North Xtra: Vincentian builds team from scratch

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

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In December, when Vincentian Academy announced it was adding a football program, the initial plan involved fielding a varsity team in 2014.

Call Tim Storino a little impatient.

"I know as a coaching staff," Storino said, "after we were hired, we didn't want to stick around and not coach."

Three weeks and one day from now, Storino and the rest of his staff will be coaching in a varsity game. In fact, next Monday they'll take to the field for the first time in pads, the first day of practice for high school football teams in Pennsylvania.

The Aug. 31 opener at Avella is on the minds of Storino, his staff and his almost two dozen players. But they also have plenty of other things to consider as they embark on building a football program from scratch.

"I'm looking forward to the challenge," Storino said. "We're getting right at it. At other schools, other coaches are worried about coaching football games on Friday nights; I'm worrying about building a locker room or a weight room and turning on the water [service] and ordering cameras and film. There's so much to do.

"I'm just enjoying this first season. I like where I'm at. It's kind of hard to walk into something like this and not have your heart into it."

Vincentian will play a nine-game schedule -- all on the road. It will compete in the Tri-County South Conference, which had an odd number of teams, but the Royals will not be eligible for the WPIAL playoffs.

"We're just happy we're playing this year," said sophomore Chris Henderson, a lineman from Ben Avon. "Obviously, we'd much rather be playing this year than to have to wait. We're really excited we have the chance."

Told he'd have to drum up interest among the current student body quickly in order to play the coming fall -- the WPIAL wanted to know Vincentian's plans by January -- Storino initially found about 35 potential players. He said 23 remain as the start of preseason camp looms.

"Vincentian wasn't a football school," Storino said. "It's a very good academic school, and there's some good baseball and basketball teams. A lot of kids who were interested didn't want to go through making the time commitment to play football when they have academics and other things to concentrate on."

With so many Catholic grade schools within a few miles of Vincentian's campus, there's fertile opportunity for the Royals' program to grow and prosper in the future. But at the moment, none of the current underclassmen went to Vincentian knowing there was going to be a football team. Many have scant football experience.

Henderson, for example, plays baseball but had never played organized football. But as soon as he heard about the new team, he jumped at the chance to play and said he has been active in recruiting friends and others to the team.

"It's awesome how really into it [Storino] is," Henderson said. "It's definitely helpful to have a head coach who's just as much into it as you are."

Storino, 32, played under Jeff Metheny at Bethel Park before he graduated in 1999. Now a Whitehall resident, Storino has taught health and physical education the past seven years at Shaler Area.

Storino was an assistant at Central Catholic when he was hired for the Vincentian job. He said he speaks with Vikings coach Terry Totten daily and that Central Catholic assistant Mike Kennedy also has been a big help. They've offered advice and assistance with some of the administrative duties of the job and in helping in tracking down equipment as well as, of course, with the coaching.

"You're basically doing the same fundamentals on a smaller scale," Storino said.

The PIAA -- and, by extension, the WPIAL -- runs its alignment and membership in two-year cycles, but Storino said it's not totally out of the realm of possibility for Vincentian to become a full-fledged member in 2013, through a series of events.

Storino resisted making on-field, wins-and-losses goals. But the Royals have to be heartened by the recent success of WPIAL startup Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which narrowly missed the playoffs in its second season last year.

"The important thing about this is that everyone enjoy every day they're associated with this," Storino said. "Everything we're going to do is a first -- we'll enjoy our first practice in pads, enjoy our first week of camp, enjoy our first scrimmage, our first game and hopefully our first win in the history of the program.

"It's an opportunity for this group to accomplish so many things that no one at Vincentian has."

hsfootball


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