New coach plots to restore Serra football team to prominence
The Serra Catholic football team is the answer to a trivia question: Which was the last team before Clairton's current dominance to win the WPIAL Class A championship?
Since the Eagles' victory in 2007, the program has plummeted.
New coach Tony St. Angelo hopes to quickly restore Serra's program, and he thinks a resurgence could come quickly.
“I've got a special group of upperclassmen,” St. Angelo said. “I had kids coming to every single offseason workout. Probably 21 every time. I actually thought we were going to have even better numbers than we have, just because of the number of kids showing up for workouts.”
Serra started with 29 players when camp began. Since then, one has quit and three more sustained significant injuries.
Despite coming off a poor season and having only 25 active players for its first scrimmage, Serra is convincing its coach that a breakout season is possible. Of the 25 players who scrimmaged last week, 21 showed up for regular offseason workouts.
Such commitment, St. Angelo believes, can take a program a long way.
“I can't complain about the work they're giving me,” St. Angelo said.
St. Angelo is introducing the spread offense to a team that previously used the option, which was favored by former coach Jamie Eckels.
When Serra won the 2007 WPIAL title, it used former coach Rich Bowen's variation of the spread.
The spread is back at Serra, and quarterback Zac Quattrone will be running the show.
“Man, has he adapted well to this offense,” St. Angelo said. “I really like this kid a lot.”
St. Angelo gave Eckels credit for properly teaching Quattrone how to read defenses. Although the option and spread are different, some principles are similar.
The quarterback's decision making during camp has been superb.
“I really do feel comfortable even though the offense is totally different in a lot of ways,” Quattrone said. “I actually like this offense more. I get to throw the ball more, and that's what I want to be doing. I'm excited about the progress we've made.”
So is his coach.
“You can see Coach Eckels taught him well,” St. Angelo said. “He's not only adapted well, but he is getting more comfortable in the passing game every day. He's just been really impressive in every way. Our receivers just need to catch the ball. He should have competed nine of 10 passes in our first scrimmage.”
St. Angelo knows a thing or two about winning programs.
He started his high school coaching career as volunteer coach with Duquesne in 2002. He later coached the freshman team at Elizabeth Forward, then the seventh- and eighth-grade teams at South Allegheny.
St. Angelo was an assistant coach during two years of Clairton's ongoing dynasty, was the wide receivers coach at McKeesport Area and EF's offensive coordinator the past two years.
He feels good about his new team, even though it has lost 11 straight and 19 of its past 21 games.
“I've been around,” he said with a laugh. “And I like what I see here. I really do.”
The quarterback likes what he sees in the coach.
“It's been really good,” Quattrone said. “I think the whole team is comfortable with how everything has gone so far, and we feel like we have a chance to be a way better team.”