Liotta brothers coach Erie to 2nd consecutive indoor football title
With the ball on the Marion (Ohio) Blue Racers' 15-yard line, Springdale native and Erie Explosion coach Shawn Liotta signaled the play into quarterback Aaron Smetanka.
“Trio Left Macho Man.”
Smetanka connected with receiver Evan Twombly on a curl route for a 15-yard touchdown to set the wheels in motion, and Erie went on to win its second consecutive Continental Indoor Football League championship.
Liotta and his brother, Jeremy, also from Springdale, coached the Explosion to CIFL glory — Shawn as the coach and Jeremy as the defensive coordinator.
The Explosion (10-2) beat Marion, 38-26, but not before overcoming odds that were stacked against them. They not only won their playoff game on the road while avenging one of their regular-season losses against Saginaw, but they also won the title on the road, well, becoming the first CIFL team to win it all on the road in six years.
In the final, they scored the final 19 points to win.
“We didn't panic,” Shawn Liotta said. “We expected to win the game. We still believed in our game plan. I told them we were going to win the game.
“It got to the fourth quarter, it was tied and the fans were on their feet and howling.”
The Explosion defense took over in the fourth quarter, getting pressure on Blue Racers quarterback Chris Wallace. Jeremy Liotta did the play-calling there.
“Anytime you can have your brother on your coaching staff, it's outstanding,” said Shawn Liotta, who is 22-2 as coach. “He did a great job calling the defense the last two years. He's been with me since I started doing this. It's special because it's family.”
Not to be outdone by one another, both the Erie offense, led by Shawn, and the Jeremy-led defense were ranked No. 1 in the CIFL during the 2014 season.
“People always say the first (championship) feels the best, but I disagree,” Jeremy Liotta said. “The second one felt great.
“It's always great to coach with my brother, but the last two years winning the championship alongside him is a memory you won't forget.”
The offense scored a league-high 445 points during the regular season (55.6 points per game), and the defense allowed 197 (24.6).
Jeremy admitted there is a friendly competition between the two facets of the game. But brotherly love prevails.
“We've been battling it out the last two years,” he said. “Last year was my first year finishing with the No. 1 defense, and he challenged me. Each week, we checked the stats. He always tried to score the most points, and we tried to hold the other team to as little points as possible.”
Shawn Liotta will add to his coaching duties this fall when he joins new coach Wayne Wade's staff at Clairton High School.
D.J. Vasil is a freelance writer.