Tyler Roth didn't know what to expect at the outset of his senior football season at Mt. Lebanon High School.
A new football coach had arrived following the departure of longtime coach Chris Haering, who had accepted an offer to join Paul Chryst's staff at the University of Pittsburgh.
When Mike Melnyk showed up last spring as the Blue Devils' new coach after 14 years at Manheim Township High School, Roth, a standout in both football and basketball, could see that a change at the top could boost his athletic career at Mt. Lebanon.
"It wasn't easy, but he promised all of us that we would be starting off with a clean slate and that all of us would have to earn our spots," Roth said.
That included Roth, who had been a backup quarterback in two previous football seasons with the Blue Devils.
"He never told me that I was going to be the starter," Roth said. "I earned that spot when we got to [preseason] camp."
Roth's offseason work paid off as he completed 156 of 295 passes for 2,514 yards and 28 touchdowns with six interceptions for the 8-3 Blue Devils, who saw their season end with a 32-13 loss to Seneca Valley in the WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinals.
Those figures merited consideration from some college programs. Roth has committed to Princeton University of the Ivy League where he will study mechanical engineering.
The Tigers beat out Bucknell and two other Ivy League schools, Cornell and Dartmouth, vying for Roth's gridiron talents.
"I'd visited there a couple of times, and I really liked the campus, the players and the coaches," said Roth, a 6-foot-2, 182-pound senior. "I couldn't pass up a Princeton education."
Roth finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in passing yardage in the Post-Gazette's passing rankings, behind South Fayette's Brett Brumbaugh.
Melnyk's only regret is that he could not coach Roth for more than one season.
"I coached a couple of other good quarterbacks [at Manheim] in Pat Bostick [who went on to play at Pitt] and Brennan Scott, who was one of the top five quarterbacks in the state this year," he said. "But I had both of those guys for more than one season, and I don't think either of them were able to accomplish what Tyler did in one season."
Melnyk said his system differs greatly from that of most high school football coaches, particularly the approach used by Haering.
"He liked to run the ball a lot, and there wasn't a lot of balance between running and passing," Melnyk said. "In the past, receivers were being asked mostly to block, and now we wanted them to catch the ball. We wanted to be a lot more creative, and that's where Tyler excelled as we want our quarterbacks to be able to make a lot of decisions. He was able to sort all of that out nicely on a week-to-week basis."
Melnyk also expected Roth to be mobile.
"It wasn't an easy transition, and there were a lot of early-morning workouts," Roth recalled. "I'd get to practice at 7 a.m., and that was to work on my footwork. I'd make some good throws and some bad ones.
"With the new scheme, the quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs were learning new things."
Melnyk and Roth agree they would have enjoyed the opportunity to work together for another season, but Roth must look ahead.
"I won't have that [chance]," Roth said. "But I did work hard this season and did the best that I could. I know I wouldn't have had the numbers that I had if we would have been running last year's system. [Melnyk] gave me a chance to succeed. I was confident in my team, and I was able to make some plays."
Roth believes he will settle in nicely on the Princeton team.
"They did rotate two quarterbacks this season," he said. "One was a runner, and one was a passer. But they do have a pro-style offense that is balanced, and I think it's a lot like the system we used."