Andy Podbielski was fully aware of Beaver's winning tradition in football. He also knew Beaver's baseball program won with regularity.
So when Podbielski became the Beaver boys basketball coach in 2010, his goal was to fill the gap between fall and spring. Now winter is a time for winning at Beaver.
The first month of the WPIAL season is almost complete and here is something unheard of in the district: Beaver is undefeated.
Podbielski, in his third season, has Beaver off to a perfect start with a 7-0 record. A year ago, Beaver had a memorable season, winning 19 games and making the WPIAL semifinals for the second time in school history. But this year's team might be even better.
Heading into Thursday night's game against Mohawk, Beaver was one of only three undefeated teams in Class AAA of the WPIAL. Beaver is the Post-Gazette's No. 3-ranked team in Class AAA.
This from a program that, until last season, did not finish above .500 since 1996-97. Six seasons ago, the Bobcats were 0-22.
"One of the biggest things that attracted me to this job was that they had winning football and winning baseball and an athletic department that won," said Podbielski, 30. "The only thing they weren't successful in was basketball.
"This is Beaver. They had lost for so long in basketball that they just expected to do it again. The biggest challenge for me was just to get people to believe that things could be different.
"That first year [2010-11] was important because we didn't have a losing season. We were 11-11 and it was important for people to see we could turn the corner."
Beaver is outscoring opponents by 14 points a game this season, despite not having one of its top players. Darian Bradley, a senior guard, had been a starter since his sophomore year. But he sustained a torn ACL in his knee late in football season and will not play basketball.
Still, the Bobcats are thriving. Corey Nesmith, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, is the lone returning starter from last season, but 6-5 senior center Aaron Barlow and 5-10 senior guard Austin Logan saw considerable playing time. Beaver has a decent chance of winning a section title for the first time since 1978.
"We have some tough-minded kids who work very, very hard," Podbielski said. "They're tremendous competitors who are very focused, not to mention pretty skilled. The mindset is one thing, but ultimately you have to have guys who can put the ball in the hole, too. We're very fortunate in that we have some guys who can do that."
Podbielski has a good coaching pedigree. His father, Dave, won WPIAL titles at New Brighton and Beaver Falls, and also a PIAA title at Beaver Falls. Andy played for his father when he was at Seneca Valley. Dave Podbielski died 10 years ago of a heart attack at his home. He was 48.
"Every day I think about him," Andy Podbielski said. "I learned so much from him, just about how to run a program, how to deal with people and how to deal with kids and your coaching staff. Mainly, I learned about how to be a man. I couldn't be prouder to be his son."
Football practice proposal
The PIAA recently passed, on a first-reading basis, new rules that would drastically change the way football practices can be conducted at the start of the season. The changes are supposed to allow athletes to get acclimated to heat, but the rules must pass two more readings before going into effect for the 2013 season.
Under the new rules, the first three days of "official" fall practices cannot have more than three hours of "on-field" practice time for any sport. In football, only helmets can be worn the first two days. Teams can practice in full equipment after that.
Also, no teams can practice more than five hours in a day, and a five-hour practice day only can be followed by a three-hour practice day. And there must be a minimum of a three-hour recovery period for any practice that lasts more than two hours.
Thus, teams that conduct two-a-day and three-a-day practices will have to change. But there is certain to be much debate about these rules in the future before they are passed.
Shenango to Fridays
The Shenango football team has been playing home games on Saturday nights since the late 1960s. But that tradition will end next season. The Shenango school board decided to play the Wildcats' home games Friday nights, beginning in 2013.
North Allegheny ranks high
The North Allegheny football team's dominance on its way to a PIAA Class AAAA title caught the attention of some people across the country.
North Allegheny finished in the top 15 in three national polls. The Tigers were No. 4 in the final National Prep Poll, which has been in existence for 25 years. North Allegheny was No. 7 in MaxPreps.com and No. 12 in USA Today.
North Allegheny finished 16-0 and set a PIAA championship game record, scoring 63 points.
Another WPIAL football coach has resigned. Josh Gilliland stepped down at West Shamokin after four seasons.
Gilliland's team broke a WPIAL-record 46-game losing streak this season and the Wolves finished with a 3-7 record. That was the most wins for West Shamokin since the team joined the WPIAL in 2004.
Gilliland's departure leaves 10 jobs open in the WPIAL. The others are McKeesport, Steel Valley, Pine-Richland, Deer Lakes, Canon-McMillan, Chartiers Valley, Shenango, Laurel and Imani Christian.