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Gateway coach Statnick's dedication to students, athletes cherished

Michael Love
| Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015, 12:57 p.m.
Steve Statnick was a teacher and football coach in the Gateway School District for close to three decades.
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Steve Statnick was a teacher and football coach in the Gateway School District for close to three decades.

Stephen Duane Statnick, affectionately known as “Coach” by the numerous student-athletes he had the chance to mentor, enjoyed a standout teaching and coaching career in the Gateway School District for close to three decades.

Physical education and fitness was his passion. Football was as well.

His accomplishments on and off the gridiron were numerous, and he was recognized with induction into the Gateway Sports Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, East Boros Chapter, last fall.

Statnick died Friday at the age of 84, and he leaves behind family members and friends who recount the memories they had with him and the energy he displayed while living his life.

“We had a lot of coaches in mind when we started the (Gateway) hall of fame,” said hall-of-fame chairman Tony Petrocelli, who also played football under Statnick in eighth and ninth grade.

“We wanted them all to have their day in the sun. Steve left a lasting impression on me and the others who played for him. He was way ahead of his time as far as physical fitness and physical fitness instruction. He knew your personality and what you needed to do to be at your best physically.”

Statnick was born and raised in Johnstown, and he enjoyed a successful football career at Slippery Rock University.

He followed his time at Slippery Rock with two years served in the U.S. Army.

After his tenure in the Army, Statnick returned home to Johnstown and began his coaching career at two area high schools.

His journey at Gateway began in 1963 as he earned a position as head of the physical education department at the new South Junior High.

In addition to his dedication to fitness for all of his students, he had a stellar tenure as South Junior High's football coach.

He compiled a 69-15-1 record with seven undefeated seasons and 40 shutouts.

South went 43-2 from 1965 to 1973.

The 1966 team was undefeated and featured seven starters who went on to start on Gateway's 1969 WPIAL championship team. One of those starters was current Gators athletic director and fellow Gateway hall-of-fame inductee Randy Rovesti.

“When I played for him, we were undefeated for those three years,” Rovesti said.

“There were so many sayings he would post on a board that would help motivate us. He was extremely successful and well-liked by his players. He will be sorely missed by so many.”

While he taught and coached at South Junior High, Statnick also earned a master's degree from Penn State.

“A lot of the Gateway football success was because of the players who came through South Junior High and played under Statnick,” Petrocelli said.

“He had a chance to develop them at age 14 and 15. By the time they got to high school, they were physically and mentally ready to play. They knew what was expected of them. He left a lasting impression on everyone he came across.”

Legendary Gateway varsity head coach Pete Antimarino and hall-of-fame assistant Art Betts brought Statnick up to the varsity football staff in 1979.

Statnick, in a profile for his Gateway hall-of-fame induction, said a memorable moment for him was being able to coach his son, Stephen, during his high school years from 1980 to 1982.

Stephen followed in his father's footsteps and played football at Slippery Rock where he started at quarterback for two seasons.

Statnick helped coach Gateway to three consecutive WPIAL championship games from 1984 to 1986.

With the help of Gateway and East Boros hall of famers Curtis Bray and Terry Smith, the 1986 Gateway team defeated North Hills for the WPIAL Quad-A title in a classic game at Three Rivers Stadium.

North Hills was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time of the game.

Statnick retired from teaching and coaching in 1990, but he maintained his love and desire to stay physically fit.

He also attended Gateway football games as long as his health permitted.

Garrett Schmidt, whose mother, Roselyn, was a friend and partner with Statnick in recent years, shared a common bond with Statnick as a teacher and coach at Gateway.

“He really enjoyed teaching and coaching and wanted to share his experiences with everyone,” said Schmidt, who coached football at Gateway for six years and also served as a swim coach for the Gators.

“A lot of people I've talked to spoke really highly of him. He tried to help everyone out, whether they were a student or an athlete.”

After a viewing Monday and Tuesday, a memorial Mass was held Wednesday at North American Martyrs Church.

Memorial contributions can be sent to the Coach Statnick Memorial Scholarship, 3675 Northern Pike, Monroeville, PA, 15146.

Michael Love is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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