Springdale grad Liotta coaches indoor football team to perfect record, league title
Perfection is the ultimate goal of any coach, but only a few can achieve that elusive result.
Count Erie Explosion coach Shawn Liotta among the few.
Liotta, a Springdale native, guided the undefeated Explosion to the Continental Indoor Football League championship. The coach was named CIFL Coach of the Year for the second straight season as Erie finished 12-0.
Liotta, 32, has made several coaching stops over the years, including at Springdale and West Shamokin and Duquesne University. He said the CIFL season followed a simple checklist.
“I think anytime you go undefeated that's a special season,” said Liotta, a 1998 Springdale graduate. “Our players, coaches and staff worked extremely hard. It's the first time in my coaching career where we hit everything on the goal board at the beginning of the year.”
Other goals also were accomplished. The team won the conference title and established home-field advantage in the playoffs.
The Explosion powered their way through the regular season en route to their first indoor title, finishing with the No. 1 scoring offense that averaged 45.8 points and the top defense, which yielded 23.1 points.
Though their record was unblemished, not all of the wins came easy. The championship game came down to the final minutes and featured a goal-line stand by the Erie defense.
Erie held on to beat the Saginaw Sting, 37-36. During the regular season, the Explosion rolled over the Sting, 52-20.
With just 1:48 left in the title game and the Explosion down 36-30, running back Richard Stokes scored to put them ahead by a point. The Sting, however, wouldn't go away as they marched down inside the Explosion 10-yard line but ultimately turned the ball over on downs.
“Our defense played so well all year, and I had all the confidence in the world we would be able to get a stop,” Liotta said about the goal-line stand. “Arena football is so crazy that when we scored, I was worried we left them with too much time. And it was to the point where we look at the strategy that if they scored how much time we would have left to score?”
Liotta completed his seventh season coaching indoor football. His resume almost stretches the length of an indoor field. He was the offensive coordinator under Chuck Wagner at Springdale from 2000-02 and the running backs coach at Duquense from 2002-04. He also served as head coach at Line Mountain High School from 2004-05 and at West Shamokin from 2005-08.
Jeremy Liotta, Shawn's brother, served as the defensive coordinator for the Explosion this year.