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Former QB Erdeljac captures hall induction

| Sunday, April 11, 2010

Nobody could chop down the Mighty Oaks in 1965.

Oakmont High School went 10-0 to win the WPIAL Class B title that season, defeating Apollo, 26-13, at New Kensington's Memorial Stadium.

Down 13-12 in the third period, quarterback Rob Erdeljac gained big yardage on four straight option plays in what was the turning point of that game. Edeljac later made the successful switch from an option quarterback to a drop-back passer and helped rewrite the record book at Clarion University.

He remains in the top 10 in many quarterbacking categories with the Golden Eagles.

"I'm surprised I'm still up in the rankings, since I could only play three years at Clarion and quarterbacks can now play four years," Erdeljac said.

For his on-field accomplishments and his 28 years of coaching high school football, Erdeljac will be one of eight inductees to the A-K Sports Hall of Fame's 41st banquet May 15 at the Clarion Hotel, New Kensington.

"It's humbling," said Erdeljac, who was a head football coach for three years at Springdale and a head baseball coach at Knoch for four years. "I'm familiar with about 20-25 (inductees), and it's an honor to stand beside these people."

Erdeljac, who turned 61 on Easter, is another inductee to be associated with legendary coach Chuck Wagner, who piloted Oakmont to the 1965 WPIAL title before he moved on to Clarion.

But his outstanding career at Clarion almost didn't happen. Erdeljac was set to go to The Citadel before Golden Eagles coach Al Jacks came calling.

"I recognized Coach Jacks' credentials," Erdeljac recalled. "He came to my home and met my parents, and his personal involvement probably tipped the scales."

Erdeljac was named Associated Press Small College All-American twice and the game MVP as Clarion defeated West Chester State for the Pennsylvania Conference title in 1969. He was the West's starting quarterback in the 1970 Pennsylvania Dutch Bowl.

Erdeljac has been an American History teacher for 39 years, the first seven at Springdale High School and the last 32 at Knoch. About the only goal Erdeljac has fallen short of was applying to NASA to become the first teacher in space in 1985. That honor went to New Hampshire's Christa McAuliffe, who died in the space shuttle explosion in January, 1986.

During his days at Oakmont, he also performed on the school's track and baseball teams. In 1966, he was all-WPIAL in football and on the Tarentum Valley Daily News' all-star team.

"Coach Wagner always had us prepared to play," Erdeljac said. "He's a mentor and a father figure, even to this day."

Besides Wagner, Erdeljac points to former Knoch & Highlands coach Tim Karrs, former Plum and Burrell coach Al 'Abby' Mauro and late coaches Elmer Gross of Oakmont, Jack Heimbuecher of Springdale and Joe Zelek of Verona as major influences in his career.

A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame

When: 7 p.m., May 15

Where: Clarion Hotel, New Kensington

Tickets: $20

Contact: Al Uskuraitis 724-727-7259

FYI: No tickets will be sold at the door.

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