Gorman: West Shamokin goes back to basics for 'W'
TribLIVE Sports Videos
West Shamokin took its gloves off, and the Wolves finally won.
After nearly five seasons of futility that set a WPIAL record, Josh Gilliland reached his breaking point when West Shamokin fumbled a dozen times in its first two games — Eastern Conference losses to Springdale and Northgate.
“It's a small thing,” Gilliland said, “but I look back and say it was a small thing that kept us from fumbling the football.”
The Wolves snapped their 46-game losing streak Friday night with a 25-6 victory over Riverview, their first since Sept. 21, 2007.
Dropping down from Class AA to Class A certainly played a part, but Gilliland believes it was a bare-knuckle, back-to-the-basics approach that made the most dramatic difference.
It started with Gilliland ordering his players to lose their gloves and use towels.
“It stems from back to when I wore gloves when I played for Kittanning coach (Harry) Beckwith,” said Gilliland, West Shamokin's fourth-year coach. “He told me to take the gloves off, and said if I fumbled again, I wouldn't see the field the rest of the year.
“I just went straight with them and said, ‘Guys, you won't be in many football games if you turn it over. You guys are hindering yourselves from being an awesome football team by putting the ball on the ground.' ”
That wasn't the only change the Wolves made. Gilliland held a staff meeting, and told his assistants to “put it on the table” and figure out what was wrong without pointing fingers or getting their feelings hurt.
Ultimately, they decided to switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-4 base, allowing their players to use their athleticism, to read and react. Gilliland also asked his staff to coach with a carefree attitude and “not worry about what anyone else is saying about us.”
That confidence carried over to the Wolves, who stopped Riverview on its first two possessions and, despite facing a nine-man front to stop the run, relied on its wing-T offense to build leads of 6-0 after one quarter and 12-0 at the half despite missing quarterback Alex Lasslo (concussion).
“You're going to play with much more pride when you're winning,” Gilliland said, “but I had kids saying at halftime, ‘When's halftime going to be over?'
“It seemed like forever. When you're losing, you never have enough time at halftime. When you're winning, you just want to get back out there.”
Gilliland was particularly thrilled for two seniors, left tackle Kyle Schons and left guard Andy Stover, who stuck with the program since their freshman season despite all the losing. It was the first time they tasted victory in a high school football game.
“It was funny. I was walking into the locker room, heard the music playing and everybody was smiling,” Gilliland said. “I turned and said to one of my coaches, ‘Isn't it nice that, for once, we can walk into the locker room and everybody can have a good time after a game?' Hopefully, we'll get on a roll here.”
By then, the Wolves were howling. That's when one West Shamokin player shared with Gilliland words that sounded sweet:
That streak is over. It's time to start a new one.
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.
- Police charge New Florence man in St. Clair officer’s killing
- Penn State coach fires offensive coordinator
- Fatal HOV lane crash in Ross under investigation
- New Kensington man killed in North Buffalo crash
- Indiana Twp. liver transplant recipient, 2, takes steps toward normal life
- Penguins centermen enjoying better faceoff success rate
- Funding highway bill atop Rep. Shuster’s agenda
- Central Catholic wins 5th WPIAL football title
- Four downs: Steelers might still be Adams’ best bet
- Travelers advised to arrive 2 hours early for flights from Pittsburgh International Airport
- Outdoors notebook: Multiyear license buyers fish more often