Charleroi High School’s football team has not been to the postseason since 2004, when it qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs. The Cougars have not enjoyed a winning season since 2009.
The fact is, Charleroi football fell on hard times, for a fairly long time now.
It appears things are changing and could change quickly in 2017.
Coming off a 5-5 season, the Cougars return a bevy of skilled performers capable of causing problems for even the staunchest of defenses.
And perhaps, most importantly, these Cougars think they are good.
“Anything less than the playoffs would be disappointing,” said Coach Donnie Militzer. “We made big strides last season. We have endured a playoff drought here.”
That is not all that Charleroi has endured. The Cougars have won more than three games only three times since 2004 (six in 2009, four in 2008 and five a year ago).
Since its last postseason appearance, Charleroi has won three or fewer games eight times in 12 seasons. Prior to 2017, the Cougars won two or fewer games five straight seasons.
The last time Charleroi made it to the Class AA playoffs was 1998, the year of their last postseason victory, a 19-13 decision, over Beaver.
The cards and momentum seem to be stacked on the Cougars’ side this time around.
They have six home games and have enjoyed offseason success throughout the tri-state area and in a trip to Canton, Ohio, for a seven-on-seven competition.
We’re excited to have those home games,” Militzer said. “Last year, we played on some bad fields. Playing on turf plays to our strengths. We have a lot of team speed.”
Charleroi won all three of its nonconference games last season, including a season-opening win over rival Monessen, as the most-played series in the WPIAL was resurrected.
Militzer said while the nonconference victories were nice, “we have to be better in the (Century Conference),”
Charleroi could be the biggest threat to defending conference champion Washington, which it will face after the season-opener at home versus Monessen.
The Cougars return junior quarterback Geno Pellegrini (6-0, 170), a dual threat, who threw for more than 1,000 yards in 2016 and who Militzer thinks is a potential 1,000-yard rusher.
Charleroi also features an array of playmakers, including junior receiver Dakota Romantic (5-10, 160), sophomore running back Brayden Mihalcin (5-11, 175), senior receiver Cameron Carter (6-2, 175), senior receiver Ryan Workman (6-4, 190), junior receiver Colton Linn (6-1, 185), junior running back Hunter Perry (5-9, 170) and sophomore receiver Legend Davis (5-8, 170), among others.
“We can be a tough team to defend,” Militzer said. “There a lot of guys we can go to with the football.”
Pelligrini is the guy who will be at command central. He has a chance to become Charleroi’s all-time passing yardage leader this season and Militzer will not be shy in using him in the passing and running games.
“He’s a dual threat,” the coach said. “But the nice thing is he doesn’t have to do it on his own. We have a number of kids who can make plays. He can fit the ball into windows that others can’t. We want him to distribute the ball and let our playmakers get into open field and make plays. We are blessed to have this kind of talent.”
Militzer said replacing three lineman, who have gone on to college football this fall, is a key for Charleroi, as is sophomore placekicker-punter Joey Caruso
“We need to find some answers up the middle defensively,” Militzer said. “We’re confident in our outside linebackers and secondary. We’re looking for some inside linebackers and defensive linemen to step up.”