South Allegheny hoping to reverse course, start winning
As his football team prepared to meet West Mifflin in its second preseason scrimmage Friday night, South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe was reminded of an earlier time when a community came together for an all-star game at Franklin Regional.
He's hoping for some cohesion in his community, where South Allegheny is attempting to rebound from a tough season a year ago in which the Gladiators won just one game.
“I'm seeing some good work ethic out of this group. They're pushing each other out there,” Monroe said Wednesday following an afternoon practice at Glassport Memorial Stadium.
Monroe coached the East team at the Pennsylvania State Football Coaches Association East/West All-Star Game several weeks after an April stabbings incident on the school's grounds in which no one died.
The time spent before and during the game had Monroe eager to get back on the field for the opening of preseason camp last week.
“That experience was a positive one,” he said. “It was great not only to be around the kids but to work with other top-quality coaches and to see a community bond the way the people did at Franklin Regional. We brought a thing or two back from that week, and we're hoping it's going to benefit our team.”
While Monroe stood off to the side and observed players leaving the field, senior tackle Zack Young stood in a T-shirt and practice pants at the entrance of a tunnel leading to the locker room and prepared to be drenched by an bucket of ice water.
It was all part of the raging ALS Ice Bucket Challenge to benefit the fight against what is commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
While a train's whistle blared in the background, Young danced around for a bit after absorbing the chilly water, then headed in search of a hot shower.
The scenario amused the usually subdued Monroe, who was grinning.
“That's all him,” Monroe said of Young. “That isn't something that the school is involved with. That's something he's doing on his own. But we've got great kids here. They're out here on the field pushing themselves. It's good when you see spurts in your guys. We're moving in the right direction.”
The departure of quarterback Ty Cook has left open the job to three candidates. Senior Mark Gobbie, junior Jonathan Mayernik and sophomore Tyler Hinnerman are battling for the starting position, and Monroe said despite their inexperience, he's seeing things that he likes in all three.
“They're just all out there doing this as first-time quarterbacks,” Monroe said. “They're all three making first-time mistakes.”
In six previous seasons at South Allegheny, the Gladiators have predominantly been a running team on offense. Led by two-way senior tackle Seth Hitchins (6-foot-3, 240 pounds), they've got the size across the line to open holes for running backs DaVonte Johnson and Curtis Moore.
“The line is getting some cohesion,” Monroe said. “If they stay healthy, we can be pretty good.”
On offense and defense, he stressed.
South Allegheny opens the regular season Aug. 29 at Sto-Rox, which joined the Class AA Century Conference after making an enrollment jump from Class A.
The Vikings won the Big Seven championship and was 12-1 after losing to Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 14-0, in the WPIAL championship game at Heinz Field.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.