Football coaches snapped long playoff droughts, won championships

April 4, 2014

One team snapped a long playoff drought, another earned a playoff berth from one of the toughest conferences in the WPIAL and another made the long run to WPIAL and PIAA championships.

That’s why Ryan Cecchini of Avella, Jim Shiel of Fort Cherry and Joe Rossi of South Fayette are finalists for Football Coach of the Year.

The three will be honored, and the winner announced, at the Tri-County Athletic Directors Coach of the Year Banquet, 5 p.m. Sunday, April 27 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Meadow Lands.

Tickets for the banquet are $35 each and are on sale at Washington High School, 201 Allison Avenue, Washington, Pa., 15301. Reservations can be made by calling athletic director Joe Nicolella at 724-223-5085, ext. 2091.

All proceeds from the banquet benefit Special Olympics.

Avella snapped a 37-year drought from participating in the WPIAL playoffs and did so in dramatic fashion. The Eagles, who last entered the postseason in 1976, landed the fourth and final playoff berth in the Class A Tri-County South Conference.

Avella won its first five games, then lost the next three. The Eagles sewed up the playoffs with a 55-14 win over Bentworth in the regular-season finale. In the playoffs, Avella lost to top-seeded Sto-Rox, 36-7, in the first round.

Shiel crafted one of the most productive offenses in the WPIAL with the Rangers. Fort Cherry tied for first place in Black Hills Conference with Clairton and Monessen with an 8-1 record, thanks to an offense that scored 477 points. That total ranked behind only Sto-Rox and eventual Class A state champion North Catholic.

Behind Koltan Kobrys, who rushed for 2,262 yards and 29 touchdowns, the Rangers won a 13-12 squeaker over Carmichaels in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs before losing to Clairton, 52-35, in the quarterfinals.

Rossi led the Lions’ run to a state Class AA football title.

Backed by Brett Brumbaugh, the Observer-Reporter Player of the Year, South Fayette had one of the most dominating seasons in recent memory with 16 consecutive wins, an offense that averaged 45 points a game and a defensive which allowed an average of just 8.0.

The Lions won the Century Conference, defeated Aliquippa, 34-28, for the WPIAL title and finished the run of 16 straight wins by routing Imhotep Charter, 41-0, to win PIAA gold.

Joe Tuscano has been with the Observer-Reporter since 1980. He has covered all sports for the newspaper, including the Steelers, Pirates, Pitt football, local college football and wrestling. He has worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jeannette News-Dispatch and North Hills Record. He graduated from Duquesne University in 1980.

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