High School Notebook: Penn-Trafford football becomes a family affair
August 23, 2009 4:00 AM
Penn-Trafford first-year head coach T.J. Wiley, right, has an experienced hand running his offense -- his father, John.
By Mike White Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
New Penn-Trafford coach T.J. Wiley has his offensive coordinator living in the basement of his home.
In fact, Wiley calls the guy "Dad."
In what might be viewed as an unusual -- but heartwarming -- story for this WPIAL season, Wiley, 29, has hired his father, John, as the team's offensive coordinator.
John Wiley is 58, but no stranger to high school coaching. He had been a head coach for 24 years at three Pennsylvania schools outside the WPIAL -- Danville, Titusville and Clearfield -- before retiring after the 2004 season.
John Wiley and his wife still live in Titusville and neither father or son believe these living arrangements for football season are unusual.
Every Monday, John will drive from Titusville and go to Penn-Trafford's practice. He will coach all week and live in the basement of T.J. and his wife's home. After watching films on Saturday morning, John Wiley will drive 2 1/2 hours back to Titusville and stay with his wife for two days.
"I know it's a little unorthodox," said T.J. Wiley, who was an assistant for Neil Gordon at Shaler Area last season. "But we have an old saying in our family. There's a way -- and there's a Wiley way. Seriously, to us ... jumping in a car and driving three hours is no big deal.
"My dad always said, 'Hey, I'm only a phone call away if you need something.' As soon as I got hired, he was the first call I made. My mom has been a coach's wife for 30-some years. She said she knew this was going to happen someday. It's no big deal."
John Wiley is not a complete stranger to WPIAL football, either. He played at North Hills before graduating in 1969. He also was an assistant for a few years at North Hills and coached Mark Kelso, who went on to a successful NFL career as a defensive back with the Buffalo Bills. Kelso is T.J.'s godfather.
"Actually, I considered it an honor when T.J. asked me to do this," John Wiley said. "I think it's a privilege."
But John Wiley isn't the only one who came out of retirement to coach at Penn-Trafford. T.J. Wiley's defensive coordinator is Hank Marziale, who once was the head coach at Pine-Richland. Marziale and John Wiley were North Hills assistants together.
Like last season, Avella is short on football players.
Eighteen students are out for the team, one less than last season. Due to injuries and a few players quitting, the Eagles were down to 13 players at one point last year. A female cheerleader actually joined the team late in the season and got into a game for a few plays.
Although the number of players is roughly the same as last year, Avella coach Frank Gray said things won't be the same.
"A lot of the kids we had last year aren't as tough as these ones," Gray said. "We had some softies in there last year. Other than injuries, we'll probably be pretty stable this year. I don't think we're going to lose anyone to quitting."
Avella was 0-9 last year and was outscored, 417-62.
"We're a better team this year," Gray said. "Our first 11 aren't that bad. The problem is the Black Hills Conference that we're in is just so tough. But we're hanging in there. Maybe we can surprise a few people this year. The kids have a good attitude."
'Bridge game' to Saturday
This will be the final year of the "bridge game" between Rochester and Monaca. Every year, the two play and the winner gets first billing on the Rochester-Monaca Bridge.
But Monaca will close after this season and merge with Center to form Central Valley (in fact, the districts have already merged but will maintain two high schools for this academic year). This year's Monaca at Rochester game was originally scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30, but has been moved to Oct. 31.
"We figured because it's the last time, a lot of people will want to see it," said Rochester coach Gene Matsook. "So we figured we'd move it to Saturday to give the game its own day, away from all the others."
'Z' is for Zmijanac
Maxpreps.com recently named the top coaches in the country from A to Z. It was one coach for every letter of the alphabet. For 'Z' the top coach was Aliquippa's Mike Zmijanac. He was the only Pennsylvania coach selected.
Comcast game of the week
For the seventh year in a row, Comcast cable television will show a WPIAL game of the week on tape on Saturday nights. The games can be seen on the FYI channel and also On Demand. Chris Shovlin will handle the play by play and John Sanders color commentary. The games are:
Fox Chapel-Highlands (Sept. 5); West Allegheny-Hampton (Sept. 12); Hopewell-Ambridge (Sept. 19); Hempfield-Norwin (Sept. 26); Trinity-Chartiers Valley (Oct. 3); North Allegheny-Shaler (Oct. 10); Montour-Blackhawk (Oct. 17); Sto-Rox-Keystone Oaks (Oct. 24); Gateway-McKeesport (Oct. 31).
Comcast also will televise one playoff game a week through the semifinals. A show previewing the season will be available on On Demand starting Sept. 2.