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Yough hires football coach

Paul Schofield
| Friday, Jan. 21, 2005

The Yough School District's board took its time Wednesday night when it was deciding on who would be the high school's new football coach and athletic director to replace Rich Bowen, who recently resigned to become football coach at Serra Catholic.

According to school board president Richard Mills, the athletic committee went through 36 applications for the position. They trimmed that list down to nine, and then to four.

"We were originally going to interview four candidates on Wednesday, but one eliminated himself after being hired at another school on Tuesday," Mills said. "We had a lot of excellent candidates. We even had a guy who had nine years of NFL experience."

The board held a special meeting Wednesday to go over some things, interview three candidates and name a new coach.

The meeting was expected to be short. But it lasted longer than expected.

Before midnight, Mills said the board voted to hire James J. Wehner Jr. as the school's new coach and athletic director at a total cost of $50,000. Wehner, who was coaching at Avonworth High School, will be paid $8,150 to coach and $41,850 as athletic director. The vote was 7-0. The announcement was made Thursday.

The other finalists were Yough defensive coordinator Mike LeDonne, who previously coached at Elizabeth Forward, and Dwayne Painter, a former Steelers wide receiver coach and Frankfurt Galaxy offensive coordinator in NFL Europe.

Wehner is a 1984 graduate of Bishop Boyle High School. He compiled a 12-27 record in four seasons at Avonworth, which played in the WPIAL Class A Big 7 Conference. That conference included WPIAL perennial power Rochester, Monaca, Farrell, Western Beaver, South Side Beaver, North Catholic and Cornell.

"James was very impressive," Mills said. "We liked the program that he presented. He's into weightlifting and conditioning. He's a good guy, not just as a coach, but a good person for the players to be around. We feel he'll build on what Rich Bowen has started here."

Yough was 0-9 during the 2003 season, but a good group of sophomores helped the Cougars rebound in 2004. They finished with a 7-3 record and finished in second place in the WPIAL Class AAA Keystone Conference. The Cougars hosted a first round playoff game.

Wehner, 38, also received degrees at Morehead State, the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne. He was a wide receiver at Morehead State.

He also was a wide receiver coach for two years at Morehead State, and was a quarterback coach and offensive coordinator at Duquesne under Greg Gattuso.

Wehner said he likes to throw the ball, but he knows to be successful that you have to be able to the run.

"I'm excited about this new opportunity," Wehner said. "When I applied for the Yough job, I called some of my friends to find out what they knew about the program. I received a lot of positive feedback."

Wehner will inherit a program on the rise. The Cougars have some talented underclassmen, and could become a strong team in the conference.

Wehner said he'll begin to assembe his staff immediately. He'll ask some of his assistant coaches at Avonworth to see if they are interested in leaving, and then search for others to fill out the staff.

"I can't wait to get started," he said.

Wehner and his family, wife Joan (Sullivan) and 3-year-old daughter Jayla, live in North Huntingdon.

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