High school notebook: Jeff Ackermann, Dave Long make unique coaching 'comebacks'
March 2, 2016 12:00 AM
Pine-Richland coach Jeff Ackermann hugs Alex Goitz as he comes out of the game against North Hills Saturday in the WPIAL Class AAAA championship game at Petersen Events Center.
By Mike White / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It was only two years ago Pine-Richland’s Jeff Ackermann and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic’s Dave Long wondered if they would coach again. Yet, there they were last weekend, winning WPIAL boys basketball championships.
Ackermann’s and Long’s stories are about finding coaching life — at a new job and at a new building.
Long, meanwhile, seriously considered retiring when North Catholic’s school on Troy Hill closed and a new school opened in Cranberry.
“I guess I’m not as bad of a coach as some people thought,” Ackermann said.
Ackermann, 43, was hired at Pine-Richland last season.
“I never felt like I was a terrible coach,” he said. “All schools go through cycles, and that happened at Moon. What it comes down to, and people might not want to hear this, is whether you have players or not. … I think I’m a coach that if I have good players, I can win. I’m no different than any other coach. If you don’t have good players, you aren’t going to win.”
Long, 64, travels about a half hour to the new North Catholic from his home in Ross.
“The old North Catholic guard was kind of down and out about that move out there [to Cranberry]. I just had mixed feelings about traveling all the way out there to the new school to coach,” Long said. “I would say this has rejuvenated me. I kind of have embraced a new challenge.”
The North Allegheny and Central Catholic football teams will participate in a “kickoff classic” in August that will be held over two days at North Allegheny. The event will include some top teams outside the WPIAL.
Plans have not yet been finalized, but North Allegheny athletic director Bob Bozzuto said at least two games and as many as four will be played Aug. 26-27. The plan is for North Allegheny to play host to Malvern Prep from eastern Pennsylvania Friday, Aug. 26. The next day, Central Catholic will play St. John’s of Washington, D.C. Bozzuto said there likely will be one and possibly two more games Saturday.
St. John’s had three seniors from its 2015 team sign with Alabama, Tennessee and Texas A&M. This year, the team will have senior Kasim Hall, a heavily recruited quarterback who has offers from Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan, among others. Tyree Johnson is a defensive end who has been offered a scholarship by Pitt and a number of others.
WPIAL teams have not been able to participate in an event like this in recent years because the WPIAL has scheduled all games for teams against WPIAL teams. But with a new rule next year, Pennsylvania teams can opt to play a game instead of a second scrimmage. The extra game can be played against anyone.
Thirty-two years ago, Bob Petcash played in the first WPIAL Class AAAA basketball championship. Saturday night, his son, Andrew, played in the final Class AAAA championship as we know it before the shift to six classifications next year.
Bob was a guard for Ambridge in 1984 and scored a team-high 16 points in a 71-66 loss against Farrell at Civic Arena. Andrew is a junior guard for Pine-Richland and scored a team-high 21 points in a 73-50 win against North Hills.
Highlands loses players
Highlands made it to the WPIAL Class AAA boys championship and begins the PIAA playoffs Friday. But the Rams will be without two players, including a starter, who plan to transfer to Gateway.
Coach Tyler Stoczynski was shocked to learn Lavontae Martin and Lamar McKamey have left the Highlands district and plan to transfer to Gateway. Stoczynski learned of the transfer possibility Monday and it was confirmed Tuesday. Martin is a starter and McKamey one of the top players off the bench. Both are seniors.
Stoczynski said Martin’s mother moved her son and McKamey to the Gateway district. Stoczynski said Martin’s mother is McKamey’s guardian.
“It’s just hard to understand, with what we’ve done and the opportunity we have in front of us maybe starting with a state playoff run Friday,” Stoczynski said.
If recent history is any indication, odds are against Pine-Richland going far in the PIAA playoffs.
Over the past 11 seasons, the WPIAL Class AAAA champ hasn’t gotten past the second round of the playoffs eight times. And the WPIAL AAAA champion has been defeated in the first round four times, including last year when Chartiers Valley lost to Mt. Lebanon.
The WPIAL boys and girls swimming championships are Thursday and Friday at Pitt’s Trees Pool. The question is whether it will be another sweep for the North Allegheny teams.
The North Allegheny girls have won seven WPIAL Class AAA titles in a row while the boys have won four consecutive championships. And here is one from the hard-to-believe file: Clairton won 12 consecutive boys swimming championships from 1946-57. Clairton hasn’t had a swimming team for ages.
Mike White: email@example.com, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.
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