For Dom Pecora, East Allegheny High School and the area the school district encompasses has been close to his heart as far back as he can remember.
Pecora lived in Wilmerding for part of his childhood. Most of he and his wife's families are East Allegheny graduates. And the couple owns a house in North Versailles.
"It's always kind of been home," Pecora said.
Pecora is now coaching at home.
In hopes of adding stability to a program that has its third coach in as many seasons, East Allegheny hired Pecora in February. Pecora, a 2000 Norwin High School graduate and 2004 Slippery Rock University graduate, was head coach at Southmoreland the past two seasons.
It's an exciting move for Pecora, who had the position on his radar for some time.
"From the day I became a head coach three years ago, my goal was to end up at East Allegheny," said Pecora. "Not that I wished little success on the people that were there, but that was my goal. My goal was to be the coach at East Allegheny for a long time. I put my heart and soul into coaching at Southmoreland, but this is where I always envisioned myself ending up. It really is a dream come true."
Pecora replaces Jason Ruscitto, who resigned after one season.
In two seasons at Southmoreland, Pecora's teams went 7-12, including 3-6 last season. Southmoreland competed in the Class AA Interstate Conference. East Allegheny, also in Class AA, is in the Allegheny Conference.
Another factor in Pecora's decision to take the East Allegheny job was its close proximity to his house and business. Pecora said his commute to Southmoreland was 45 minutes each way. He said he lives so close to East Allegheny that he can almost see the school from his home window.
"[The commute to Southmoreland] was a grind," he said. "We have three little kids and also a business. I'll be getting an hour and half of my life back each day, and that adds up."
Pecora, who owns Dom's Pizzeria and Sports Bar in Trafford, will try to bake up some wins at East Allegheny, which lost its final eight games last season en route to a 1-8 finish. The Wildcats had made the playoffs the previous two seasons.
Pecora believes that building a consistent winner at East Allegheny is a realistic goal.
"I always felt that you could win here," he said.
East Allegheny averaged 20.2 points per game last season, and Pecora's teams at Southmoreland regularly produced excellent offensive numbers, so one would expect the Wildcats should be fine on that side of the ball. Pecora will serve as offensive coordinator and will be assisted by Tim Ripple and former Duquesne University quarterback Dave Loya. Ryan Kenney is defensive coordinator.
East Allegheny's offensive philosophy is no secret.
"We're an option team, first and foremost. We're going to win or lose based on how we run the option," Pecora said.
Leading the way will be senior quarterback Kyle Whipple, who is likely the team's most indispensable player. Whipple passed for 1,338 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.
"There are 22 positions open, but really only 21. Everybody else can win a job, but we have a quarterback," said Pecora. "He had the best offseason of any kid. He never misses a day. It's all going to go through him. He might not always be the one carrying the ball, but he makes the decision on who does. We have the most confidence in him than anybody else on the team."
Among those also expected to make sizable contributions are junior running back Taizjon Brown, senior wide receiver Praise Gainer and junior lineman Gino DePaoli.
Pecora said he is looking forward to the start on camp Aug. 12. East Allegheny opens the season against Summit Academy Aug. 30.
"I think they've responded great," Pecora said of his players. "Since I got this job, we haven't missed one day with them. Hopefully them seeing me and the staff every day, they understand football is a 12-month-a-year commitment."