and nearly 300 pounds. A freshman pushing for playing time is Dominic Eannace.

“On defense, we'll have some athletes that can make a difference and get some things done, definitely,” Coder said.

Senior Alec Hutchin, who threw for 363 yards last season, returns at quarterback and could be spelled by sophomore Jordan Smith.

Running back Deonte Kelly, who rushed for 536 yards last year is back, along with senior Jules Gdovic, who caught 16 passes.

Coder's other coaching assignment was a rousing success. He led the Pittsburgh Passion women's team to an undefeated season and a national championship in 2007. He coached the past two seasons at Northgate, a program that experienced a big turnaround.

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