Legendary coach Smith welcomes return to McKeesport
TribLIVE Sports Videos
George Smith's second go-round as football coach at McKeesport feels much like his first time on the Tigers' sideline.
But there's been at least one notable exception — his players, none of whom were in high school when he last led the program, have had to adjust to his methodical coaching style.
“They'll be no walk-throughs in practices,” said Smith, rehired in January to succeed Jim Ward, on the eve of McKeesport's opener Friday night at Hempfield. “It's not our style. We've been sweating it out, working very hard.”
Smith recalled a conversation he had with former McKeesport star Brandon Short in 1994, when the Tigers won the first of two PIAA championships. Short convinced Smith to have the team wear full pads on the day before games.
“Brandon said, ‘We've got to go full speed if we're going to be a good team,' ” Smith said. “I decided to do that, and I've been doing it ever since. Same goes for Mondays after the weekend and before we scrimmage. We're not going to be coming out on Mondays and Thursdays with walk-throughs, like a lot of people do. Mondays and Thursdays are full pads, just like the other days.
“Hopefully, if we keep sweating it out and continue to work as hard as we can, by the second half of the season, we'll be a good team.”
Smith and his former longtime offensive coordinator, Jamie Eckels, have been preparing McKeesport for the chance to confound opponents' defenses with their trademark option flexbone.
Senior quarterback David Queen will get the nod to run the set when McKeesport plays Hempfield in a WPIAL Class AAAA Quad East game.
“He's gotten most of the snaps in practice this week,” Smith said.
Queen beat out junior TyWann Smith, who will switch to wide receiver.
“TyWann is a very good athlete. He was just having some trouble taking snaps,” said Smith, who is three victories shy of 200 for his career.
Is Smith nervous in his 29th season overall with the Tigers following a three-year period in which he was out of coaching?
“No, not at all,” he said. “I feel dead. It's been a long preseason. It's been a grind. There's been a lot of teaching and a lot of intensity in practice. We're very intense as a coaching staff.”
Smith will be going against a familiar face at Hempfield, coached by former Serra Catholic star Rich Bowen, a White Oak native and former coach of his alma mater, as well as Elizabeth Forward and Yough.
“It was a great move to get George back at McKeesport,” said Bowen, who led Hempfield to a surprising 33-18 victory at McKeesport in the 2012 opener. “I'm a McKeesport guy. I know just what that means to the community.
“Those guys are the masters at making that offense work,” said Bowen, in his second season at Hempfield.
McKeesport compiled a three-year record of 19-11 under Ward. But the Tigers went 5-5 last season and lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs for the third year in a row.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- A-K Valley football notebook: Christy has best of both worlds as coach, father
- Gorman: Rivals North Hills, North Allegheny join to battle cancer
- Statewide HSFB notebook: Scranton RB to miss rest of season with injury
- Schoolboy pick of week: BV Area
- Leader Times notebook: Tickets going fast for FC-Kittanning series finale
- High school football notebook: WPIAL might welcome another team next year
- WPIAL, coaches are still looking to schedule Week 9 rivalry games
- Guido: Kittanning-Ford City rivalry packed with memories
- HS highlight reel: Sarra returns to coach Waynesburg
- Longtime rivals Kittanning, Ford City set for final act
- West Shamokin’s ground game too much for Burrell