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Baldwin's Cooley part of decorated coaching tree

| Monday, March 20, 2017, 7:15 p.m.

Loran Cooley knows football.

Baldwin's new coach competed on the gridiron at East Allegheny, under the guidance of Tom Organ, and graduated from EA in 1996. He then played at Duquesne University, under Greg Gattuso, from 2000-03.

As an assistant coach, Cooley, 38, has worked with and learned from some of Western Pennsylvania's most highly regarded field bosses.

He served as an assistant for Terry Smith (Gateway) from 2009-12, Matt Morgan (Plum) from 2013-15, and Wayne Wade (Clairton) in 2016.

“Coach Cooley comes highly recommended,” said Vince Sortino, Baldwin's athletic director, “and has had great success, not only as a player but also as a coach. Coach Cooley has a high-energy level, and it will be contagious with our students and staff.”

The man who has made a tremendous influence on Cooley's coaching career is Smith, the former Gateway football star who went on to become a standout wide receiver at Penn State, followed by stints in the NFL, Arena Football league and Canadian Football League.

Smith currently coaches at Penn State as the Nittany Lions' defense recruiting coordinator and cornerbacks coach. He added the title of assistant head coach following the 2015 season.

“My biggest (football) influence is my family,” Cooley said. “They have supported me through out my career. My mentor is Terry Smith. Coach Smith has had the biggest impact in my coaching career. I learned how to build a program from the ground up.

“Coach Smith has helped so many kids in so many ways. I'm from that tree, and I just want to carry on the tradition.”

Cooley is employed full-time as a Pennsylvania state trooper. He plans to bring some of his discipline from work to the Fighting Highlanders' program, which has not generated a winning season since 2003.

“My mission as Baldwin's head coach is to develop student-athletes to reach their highest potential on and off the field,” he said. “To graduate champions in the classroom, and effectively mentor each one of my players to be successful in life. In addition, we will play with relentless effort.”

Relentless effort definitely is needed in the WPIAL Class 5A division.

Baldwin is a member of the Allegheny Nine Conference in Class 5A, along with West Allegheny, Woodland Hills, Upper St. Clair, North Hills, Fox Chapel, Moon, Chartiers Valley and Hampton. West Allegheny won the WPIAL Class 5A championship in 2016.

The Fighting Highlanders finished 2-7 overall last fall, which included a 1-7 mark in conference play.

“I'm familiar with the conference,” Cooley said. “This conference is one of the best in the WPIAL, in my opinion. Every week is going to be a dogfight.”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.

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