South/West Xtra: An era ends at Bishop Canevin

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Bob Jacoby's dream job has been inherited by Darren Schoppe.

Jacoby, who succeeded Ray DiLallo as head football coach at Bishop Canevin High School in 1973, retired in January after 40 years overseeing the Crusaders program.

Schoppe, who played for and coached with Jacoby, believes as Jacoby did that coaching the Crusaders is one of the best jobs in the WPIAL.

All told, Jacoby has been a part of the Canevin experience for 44 years, his first four as an assistant. He was one of the longest-tenured coaches in the WPIAL and his career record of 238-170-7 puts him 11th on the WPIAL all-time list for coaching wins.

Jacoby, a North Catholic alumnus and former Trojans football player, also was Bishop Canevin's athletic director for 30 years and the girls softball coach for 30 years. He won two WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship as softball coach. Jacoby was an American history teacher for 44 years at Bishop Canevin, retiring from that job last year.

After Jacoby, a 68-year-old North Side native and Crafton resident, stepped down as the team's coach, Schoppe was selected from a field of about 50 candidates to be the new coach in March.

Schoppe, who played on the Crusaders' team that won the 1990 WPIAL Class AA championship by a 21-20 margin against Washington High and fell to Hanover Area, 20-19, in overtime in the 1990 PIAA Class AA championship game, is pleased to be returning to the Westwood campus where he was one of Jacoby's assistants for 13 seasons.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," said Schoppe, 40, who grew up in Findlay Township and still resides there. He kept the voicemail message from Bishop Canevin athletic director Dan Bowman on his cell phone that confirmed his appointment as the Crusaders' coach.

"This is a special place which has a great staff and quality students," he said. "I was happy to be able to play for a championship, and those will be my expectations for this team."

Jacoby enjoyed the relationship he had with the school's administration as well as with the players' parents.

"I can count the number of times we had major problems on one hand," he said. "This goes back to Canevin being a community and understanding the role that athletics has in that community."

Jacoby coached Schoppe, and he was pleased to have him on his staff as an assistant.

"He really has paid his dues as an assistant coach," Jacoby said.

Schoppe coached the wide receivers and defensive tackles at Canevin from 1993 to 2006. He was the defensive coordinator at Peters Township for a year before moving on to South Fayette, where he was the Lions' defensive coordinator for six seasons.

Jacoby appreciated Schoppe's reasons for leaving the Crusaders' staff in 2006.

"He wanted to be a [defensive] coordinator, and we were blessed with having two guys who were with me for 30 years in Dom Parker and Michael Lesifko," he said. "Michael joined the staff in 1979, and he was my defensive coordinator.

"Dom coached the quarterbacks and the defensive line. Darren knew he had to be a coordinator before he could be a head coach."

Schoppe said he never went out of his way to pursue a head coaching job, but if an opportunity arose, he'd hoped it would be at Canevin.

He just didn't know it would take place this year.

"This was [Jacoby's] job," he said. "And it should be his for as long as he wanted. But I always said that's the place I'd want to be the head coach."

Schoppe met with his players the day after he accepted the job. He was grateful that Lesifko, who won't be on his staff, was there to introduce him to his new team.

"I was grateful for that [introduction], and it was overwhelming at first," he said. "But I wanted to meet the kids and see who I'd be working with."

He learned that he'll have plenty of work to do once practice begins next month.

"It's going to be a fresh start for them as much as it will be for me," Schoppe said. "We have maybe one or two players who were part-time starters last year. It's going to be a new start for all of us."

It will be a new start, too, for Jacoby and his wife, Sherry. They are moving two blocks to a smaller residence in Crafton. The other big change will be the buildup and routine that accompanied August drills and Friday -- and sometimes Saturday -- nights for Jacoby, the Crusaders and their fans.

"I'm going to miss Friday nights, and the contact with the kids and their parents," said Jacoby, who said he plans to attend just one contest, the Crusaders' Senior Night game this season.

"Darren has prepared himself for this," he said. "I don't want to be a distraction, but I'd like to go to Senior Night because I coached those kids for three years. I'm still in contact with some of them."

Schoppe hopes his predecessor will be proud of what he does as the Crusaders' new coach..

"I can't put into words what [Jacoby] did for this program," he said. "He and the other coaches did more than just teach football; they taught us a lot about life.

"To be put in the same conversation with him is something I can't wrap my head around. He coached the right way, and I hope I can make him proud."


First Published July 25, 2013 4:00 AM


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