Ligonier Valley hoping to spoil Laurel Valley's playoff bid
The Laurel Valley High School football program has a rich history, and three men who had a hand in building that success will be in attendance at tonight's game when the Rams (6-2) visit rival Ligonier Valley (1-7).
Stan Dohoda, who coached the Rams until 1969, will be in the stands watching his former assistants -- Laurel Valley coach Jerry Page and Ligonier Valley volunteer coach Bert Toy -- work the sidelines in this key Heritage Conference battle. Dohoda said he expects a good battle.
Laurel Valley needs a victory to secure a playoff berth in the District 6 Class A playoffs. Ligonier Valley is playing for pride and bragging rights in the valley.
Toy (1970-78) and Page (1979-current) followed Dohoda at Laurel Valley. Page was Dohoda's first assistant, and Toy was a junior-high school coach prior to 1970.
When Dohoda resigned to become the school's guidance counselor, Page was hired. But an illness before the start of the season forced Page to step down, and Toy, who was Page's first assistant, took over.
Toy said becoming the Rams coach was an experience. He admits he probably wasn't prepared at first. He had a different assistant coach in his first three seasons.
"We struggled for a few years," said Toy, who was also an assistant coach at Ferndale and Penns Manor Area with former Rams player and current assistant coach Kevin Marabito. "I'm enjoying myself now. Kevin and Roger (Beitel, Ligonier Valley coach) give me the freedom to bounce around. I understand what Roger wants done, so I go where I can help."
Toy and Page said they learned from each other, and from Dohoda.
"Stan was a great influence on both of us," Toy said. "He was tremendous with kids."
In 1972, Toy asked Page to return to coaching and become his first assistant. The two spent the next seven years together.
When Toy left coaching, Page got the job he original was hired for in 1970. And for the past 26 seasons, Page has been a fixture on the Rams' sidelines. Toy returned to coaching in 1990 as an assistant coach with Marabito at Ferndale.
Page said it was a great experience coaching with Dohoda and Toy.
"Both are very fine football coaches and gentlemen," said Page, who coached with Dohoda for nine years. "I learned a great deal from both, and I haven't strayed away from too much of the things we did then.
"Some things we do are different, but football still is a game of blocking and tackling."
Toy and Page said that Dohoda and former basketball coach Andy Pahach taught them how to adapt a system to the type of players they had.
"The most important thing I learned from Stan was how he related to the players," Page said. "He was able to get his point across to them. Stan was a master of getting a lot out of young people."
Dohoda said Page is still doing a good job, and that Toy was pretty successful. He said that travel keeps away from a lot of games, but he did attend the Laurel Valley game at United and spoke briefly with Page at halftime.
"Jerry is still running the same plays when I was there," Dohoda said. "They throw the ball a little more, and they've changed some on defense. But a lot remains the same."
Toy said tonight's game is not about the coaches. Their focus is on the players.
"We're all still friends," Toy said. "We'll talk after the game, I'm sure.
"It's just another game and I'm hoping we play well."
There are 31 games slated for the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs, which begin tonight. There is one playoff game, a Class A matchup between Jefferson-Morgan and Duquesne, scheduled for Saturday.
The feature Quad-A game of the first round has North Hills (7-2) at Penn-Trafford (7-2). This is a rematch of a first-round game last year, which was won by North Hills 13-3.
North Hills coach Jack McCurry questioned the WPIAL's decision to match up these two teams in the first round.
"They're a pretty good club, and when we're healthy, we are too," McCurry said. "Penn-Trafford does a nice job throwing the ball. Their quarterback (Tyler Huether) has been pretty consistent the past few games."
That won't be the only rematch tonight. In Class AA, Jeannette (7-2) visits Ford City (7-2), and in Class A, Monessen (7-2) plays host to Springdale (7-2).
Jeannette defeated Ford City 21-0 to open the season, and Jayhawks coach Bob Murphy said the Sabers are a different- looking club.
"We're going to have our hands full," Murphy said. "They're doing different things, and we're banged up. I'm hoping we bounce back strong after last week's loss."
Jeannette was embarrassed by Greensburg Central Catholic 47-0 in the season finale, and a couple linemen left the game with injuries. Murphy said he did not know their status for the game.
He said he'll need good games from quarterback Jordan Thomas and running back A.J. Graves to have a chance against Ford City.
Greensburg Central Catholic (9-0) finished the regular season unbeaten for the first time since 1964. The Centurions will play host to Kittanning (6-3), a team that dropped to Class AA this season.
Greensburg Central Catholic has a complete team and has been overpowering teams with its big offensive line and dominating defense. Kittanning is led by running back Brad Bothell.
Monessen, which lost to Springdale in the second round of the playoffs a year ago, will play host to the Dynamo in one of the many huge Class A games. The Greyhounds, led by running backs Ernest Williams and Quinton Martin, have not allowed a point in their past 16 quarters.
Greensburg Salem must contain Blackhawk running back Jeremy Bruce to have a chance at the victory.