West Xtra: Ambridge coaching post attracted Bradley

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After two highly successful seasons as Sto-Rox High School's football coach, Dan Bradley wasn't looking to make a move.

His team lost a tough hard-fought WPIAL Class A championship game, 14-0, against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic last November at Heinz Field.

But when Ambridge Area High School chose to open the head coaching position occupied by Neil Tkatch following a 2-7 season in 2013, Bradley wasted little time in submitting his resume. He was hired as the Bridgers' coach in February.

"It's a good opportunity," said Bradley, who led Sto-Rox to the 2012 and 2013 WPIAL Class A championship games only to see the Vikings fall to Clairton in 2012 by a score of 42-6 and North Catholic last season. Both of those teams went on to win PIAA Class A titles.

Sto-Rox appeared poised to make another run at a WPIAL Class A championship game appearance, but a clerical error in tabulating the school's enrollment numbers for the next academic year moved the Vikings into Class AA, where it will compete in Section 1 (Century Conference).

Bradley said the inadvertent move to Class AA had no bearing on his decision to apply for the job at Ambridge.

"Absolutely not," he said. "There was a coaching vacancy at Ambridge, and I applied for the job."

Bradley will continue to coach boys basketball at Avonworth. The move to Ambridge works out well for him as Ambridge is the place where his basketball team will be playing its summer league contests.

"All I have to do is walk across the parking lot to get from the gym to the football stadium for practice," he said.

The Bradley era at Ambridge will begin on Aug. 29 when the Bridgers play their lone non-conference game on the road at Class AAAA Baldwin.

If anyone thinks Bradley is getting off easy, consider that the Bridgers will be competing in the same section -- the highly competitive Parkway Conference -- that features West Allegheny and Central Valley, the two teams that met for the WPIAL Class AAA championship one year ago.

"It is a tough league, and I expect West Allegheny and Central Valley would be favored to meet again for the WPIAL championship," he said. "But those two aren't the only good teams in the conference. There are no cupcakes, and each week will be a challenge."

Bradley will have his work cut out for him.

"We have just one letterman returning from last year, so we're extremely young," he said.

"Our success will depend on how quickly we mature, but I think we have some athletes who can make some plays."

At least he'll have more players to choose from than he did last season at Sto-Rox, where the Vikings had a 33-player roster last year.

"We'll have between 45 and 50 players," he said. "We won't have to go 11-on-9 like we had to do occasionally at Sto-Rox."

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